Rampant Birkirkara fire title warning
Fenech 33; Haruna 55, 65; Vukanac 57; Herrera 79;
Tarxien Rainbows 0
Birkirkara sent an ominous warning to champions Valletta and the other title rivals after they hammered the erstwhile in-form Tarxien Rainbows to go top of the BOV Premier League yesterday.
It was a commanding performance from the Stripes who dominated the match for long stretches, giving little chance to the Rainbows to make a reaction.
The Stripes took control from the start with the constant movement of their forwards, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza and the returning Shola Shodiya Haruna, posing several problems to the static Tarxien defence.
It was no surprise when Birkirkara took the lead after 33 minutes through Paul Fenech who bundled home the rebound after Mifsud Triganza’s penalty was saved by Tarxien goalkeeper David Cassar.
Tarxien’s response never arrived and it was Birkirkara who continued to stamp their authority after the interval, hitting four quick goals through Haruna (twice), Nikola Vukanac and Edward Herrera to seal the points.
This emphatic win lifted Birkirkara to the top of the Premier League standings, level on 33 points with Valletta, 4-1 winners over Hibs on Saturday, to set up a mouthwatering showdown between these two rivals next weekend.
Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit effected a number of changes to his starting formation as the recovering Haruna was thrown into the thick of action to fill the void left by Brazilian Jhonnattann, suspended.
Ryan Scicluna and Ryan Camenzuli were both handed starting berths as captain Gareth Sciberras was ruled out by an adductor injury while Joseph Zerafa was unavailable as he’s overseas.
Clive Mizzi, the Tarxien coach, handed a debut to his two Brazilian signings, Leandro, who was on the books of Valletta, and Marco Lopes Silva.
Ryan Sammut was suspended.
As expected, it was Birkirkara who made the early running. After three minutes, Mifsud Triganza tried his luck from the distance but Tarxien goalkeeper Cassar was equal to the task and blocked his shot.
Tarxien responded five minutes later when midfielder Roderick Bajada hit a fierce drive that was blocked in two attempts by Birkirkara goalkeeper Reuben Gauci.
Mifsud Triganza was the most enterprising figure in the Stripes’ attack and on 18 minutes, he again tried to surprise Cassar with a low drive but the Tarxien custodian saved easily.
Birkirkara’s persistence paid off on 32 minutes when Mifsud Triganza sped into the area but was upended by Orosco Anonam.
The Birkirkara striker picked himself up to take the penalty but his low shot was pushed away by Cassar. Fenech reacted quickly to ram the loose ball into the net.
After that goal from the Stripes, one expected the Rainbows to raise their efforts in search of an equaliser but they struggled to make any kind of impact. The Rainbows’ attacking tandem of Andrezinho and Leandro were kept at bay by the solid Birkirkara rearguard who preserved their team’s advantage with ease until the interval.
Tarxien began the second half with more verve but it was Birkirkara who almost grabbed a second goal on 53 minutes.
Mifsud Triganza won a free-kick on the edge of the area and his curling drive finished just wide of the upright.
A minute later, Herrera almost surprised Cassar when his cross-shot flew across the face of goal and came off the upright before the Rainbows cleared.
It was not long before Birkirkara struck their second goal.
The clock marked 55 minutes of the game played when Haruna recovered possession on the edge of the area before firing a fierce low drive that rolled past Cassar.
More misery was in store for the Rainbows as, two minutes later, Birkirkara made it 3-0.
Camenzuli’s cross from a free-kick sailed towards Serbian defender Vukanac whose dipping header flew into the net.
Mizzi, clearly unhappy with Tarxien’s tame display, withdrew Steve Sadowski and Lopez in favour of David Fenech and Mark Tanti as he looked to add more punch to his team’s engine room.
But it was Birkirkara who continued to call the tune and they all but wrapped up the points with a fourth goal on 65 minutes.
Haruna created space for himself before producing another low strike that gave Cassar no chance.
Haruna almost chalked up a hat-trick on 73 minutes when, in a quick break, he was first to Herrera’s cross but the Nigerian blasted wide with only Cassar to beat.
Birkirkara completed the rout on 79 minutes when Mifsud Triganza released Herrera whose firm drive flew past Cassar.
In stoppage time, the Stripes could have added a sixth when substitute Bernard Borg released Mifsud Triganza who only had Cassar to beat but his shot was stopped by the Tarxien goalkeeper.
R. Gauci-6, R. Scicluna-6, N. Vukanac-6.5 (80 B. Borg), A. Mendoza-6.5, R. Camenzuli-6.5, R. Muscat-6.5, P. Fenech-6.5, R. Pereira-6, E. Herrera-6.5, J.P. Mifsud Triganza-7, S. Shodiya Haruna-7.5 (75 Y. Hernandez).
D. Cassar-5, S. Sadowski-5 (63 D. Fenech-5), M. Caruana-5, M. Lopes Silva-5 (63 M. Tanti-5), J. Grioli-5.5, R. Bajada-5.5, Leandro-4, Andrezinho-4.5 (73 A. Agius), D.M. Bueno-5, O. Anonam-4.5, S. Bonnici-5.
Referee: Malcolm Spiteri.
Yellow cards: Sadowski; Anonam; Cassar; Bonnici; Camenzuli.
Missed penalty: Mifsud Triganza (B) 33.
BOV player of the match: Shola Shodiya Haruna (Birkirkara).