Rabat denied by Warner
Rabat Ajax 1
Armaro Negrin 46 pen;
Floriana’s travails in the Premier League this season persisted yesterday as they were rescued from defeat by a five-star display from goalkeeper Tony Warner after playing against bottom-placed Rabat Ajax with a man less for the entire second half.
After a turbulent week during which coach Stephen Azzopardi stepped down from his post after a shock elimination to Lija in the FA Trophy, the Greens were looking to turn the tide with victory over the Magpies.
They looked well on course to reach their objective when Igor Coronado put them ahead in the first half. However, things took a dramatic turn for the worst at the start of the second half when Kane Farrugia was dismissed and Jose Luis Armaro Negrin levelled matters for Rabat.
From then on the Magpies laid siege on the Floriana goal but found Warner in their way to deny Rabat their first win in 20 league matches.
Floriana’s caretaker coach Gary Howard handed Joseph Borg a recall to the starting XI at the expense of Duncan Pisani who did not make the squad amid rumours he could join Qormi in this transfer window. Mark Spiteri started upfront with Thomas Paris among the substitutes.
Silvio Vella, the Rabat coach, retained the same starting XI that beat Sannat 5-0 in the FA Trophy in midweek. New signing Malcolm Licari, who joined the Magpies this week from Balzan, was among the substitutes.
Floriana created the first scoring opportunity after 13 minutes when Coronado moved past two defenders but his shot was blocked by Sean Mintoff, the Rabat keeper.
The stalemate was broken on 19 minutes. Trevor Cilia released Coronado who turned past Dylan Falzon before hitting low beyond Mintoff’s reach.
Rabat’s response never came and on 26 minutes Cilia sent a dangerous cross inside the area where Joseph Caruana just managed to head clear. The ball fell into the path of Gary Roberts whose thumping volley finished just over.
Rabat did threaten eight minutes from the break when the hard-working Armaro Negrin released Diego Carrillo Pendas but the Spaniard skied his shot over the bar.
Coronado was very active for Floriana yesterday. On one occasion, the speedy Brazilian dribbled past David Azzopardi before delivering an inviting ball towards Cilia who saw his shot blocked in two attempts by Mintoff.
On the stroke of half-time, Warner breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Armaro Negrin’s dipping header flash past the post following an Azzopardi centre.
Vella added more firepower to his forward line during the interval when he withdrew Falzon and introduced Licari.
And the Rabat substitute soon left his mark as in a quick raid Armaro Negrin cut the ball back towards Licari who saw his first-time shot held by the arm of Kane Farrugia.
The referee pointed to the spot and dismissed Farrugia. Armaro Negrin planted the penalty past Warner to make it one-all.
Howard was now forced to withdraw Spiteri and rope in Francesco Guzman to add cover to his backline.
Inevitably, Rabat seized the initiative and on 53 minutes Licari picked Carrillo Pendas in the area but the latter saw his effort pushed to a corner by Warner.
Floriana almost caught the Rabat defence napping when Cilia beat the offside trap and burst through but he dallied to conclude and was closed down. Warner was Floriana’s inspiration as he showed fine reflexes to keep out Justin Felice’s inswinger from a free-kick.
Manuel Fuster did well to turn past Guzman but his shot finished inside the side-netting and Armaro Negrin should have put Rabat ahead when he was put through by Felice but was denied by the alert Warner.
Floriana were clearly struggling but Rabat were unable to find openings.
Carrillo Pendas sound space inside the Greens’ box, turned past Guzman but was denied by Warner’s timely intervention.
At the other end, Rabat survived a scare as Guzman’s header was cleared off the line by Gesualdi.
Licari’s involvement ended prematurely 14 minutes from time but Rabat almost struck the winner late on only for Fuster to see his shot again stopped by man-of-the-match Warner.
S. Mintoff-6, G. Gesualdi-6.5, I. Carapic-6, J. Caruana-6, J. Felice-6, J.L. Armaro Negrin-7, M. Fuster-6, D. Falzon-5 (46 M. Licari, 76 Y. Cauchi), D. Carrillo Pendas-5, D. Azzopardi-5, C. Gauci-6.
T. Warner-8, J. Borg-6 (85 L. Casha), O. Bugeja-6, K. Farrugia, C. Tremarco-6.5, C. Borg-6, B. Farrugia-6, G. Roberts-5.5, M. Spiteri-6 (50 F. Guzman-5), T. Cilia-5, I. Coronado-6.5.
Referee: Adrian Azzopardi.
Yellow cards: Caruana, Bugeja, Tre-marco.
Red card: K. Farrugia (F) 46.
BOV Player of the match: Tony Warner (Floriana).