Mosta in comfort zone
Chiemeka 53; Bogdanovic 86;
Mosta took a giant step towards sealing their place in this season’s Championship Pool after edging past a battling Floriana side in a hard-fought encounter yesterday.
Daniel Bogdanovic was the Blues hero as the Malta forward came off the bench at the start of the second half to head home a late winner just when it looked as though the match was going to finish in a draw.
After a balanced first half in which both sides had their fair share of scoring opportunities, Mosta seemed to have swayed the match in their favour when they forged ahead through defender Steve Chiemeka.
Floriana refused to throw in the towel and, inspired by hard-working performances from Carl Tremarco and Sacha Borg, they managed to equalise 10 minutes from time thanks to a fine strike from Brazilian Igor Coronado.
But Mosta kept pushing forward and their efforts were rewarded with an opportunistic goal from Bogdanovic that leaves Steve D’Amato’s team on the verge of fulfilling their pre-season ambition of a top-six finish.
Mosta have moved on the 31-point mark but, more significantly, they have a nine-point advantage over seventh-placed Balzan with only five matches remaining before the end of the first phase.
The same can’t be said of Floriana whose defeat yesterday not only ended their positive run but also effectively dashed their remaining hopes of a Cham-pionship Pool place.
Yesterday’s win came at the end of a difficult week for Mosta coach D’Amato who has lost defender Luke Dimech, now with Valletta, and Ousseni Zongo while Steve Bezzina, Firas Aboulezz and Jonathan Bajada were ruled out by injury.
Defender Ferdinando Apap and young Giancarlo Sammut were both drafted into the starting line-up while Bogdanovic was only fit enough to start on the bench.
Tyrone Farrugia was a notable absentee from Floriana’s 18-man squad. The towering defender was the subject of a bid from Mosta last week but negotiations appear to have stalled.
Midfielder Thomas Paris was forced to sit out the match with a one-match ban while Ryan Darmanin and Mark Spiteri were out, injured.
Carl Tremarco replaced the departed Valdo Alhinho while Brooke Farrugia, Clyde Borg and Joseph Borg were all handed a place in the starting formation by coach Stephen Azzopardi.
Mosta created the first scoring opportunity after 11 minutes.
Obinna Obiefule forced his way past Kane Farrugia and Sacha Borg and burst into the penalty area only to be blocked by the onrushing Tony Warner, the Floriana goalkeeper.
Four minutes later, the Blues threatened again when they were awarded a free-kick on the left channel. Danail Mitev sent a dangerous inswinger that flashed across the face of goal but found no takers before the Floriana defence cleared.
After that early positive start from Mosta, it was Floriana who started to get more into the picture but had to wait until the 32nd minute to produce their first opportunity.
Clyde Borg won possession just outside the area and unleashed a powerful drive that drew a brilliant one-hand save from goalkeeper Justin Haber who was probably making his final appearance for the Blues as he is expected to join Birkirkara this week.
Three minutes from the break, Brooke Farrugia did well to pick out the advancing Trevor Cilia who hit the ball first time but Haber was alert to save his shot.
On the stroke of half-time, Brooke Farrugia again did well to send another precise through-ball towards Cilia but this time his angled drive flashed wide.
Disappointed by his team’s showing in the opening 45 minutes, D’Amato looked to pep up Mosta’s attacking play by introducing Bogdanovic for Alex Cini.
However, it was Floriana who almost struck inside the opening minute of the second half when Tremarco made inroads on the right before serving Clyde Borg on the edge of the area. The Malta U-21 midfielder rifled a powerful shot which came off the bar.
The stalemate was finally broken eight minutes into the second half.
Mosta were awarded a free-kick and Mitev’s curling cross was met by Chiemeka who touched the ball past a helpless Warner.
The goal rattled the Greens who almost conceded a second a minute later.
Mosta won a corner and Bogdanovic’s teasing cross flashed across Floriana’s goal with Obiefule just failing to make contact with the ball in front of a gaping goal.
Floriana came close to an equaliser on 70 minutes when wing-back Duncan Pisani fed Joseph Borg whose low shot was pushed away by Haber. From the rebound, Coronado’s fierce drive was cleared off the line by Apap.
The Greens’ efforts were rewarded 10 minutes later when Coronado swept past two defenders before hitting a curling drive that flew into the top corner of the net.
Coronado’s equaliser failed to jolt Mosta who pushed more men upfield in search of a winner.
They grabbed the all-important goal four minutes from time when Manolito Micallef put in a teasing ball into the area and in came Bogdanovic who sent a dipping header past the diving Warner.
T. Warner-6, K. Farrugia-5.5, C. Tremarco-7, O. Bugeja-6.5, T. Cilia-5.5 (76 L. Casha), I. Coronado-7, D. Pisani-6, J. Borg-6, B. Farrugia-5.5 (62 F. Gusman-5), C. Borg-6, S. Borg-6.5.
J. Haber-6.5, A. Cini-5 (46 D. Bogdanovic-6.5), M. Micallef-6, C. Chiemeka-6, C. Campagnoli-6, R. Grech-6, D. Mitev-6.5 (74 D. Maia), O. Obiefule-5, F. Apap-5.5, B. Agius-6, G. Sammut-5.5.
Referee: Mario Apap.
Yellow cards: Apap; C. Borg; S. Borg.
BOV player of the match: Danail Mitev (Mosta).