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Mallia on cue to boost low-key Stripes

Birkirkara 2
Mallia 31, Mifsud Triganza 90
Msida St Joseph 0

Birkirkara were regarded as favourites to move past Msida St Joseph's challenge and return to winning ways after their 1-0 reverse to Floriana.

The Stripes achieved their target as they notched up a 2-0 win but their performance yesterday was anything but convincing.

For a team with ambitions of challenging for the league title, Birkirkara looked too disjointed and too cautious against an Msida side who left a good impression but paid the price for squandering a 25th minute penalty when the score was still goalless.

Omar Borg, the Birkirkara goalkeeper who saved Pedro Calcado's spot-kick, and George Mallia were the inspiration behind the Stripes' victory which was only rubberstamped in injury time with a goal from substitute Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza.

Defender Lee Lombardi was the only notable absentee for Birkirkara. Coach John Buttigieg started with Michael Galea and Brazilian forward William Sander-Landim up front. Shaun Bajada was also left out of Buttigieg's starting line-up.

For Msida, injury forced captain Dino Cachia to miss this match but otherwise, coach Patrick Curmi had no selection problems.

Only two minutes of the game had elapsed when Trevor Cilia's cross was met by Sander-Landim but his effort was blocked.

A counter-attack by Msida caught Birkirkara's rearguard at sixes and sevens as Brazilian midfielder Calcado's pass from a deep position invited compatriot Marco Ourellio to run at the backtracking defenders. Ourellio sped past Ron Hartvig and Emil Yantchev who tried to stop his tormentor by pulling his shirt before the Brazilian's shot ended wide. Msida protested against Yantchev's intervention but their pleas were ignored by referee Adrian Azzopardi.

The early boredom was interrupted after 24 minutes when Msida were awarded a penalty after Thomas Paris blocked Chris Camilleri's cross-shot from the left with his hands. Calcado marched towards the spot to take the penalty but his low shot, hit towards the bottom left corner, was pushed away by Borg.

The Reds paid dearly for Calcado's miss as in their next serious attack, after 31 minutes, Birkirkara took the lead. Midfielder Alan Tabone floated an excellent pass into the Msida box and the unmarked George Mallia nipped in to guide the ball past Matthew Camilleri from a central position.

One-nil down, Msida tried to take the game to Birkirkara but in so doing, they left themselves somewhat exposed at the back. The Stripes launched a couple of dangerous counter-attacks with Mallia coming close to doubling his side's lead with a diagonal effort that finished wide.

Birkirkara should have increased their advantage soon after the restart when Mallia passed to the centre but Sander-Landim was caught by surprise. The ball ricocheted off the Brazilian striker and flashed wide.

Bajada, who had just come on for Tabone, might have scored with his first significant touch of the ball but his piledriver, from Galea's pass, took a slight deflection and sailed over the bar.

Msida persisted with their attempts to unlock the Birkirkara defence through the incursions of Calcado, one of their best players yesterday, while Andre Rocha Da Silva was more effective in midfield after the change of ends.

Birkirkara seemed happy to stick to a hit-them-on-the-counter approach and from one such breakaway, Sander-Landim lobbed the ball over Camilleri and the crossbar.

With seven minutes remaining, Birkirkara almost sealed the issue when from a Bajada free-kick, Mallia rose high to direct the ball towards substitute Mifsud Triganza whose header drew a fine save from Camilleri.

In time added on, Mifsud Triganza secured Birkirkara's victory when he concluded a counter-attack by turning past Camilleri before placing the ball into the net.

Birkirkara
O. Borg-7, T. Paris-5, P. Fenech-7, M. Galea-6, A. Tabone-6.5 ('54 S. Bajada-6), W. Sander-Landim-6 ('73 J.P. Mifsud Triganza), R. Hartvig-5, T.Cilia-6 ('87 J. Holland), J. Zerafa-5, G. Mallia-7.5, E. Yantchev-5.

Msida St Joseph
M. Camilleri-6, S.Grima-5, S. Vella-6, T. Farrugia-6, A. Spiteri-5, P. Calcado-7, K. Magro-5 ('46 E. Navarro-6), A. R. Da Silva-6, A. Farrugia-5.5, C. Camilleri-5.5 ('81 K. Spiteri), M. Ourellio-6.

Referee: Adrian Azzopardi.

Missed penalty: Calcado (M) 25.

Yellow cards: Tabone; Spiteri; Ourellio; Fenech; Holland.

BoV Player of the match: George Mallia (Birkirkara).

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