Determined Greens deny Rainbows
Tarxien Rainbows 1
A silver lining in the shape of another creditable draw over the in-form Tarxien Rainbows stood out like a beacon for Floriana amid the dark clouds currently engulfing the club due to off-field problems.
It was not a composed performance by a depleted Floriana side but in terms of character and determination the players and their mentor definitely deserved some accolades.
At times, the Tarxien forward line, bursting with technique, smooth movement and excellent finishing skills, threatened to breach their defensive lines time and again after Brazilian striker Danilo broke the deadlock five minutes from half-time.
But the Greens, mainly through the diligent Thomas Paris, the hard-liners Tyrone Farrugia and Owen Bugeja and the work-rate of Duncan Pisani and Igor Coronado pressed the accelerator when it mattered most to share the spoils with the Rainbows.
Carl Tremarco’s inclusion and a string of positional changes by Floriana coach Stephen Azzopardi brought a marked improvement which culminated with an 80th minute equaliser by Bugeja.
A victory would have lifted Tarxien in second place, level on points with Birkirkara and Valletta, such is the congested nature of the standings this season.
But after the break, Tarxien committed the unforgettable mistake to sit back and absorb the pressure from their opponents and in the end they had to settle with a point that left them fourth in the standings, equal on points with Mosta.
Facing the daunting task of trying to halt Tarxien’s march towards the Championship Pool with a team ravaged by the injuries of Ryan Darmanin and Mark Spiteri, the suspension of Clyde Borg and the departures of Arman Verma and Sunday Wasiu, Azzopardi had to rely on his tactical nous to field a strong side which hold no fear of their opponents.
The former Qormi mentor, deprived of Verma’s graft in midfield had to switch to the 5-3-2-cum-3-5-2 tactical module.
The departure of Wasiu paved the way for Valdo Alhinho’s recall to the first team as the Floriana coach elected to thrust into the fray Paris as a replacement for Verma.
Bugeja received Azzopardi’s nod to play on the right of a three-pronged central defence featuring also Tyrone Farrugia and Kane Farrugia.
Justin Grioli was preferred to Steve Sadowski who had to settle for a place on the Tarxien bench. But Clive Mizzi’s decision to include Manuel Caruana to fill the void left by Evaldo necessitated some positional switches.
Orosco Anonam dropped back to centre-half alongside Steven Bonnici as Manuel Caruana moved to central midfield in line with Roderick Bajada detailed to check the moves of Coronado, Trevor Cilia and Duncan Pisani and at the same time find a gap for their powerful quartet of forwards in a 4-2-3-1.
Floriana took 12 minutes to fashion their first chance. Cilia veered from the right before slipping a perfect pass towards but the Brazilian winger was anticipated by Tarxien goalkeeper David Cassar.
The first 35 minutes passed with Tarxien having failed to muster a single chance. Then, Daniel Mariano Bueno released Danilo whose diagonal strike finished just off the foot of the far post.
Moments later, Andrezinho tried to unbalance the goalkeeper by slotting a shot between his legs but the ball got stuck under Tony Warner’s body.
Tarxien continued to produce the better football and their efforts were rewarded five minutes from half-time. Danilo latched to an Andrezinho’s free-kick and flicked the ball home.
The one-way pattern persisted after the break as Tarxien remained dominant.
Close to the hour mark, Andrezinho’s free-kick from the right flank, was deflected into the path of Bueno who rose at the far post to nod the ball towards Bonnici who unleashed a first-time volley that was blocked by Warner.
Floriana did not defend en masse but the Greens’ subdued showing was certainly a cause of concern for Azzopardi.
He tried to address his side impotence up front by introducing Tremarco for Alhinho and being short in attacking options, deployed Tyrone Farrugia as a makeshift striker.
Yet it was the English defender who made an instant impact when he fired in a trademark long throw-in in the 80th minute that caused just enough chaos in the penalty area for Bugeja to head home from close range.
As the game drew to a close, the Rainbows upped their pressure in search of a late winner.
Mizzi instructed Anonam to move upfield to improve the support for the nippy Danilo.
Three minutes from time, Warner tipped away Anonam’s dipping effort.
Minutes later, Grioli blazed over after Andrezinho’s close-range header was pushed away by the veteran goalkeeper.
D. Cassar-6, M. Caruana-6, J. Grioli-5, R. Bajada-5, Danilo-6, Andrezinho-7, R. Sammut-6.5, M. Tanti-5 (62 D. Fenech-4), D.M. Bueno-6, O. Anonam-6, S. Bonnici-6.
T. Warner-6.5, K. Farrugia-6, O. Bugeja-7, T. Paris-7.5, T. Cilia-5.5 (58 B. Farrugia-5), V. Alhinho-6 (64 C. Tremarco-6), Coronado-6 (74 L. Casha), D. Pisani-6.5, H. Celestino-5, T. Farrugia-7, S. Borg-5.
Referee: Andrè Arciola.
Yellow cards: Celestino, Bueno, Bonnici, Anonam, Paris, Sammut
BOV player of the match: Andrezinho (Tarxien Rainbows).