Tarxien’s Brazilians eclipse City stars
Tarxien Rainbows 3
Andrezinho 25; Bueno 57; Leandro 79;
Denni 3; Fenech 31;
Not for the first time this season, Valletta fans left the stadium seething with anger and frustration after their team of ‘superstars’ came a cropper against a less-fancied team.
After dropping two points in a goalless draw with Sliema Wanderers, not to mention the series of poor results against the likes of Rabat, Balzan and Melita, Valletta had little margin for error when they met Tarxien Rainbows but the unthinkable happened as the latter eclipsed the champions, winning a gripping match 3-2.
To rub salt into Valletta’s wounds, it was their former striker Leandro who struck the killer blow late in the game after the gritty Tarxien had twice fought back from a goal down.
Although Valletta did press hard in a bid to equalise in the dying stages, their defeat was not totally undeserved.
The Citizens again lacked the resilience and cutting edge to overcome resilient opponents who not only defended stoically but also attacked with gusto, largely thanks to the brilliance of man-of-the-match Daniel Mariano Bueno and Andrezinho who contributed richly to Tarxien’s win over the champions.
Defeat for Valletta means that both Birkirkara and Hibs will leapfrog them at the top today if they win their respective games.
Brazilian midfielder William Barbosa, out due to suspension, was not the only notable absentee from Valletta’s team as defenders Luke Dimech and Jonathan Caruana were also missing.
This forced Mark Miller to field a makeshift rearguard with Ian Azzopardi partnering Jason Vandelannoite in central defence.
It took the Valletta forwards less than three minutes to make their mark as Denni received a pass in the box before beating Nicky Vella with a clinical finish.
Denni turned provider as his cross from the right was met by Demba Toure but the latter’s header was blocked by Vella.
Valletta’s early breakthrough was a kick in the teeth for Tarxien.
Bueno, who played his 100th match for Tarxien yesterday, was the attacking spearhead with the returning Andrezinho, Roderick Bajada and Andrew Agius the advanced midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The erstwhile low-key Tarxien strung up a fine move on 16 minutes involving the overlapping Carlo Mamo and Bueno but Agius’s concluding shot was high and wide.
The Citizens were caught out at the back when Andrezinho released Bajada who miscued his shot.
Valletta’s defensive wobbles were laid bare on 25 minutes.
Bueno’s astute pass soared above the dithering white-shirted defenders before landing at the feet of Andrezinho who sped forward before drilling a perfect shot past Valletta goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo.
Tarxien were over the moon but not for long as, on 31 minutes, the champions restored their lead.
Toure cut the ball back to Ryan Fenech who sidestepped his marker before hammering the ball into the net.
Unfazed, Tarxien continued to run and press as well as create some interesting moves mainly through Bueno and Andrezinho.
Six minutes from half-time, Valletta manufactured another op-portunity when Roderick Briffa’s cross was met by Vandelannoite who headed over.
The second half was four minutes old when Mifsud’s pass from the right was only half-cleared by Tarxien with the ball rolling invitingly towards Agius who skewed his shot.
Valletta were finding it hard to break down the spirited Tarxien and their task became more complicated when the Rainbows equalised on 57 minutes.
Mamo charged forward on the left before crossing towards the centre where Bueno dived to send a glancing header past Bartolo.
Tarxien’s sprightly approach continued to cause Valletta problems.
The Whites were let off the hook when Bueno poked wide from close in after getting on the end of Justin Grioli’s cross.
Miller responded by sending on Gabriel for Mifsud who had struggled to make his presence felt.
At the other end, Bogdanovic shot weakly into Vella’s hands.
Danger beckoned Valletta when Bartolo slipped after dashing out of goal but Leandro, who had just replaced Bajada, failed to capitalise.
The Brazilian made amends moments later as he fired an unstoppable volley into the Valletta net after receiving from Andrezinho.
Four minutes from time, Jojo Ogunuppe was wide with an acrobatic volley and the City faithful couldn’t believe their eyes when Bogdanovic hit badly with only Vella to beat after receiving from Denni.
Moments later, Briffa was also inches wide with a first-time shot as the Citizens pushed for an equaliser.
Denni did well to connect with a cross at the far post but his powerful shot grazed the other post.
In a rare foray, Andrezinho’s rising shot ended over the bar.
When Valletta were awarded a free-kick after Vella barged into the steaming Bogdanovic, goalkeeper Bartolo went up in attack but Denni blasted his free-kick over the bar.
N. Vella-5.5, C. Mamo-7, M. Caruana-6, A. Agius-6 (83 M. Tulio), Andrezinho-8 (90 M. Tanti), R. Bajada-6.5 (73 Leandro-6.5), J. Grioli-6.5, R. Sammut-6.5, D.M. Bueno-8.5, O. Anonam-6.5, S. Bonnici-6.
M. Bartolo-4, R. Briffa-5, I. Azzopardi-5, D. Falzon-5, J. Vandelannoite-5.5, E. Agius-5, R. Fenech-6, D. Bogdanovic-4, Denni-6, D. Toure-5 (86 J. Ogunuppe), M. Mifsud-5 (66 Gabriel).
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Yellow cards: Caruana; Grioli; Vella.
BOV player of the match: Daniel Mariano Bueno (Tarxien Rainbows).