Sciberras sets Qormi on their way
Ħamrun Spartans 0
Sciberras 14; Grech 90;
After snapping a dismal run of five consecutive defeats, Ħamrun Spartans entertained high hopes of further boosting their salvation bid when they met Qormi.
Given that this was a derby, a win, or even a draw, would have strengthened the Spartans’ self-belief immeasurably but such optimism proved terribly misplaced as Qormi were on top for much of this Relegation Pool clash which was enriched by an outstanding Luke Sciberras goal.
The only surprise was that it took Qormi until stoppage time to seal their win after the Spartans had briefly threatened to level matters with a belated reaction.
With this victory, Qormi have all but allayed their relegation fears as they moved 10 points clear of the third-bottom Ħamrun.
A tonic for the Spartans was the return from suspension of defender Roderick Fenech, the club’s captain. Jonathan Bondin was back in the frame for Qormi but Steve Wellman was not in the 18-man squad.
Steve Sultana, the Qormi goalkeeper, was first called into action after 11 minutes as he fisted away a dangerous corner by Giacomo Favero.
Qormi broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion three minutes later.
Retrieving possession just inside Ħamrun’s half, Sciberras strode forward before unleashing a stunning drive that soared into the top corner as goalkeeper Anthony Curmi looked on helplessly.
Sciberras’s screamer, arguably one of the best goals of the season so far, had a galvanising effect on Qormi. Effiong sent in a teasing cross-shot that flew across the face of goal and just eluded Avila Perez.
The Reds’ toils to cope with Qormi’s increasing pressure prompted coach Stefan Sultana to swap the positions of Glenn Azzo-pardi, who started in midfield, and David Camilleri who was initially deployed at left-back.
Two minutes short of the half-hour, Qormi came close to a second goal when Effiong laid the ball to Bondin who scuffed his shot over the bar from point blank.
Reprieved, the Spartans raised their efforts. Favero swung in a cross but Sultana was alert as he nudged the ball away.
In their next attack, Qormi should have extended their lead when Effiong’s through-ball sent Chetcuti clear but the latter fired wide with only Curmi to beat.
Another glaring chance went abegging for Qormi when Chetcuti’s delivery sailed towards Effiong at the far post and the Nigerian’s effort came off the other post.
Qormi’s dominance persisted. They were denied a second goal by Curmi who blocked Edison Zarate’s effort and, moments later, Avila Perez headed over from Effiong’s inviting pass.
Ħamrun’s problems to deal with Qormi’s incursions down the right were evident again as the second half got underway.
Chetcuti dashed towards the byline before squaring to Effiong whose shot rolled past Curmi but ended just wide.
A dangerous shot by Bondin was deflected past the post as Qormi kept their foot on the accelerator.
As the hour mark approached, the Spartans finally began to push forward with some intent thanks to the brisker movement of their midfielders and forwards.
Lattes shot wide before a set-piece cross from Massimo Grima was kept out by Sultana. As complacency crept into Qormi’s game, Ħamrun plucked up more courage.
Sultana thwarted the Spartans with a fine save from Daniel Zerafa’s thunderbolt. Qormi were quick to break on the counter but Effiong was felled by Adrian Borg with referee Marco Borg dismissing the Spartans’ defender for his rash challenge.
Just before the final whistle, Qormi added a second when substitute Leighton Grech burst clear before flicking past Curmi.
A. Curmi-5.5, G. Azzopardi-5.5, A. Borg, B. Guga-5, M. Grima-4 (75 R. Spiteri), D. Camilleri-5, G. Favero-5.5, L. Lumbilla-4, T. Vella-6 (88 R. Refalo), E. Lattes-5.5 (68 D. Zerafa-5.5), R. Fenech-6.5.
S. Sultana-7.5, K. Thackray-6, R. Sammut-6, A. Effiong-6.5 (90 C. Cassar), J. Chetcuti-6.5 (72 L. Grech), M. Avila Perez-5 (81 M. Bartolo), L. Sciberras-7, M. Gauci-6, E. Bilbao Zarate-7, D. Pisani-6, J. Bondin-7.
Referee: Marco Borg.
Yellow cards: Lumbilla; Favero; Sammut; Fenech; Zarate; Azzopardi.
Red card: Borg (ĦS) 90.
BOV player of the match: Luke Sciberras (Qormi).