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Stars soar high thanks to Barbara

Vittoriosa Stars 2
Mqabba 1

Mqabba were a few minutes away from their first victory of the season but second-half substitute Mark Barbara scored twice in the dying minutes to put his side top of the table, at least for the next 24 hours.

Mqabba were again unlucky to return home empty-handed but credit goes to Vittoriosa who kept believing until they reached their objective.

Gary Muir’s free-kick for the Stars was saved by keeper Kris Calleja but on ten minutes Mqabba broke the deadlock when Joseph Okonkwo latched on to an inviting Rotimi Avande pass before slotting the ball home.

Defender Malcolm Buttigieg was again having a good match for Vittoriosa. He tried his luck from well outside the box but Calleja saved.

The Stars went close on 33 minutes when Marcelo Perreira drove the ball high from in front of Calleja. Mqabba hit back with a John Paul Muscat header that flew just over the bar.

Just before the break, Perreira should have done better following a melee inside the area, with the Brazilian shooting badly from close range.

On resumption Muir nearly surprised Calleja from the centre circle with the Mqabba keeper tipping the ball over for a corner.

Muir again tried to beat Calleja from the distance soon after but with scant award as a Ramon dos Santos shot was stopped by Calleja.

Vittoriosa pushed more men forward. Siraj Arab missed a golden opportunity when he shot wide from a good position but with six minutes to go Barbara made the scores even following a free-kick taken by Muir.

Mqabba almost regained the lead through Mirko Perez who failed to hit home when unmarked inside the Stars’ box.

That miss proved costly for Mqabba as deep into stoppage time Barbara headed home from a Muir centre to send Vittoriosa temporarily top of the standings.

Vittoriosa: J.M. Vella, Samir Arab (Siraj Arab), M. Buttigieg, A. Spiteri, L. Micallef (L. Lagana), R. Dos Santos, M. Perreira, L. Vella Critien, G. Muir, M. Tabone, J. Camilleri (M. Barbara).

Mqabba: K. Calleja, A. Scicluna, J. Anegbe, D. Bonnici, M. Bonnici, C. Calleja, R. Avande, D. Azzopardi, J.P. Muscat, J. Achocku, J. Okonkwo (M. Perez).

Referee: Karl Frendo Cumbo.

Man of the match: Mark Barbara (Vittoriosa Stars).

Dingli Swallows 0
Gudja United 1

A goal midway through the first half was enough for Gudja to win the points and keep in touch with the teams vying for promotion.

Gudja surged forward from the word go with relegation-troubled Dingli only managing a couple of corners that never troubled Matthew Xerxen in goal.

Leslie Burke’s side forged ahead on 23 minutes when Keith Bonello rose high to head home a Dino Cachia free-kick.

Gudja continued to dominate and on 39 minutes another Bonello effort from the edge of the area finished just wide before a Karl Azzopardi half volley also missed the Swallows’ goal by a whisker.

The pattern did not change after the break as Peter Paul Sammut was foiled by Zarb who came out to intercept following an Kiril Alexandrov measured pass.

On the hour it was Gudja who threatened again when Aleksandrov saw his close range effort stopped by Zarb following a Sammut cross.

Dingli’s first real shot on goal came on 74 minutes. However, Jonathan Sapiano’s effort from outside the box was saved by Xerxen.

Gudja continued to see more of the ball but missed another chance to double their lead when Aleksandrov failed to connect from inside the box to a Ryan Sell cross shot from the left.

Zarb then saved what looked to be a certain goal after Aleksandrov had broken free from his marker with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Dingli: D. Zarb, A. Portelli (M. Borg), K. Pace, F. Cauchi, R. Vella, E. Grech (J. Sapiano), K. Roomes (J. Anywanna), K. Formosa, J. Pace, E. Farrugia, L. Micallef.

Gudja: M. Xerxen, J. Tonna, A. Abela, R. Kovachev, G. Buttigieg, K. Bonello, K. Azzopardi (G. Chircop), C. Anton (J. Mbita) D. Cachia, P.P. Sammut (R. Sell), K. Aleksandrov.

Referee: Sandro Spiteri.

Man of the match: Dunstan Zarb (Dingli Swallows).

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