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No goals in drab encounter

Sliema’s Matias Muchardi races past Ryan Sammut, of Tarxien. Photo: Matthew MirabelliSliema’s Matias Muchardi races past Ryan Sammut, of Tarxien. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Sliema Wanderers 0
Tarxien Rainbows 0

The much-awaited clash between the two surprise packages of the Premier League, Sliema Wanderers and Tarxien Rainbows, failed to live up to its billing as the two rivals fought out a disappointing draw.

The match turned out to be a drab affair with both sides clearly short of ideas in front of goal with the result that chances were few and far between.

It was the Wanderers who showed the better fare in the latter stages but when one considers that the Rainbows played the final 13 minutes with a man short, after Manuel Caruana’s dismissal, a vast improvement is needed from Alfonso Greco’s side if they are to challenge for the Premier League crown.

On the other hand, Tarxien Rainbows were a far cry from that the team that beat Valletta last Tuesday.

Tarxien coach Clive Mizzi made only one change to his starting formation as Brazilian striker Leandro, the match-winner against the Citizens, replaced Justin Grioli who started on the bench.

The Rainbows’ 4-2-3-1 formation featured Daniel Mariano Bueno as the attacking fulcrum in front of Leandro, Andrezinho and Roderick Bajada.

Likewise, Luca Martinelli’s suspension compelled Alfonso Greco to make one change from the team that vanquished Hibernians 2-0. John Mintoff took up Marti-nelli’s duties on the right flank.

Paltemio Barbetti anchored again the Sliema midfield in front of the back four in a 4-1-3-2 formation that became a 3-4-3, allowing skipper Alex Muscat to push on extremely high up the pitch.

Sliema’s efforts to raise the tempo of their game by pushing more along the flanks, forced Tarxien on the backfoot.

On 23 minutes, Sliema punted the ball forward for Mintoff who exploited his speed off the mark to race past Carlo Mamo on the right flank and sent in a fine cross for Ivan Woods who tried to outpace Orosco Anonam but the Nigerian threw his body in the way of the striker to block his effort.

Tarxien were quick to respond. Andrezinho dashed through after a jinking run but his shot was beaten away by the alert Glenn Zammit.

The danger was not over for Sliema as the rebound came to Bueno, yet his effort was kept out by the lightning reflexes of the Sliema goalkeeper.

From then on the match lost much of the intensity with both teams failing to create any decent opportunity.

Three minutes after the restart a dazzling run by Stefano Bianciardi produced a half-chance out of the blue as he dallied past two defenders but his cross was cut out by the Tarxien rearguard.

The Wanderers tried to lift their game and in the 54th minute Luigi Ruggiero came on for the subdued Woods and the move seemed to inject some fresh ideas into the Wanderers play.

In fact on 61 minutes, Mark Scerri was late to connect to a Ruggiero’s cross with the goal at his mercy.

Sliema threatened again on 72 minutes when the Italian striker collected the ball from Ian Zammit before producing a cheeky lob over Nicky Vella which finished just wide.

Five minutes later, Tarxien looked to have suffered a potentially fatal blow.

Caruana, who had just been booked, was dismissed after receiving a second caution for hauling down an opponent.

Sliema were now expected to pile the pressure but their reaction was tame.

Two minutes from time, the Wanderers were unlucky when Zammit’s thunderbolt was partially blocked by Vella and from the rebound Ruggiero was again denied by the Tarxien no.1 as the stalemate prevailed.

Sliema Wanderers
G. Zammit-6, A. Muscat-5, P. Barbetti-6, J. Mintoff-5.5, M. Scerri-6, I. Zammit-6, C. Gatt Baldacchino-5, I. Woods-5 (54 L. Ruggiero-6), S. Bajada-5.5, M. Muchardi-5, S. Bianciardi-7.

Tarxien Rainbows
N. Vella-6, C. Mamo-5, M. Caruana, A. Agius-5.5 (66 J. Grioli-6), Andrezinho-5.5, R. Bajada-5 (75 T. Lopes), Leandro-5 (90 M. Tanti), R. Sammut-6, D.M. Bueno-5, O. Anonam-6, S. Bonnici-5.5.

Referee: Marco Borg.

Yellow cards: Muchardi, Barbetti, Caruana.

Red cards: Caruana (T) 77.

BOV player of the match: Stefano Bianciardi (Sliema Wanderers).

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