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Nwoke lands Msida semi-final berth

Msida St. Joseph 1
Hibernians 0

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Cup ties are full of emotion and surprises. Yesterday's FA Trophy quarter-final between Msida St. Joseph and Hibernians failed to produce any pulsating moments save for the last quarter when Daniel Nwoke shot Msida into the lead and Hibernians launched a stirring fightback to try and save the match but to no avail.

The gulf that exists between the two sides in the Premier League standings was in no way reflected on the pitch.

By their standards, Msida have endured a torrid season as they failed to win a place in the Championship Pool. However, having weathered the storm in the Relegation Pool, the ambitious Saints have set their sights on a positive run in this year's domestic cup competition.

After ousting Division One sides Mosta and Senglea Athletic in the previous rounds, yesterday it was the turn of Hibernians to join the list of Msida's scalps this season.

Given their wealth of experience in such matches and boasting a full squad, Hibernians started as firm favourites to advance to the semi-finals. This was the Paolites' first match in this year's competition by virtue of their good placing in last season's league campaign.

Msida were prudent in the opening exchanges and always managed to defend stoutly whenever the likes of Andrew Cohen, Ndubisi Chukunyere and Terence Scerri ventured forward.

With Nwoke closely shadowed by the Hibs' rearguard and an early-second half injury forced striker off the pitch, the match seemed heading for extra-time before Nwoke got the better of Mario Muscat and sealed his side's qualification into the last four.

Just inside the first quarter, Zammit took his chance with a powerful shot from the edge of the area which was easily saved by Muscat, in the Hibs goal.

The Paolites fashioned a good chance midway through the first half as Cohen slipped the ball towards Scerri whose shot towards the far post missed the target by a few inches.

The Saints should have taken the lead on 40 minutes. Clint Micallef powered his way forward before exchanging the ball with Zammit. The former Birkirkara wingback unmarked Nwoke inside the area. but the Nigerian forward hit high and wide from an inviting position.

Four minutes after the change of ends, Hibs created another good chance through their hardworking striker Cohen. The youngster drifted into the penalty area, outfoxed two defenders and blasted a good shot from an acute angle which nearly surprised Omar Borg, the Msida goalkeeper.

Msida's hopes were jolted on 53 minutes when coach Mario Petrone was forced to make his first substitution when Zammit was carried off injured. Adrian Farrugia was drafted in with the job of partnering Nwoke up front.

Close to the hour, Robert Gatt's troops tried to surprise their opponents on the break. Clayton Failla slot the ball to the surging Cohen who somehow served Pullicino who, however, fluffed his shot from routine distance.

On the other end, Nwoke had a good header, from a Micallef cross, that was deviated to a corner.

Midway through the second half, the Paolites' faithful were on their feet as Chukunyere wrestled his was into the penalty area but his final shot soared above the crossbar.

On 72 minutes, Msida finally broke the deadlock. Roderick Bajada was the provider for Nwoke who rounded off a defender before calmly skewing the ball into the net.

The Nigerian was once again in the thick of action minutes later as he tested Muscat with a central shot that the Hibs goalkeeper easily blocked.

Ten minutes from time, Hibs were close to an equaliser. Scerri was first on a Failla cross but his headed effort was stopped by the post.

The Paolites were now pushing forward with more intent, inevitably leaving ample space for the Msida forwards to hit on the counter. On 81 minutes Paul Fenech should have done better when through on goal he shot wide.

Minutes were ticking away fast for Hibernians who were seeing their European hopes fading away. Failla went agonisingly close to an equaliser but his shot was well blocked by Borg.

Five minutes were ordered by the referee as added time and Msida managed to close all gaps for the Hibs forwards and in the end they were left celebrating a famous win and a place in the semi-finals.

Msida: O. Borg, C. Micallef, J. Mifsud, R. Bajada ('89 T. Farrugia '89), D. Theuma, M. Boni, P. Fenech, K. Sammut, D. Cachia, J. Zammit ('53 A. Farrugia), D. Nwoke.

Hibernians: M. Muscat, A. Pulis, A. Xuereb, D. Camilleri, E. Mbong, P. Pullicino, N. Chukunyere, A. Zahra ('46 B. Camilleri), C. Failla, T. Scerri, A. Cohen.

Referee: Clayton Pisani.

Scorer: Nwoke 72.

Yellow Cards: Bajada, Camilleri.

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