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A 'Bużu' performance to remember

Carmel Busuttil

Carmel Busuttil

Season 1986-87 was very disappointing for Rabat Ajax.

That year, the Magpies became the first league champions and FA Trophy holders to be relegated from the top flight the following season.

Their sudden decline baffled everyone.

With players of the calibre of Carmel Busuttil and Mark Miller, Rabat had begun the season as favourites to retain the title. Yet, they finished the campaign at the wrong end of the table.

Nothing went right for Rabat who, after four glorious seasons at the top of Maltese football, had to swallow the bitter pill of relegation.

Twice winners of the league championship and FA Trophy holders, they seemed destined for bigger things. Then, disaster struck.

Internal trouble reared its ugly head and the team's spirit was broken. Rabat lost some matches in the first round which, in other circumstances, would have won hands down.

In the second round, they seemed to be settling down but, after losing against Ħamrun Spartans and Sliema Wanderers, they were all but doomed.

Yet, Rabat were no pushovers. They were as good as any team in the Premier League. Rabat proved this in their last league game against Hibs. The Magpies had already been mathematically relegated before their final game but this did not stop them from thrashing Hibernians 4-0.

However, today I do not intend to dwell too long on that dark period in Rabat's history. Instead, I want to focus on one of their few bright moments that season.

One game in which Rabat showed their class was that against Tarxien Rainbows, played on February 1, 1987.

In that particular period, Rabat seemed to be steering away from the relegation zone and what a game they played on that cold winter afternoon. They demolished their fellow relegation strugglers Tarxien by seven clear goals to register the biggest score of the season.

This was the Rabat we knew. With Silvio Vella dictating matters and Busuttil in devastating form, there was no way the Rainbows could stop their goal-hungry opponents.

For the first half hour, Tarxien defended stoutly but then Rabat found their scoring boots. Three goals in seven minutes enabled them to wrap up a game which could have gone otherwise had the goals taken longer to arrive.

Caruana scored the first goal. Latching on to a loose ball, he drove a hard low shot past Church. Two minutes later Vella whacked in a free-kick from just outside the penalty area. Then, Busuttil scored the first of his four goals. Il-Bużu dispossessed a Tarxien defender and rounded Church before planting the ball into an empty net.

Goal number four came 13 minutes into the second half, Busuttil heading past Church a perfect Miller corner as Rabat kept pushing forward. It was as if their players had suddenly rediscovered their championship winning-form as they moved the ball freely around the pitch. However, it was Busuttil who stood head and shoulders above his team-mates.

In the 77th minute, he won the ball off Michael Farrugia and from well outside the area let fly a sizzling shot that left the Tarxien goalkeeper stranded.

Wanting more, Busuttil continued to torment the Tarxien defence and three minutes from time he crowned a great afternoon with another superb goal.

Receiving a perfect pass from Miller, he blasted in an unstoppable first-timer past Church and into the top corner of the net.

Busuttil played many great games in his career but this was surely one to remember.

A minute from time, Miller also capped a fine performance by clipping the ball to Graham to head home goal number seven.

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