Derby wins for Balzan and Valletta
Champions Balzan trounced Lija Athletic 6-1 last week to leapfrog Hibernians at the top of the FXDD Premier League standings.
The Balzan-Lija derby always attracts significant interest with the latter generally offering a stern challenge but Friday’s clash was a one-sided affair.
An early brace from Cosmin Anton paved the way for Balzan’s victory with Lija’s Robert Magro hitting the woodwork twice towards half-time.
Balzan defended well against Lija’s flying keeper strategy with goalkeeper Rueben Grech in top form. Lija scored a consolation goal in the last seconds. Both teams will meet again tonight in the Knock-Out quarter-final.
Tarxien Rainbows continued to impress with a 7-2 win over Sliema Wanderers. With Romanian duo Dobre and Raducu back from international duty, Tarxien were clearly the better side as they opened a 4 -1 advantage by half-time.
Sliema stepped up a gear in the second half but were too erratic in front of goal. Tarxien adopted an efficient counter-attacking game with Steve Gambin netting a fine goal.
In the other derby of the week, Valletta inflicted a 4-2 defeat on neighbouring rivals Floriana.
The Citizens forged ahead through William Barbosa but Floriana struck twice through Kurt Bartolo and Pio Sciriha.
Goals from Barbosa and player/coach Kevin Loughborough put Valletta 3-2 ahead at the interval.
The second half was finely-poised with Valletta wrapping up their win with a goal from captain Timothy Forace.
With this win, Valletta have moved five points clear of the relegation zone.
Żejtun Corinthians kept up the pace with the league front-runners after a thrilling 8-7 win over Ħamrun Spartans.
The Spartans were unlucky not to gain at least a point after hitting the post in the final seconds.
Żejtun looked to be coasting to a comfortable victory when leading 8-3. But the Reds refused to throw in the towel and, inspired by Massimo Grima and Gianluca Calabretta, they scored four goals to bridge the gap but their efforts proved futile.
Standings: Balzan 22; Hibernians 20; Żejtun Corinthians 19; Lija Athletic 14; Tarxien 13; Floriana 11; Valletta 7; Sliema 6; St Andrew’s 2; Ħamrun Spartans 0.
KO quarter-finals (Corradino)
Today: 19.45 Balzan vs Lija Athletic; 21.15 Pembroke Athleta vs Ħamrun Spartans.
Thursday: 19.45 Floriana vs Qormi; 21.15 Hibs vs Tarxien Rainbows.