Quick goals propel Reds to victory

Quick goals propel Reds to victory

Midfielder David Camilleri winning possession for Hamrun. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Midfielder David Camilleri winning possession for Hamrun. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Balzan Youths 1
Micallef 53;
Ħamrun Spartans 3
Grima 38; Ribeiro 40 pen, 47;

Ħamrun Spartans had an ideal start to the new championship yesterday when they eased past Balzan Youths 3-1.

Although the final scoreline might suggest that the Spartans had it all their way in reality Balzan started very brightly and looked good enough to offer a stiff challenge to their more-quoted opponents. However, two quick goals just before half-time all but settled the issue in the Reds’ favour as Balzan had no reply to that double blow.

Ħamrun coach Jesmond Zammit had only two overseas players available, Croatian defender Nikica Gacesca and Anderson Ribeiro. The Brazilian forward was making his return to Maltese football after a stint with Tarxien a few years back. Kevin Sammut, Matthew Gauci and Gianluca Calabretta also made their debut for the Spartans.

Balzan coach Ivan Zammit named his strongest formation with Pedro Calcado partnering Hungarian Daniel Sibalin up front. The Youths had two other foreign players in their first XI, Serb midfielder Nikola Tasic and Bledjon Guga, the Albania defender.

Balzan rushed off the blocks and went agonisingly close to taking the lead when Renie Forace zig-zagged past three defenders but his lay-off towards Sibalin was cleared by Gauci.

Ħamrun’s response arrived on 14 minutes but Ribeiro’s dipping header flashed just wide.

Chances remained few and far in between and we had to wait till the 25th minute for the next attempt at goal when Balzan were awarded a free-kick just outside the Reds’ box. Calcado’s shot never reached the desired target.

The Spartans were sorely missing the influence of Gaetan Spiteri, who was suspended, as Ribeiro looked too isolated up front. Still, Balzan failed to profit from their good moment and on 38 minutes they found themselves a goal behind.

Ħamrun were awarded a corner and Sammut’s delivery found Massimo Grima who headed into the far corner of the net.

Barely two minutes later, Balzan were again on the receiving end when a careless tackle by Forace on Calabretta inside the box won Ħamrun a penalty.

Ribeiro blasted in past the diving Matthew Camilleri.

Balzan were rattled by that double blow and a minute from the break Lee James Agius’s shot was blocked by Camilleri.

The Spartans continued where they had left off after the break and just two minutes from the restart Grima sent a teasing cross in the area and Ribeiro was on hand to stab the home.

It was all Ħamrun now.

Calabretta released Sammut who dashed through but his chip drifted wide.

A minute later, Ribeiro released Sammut with an elegant backheel in the Balzan box. The former Valletta midfielder squared the ball towards Calabretta who saw his fierce drive cleared off the line by Forace.

Balzan pulled a goal back on 53 minutes when Yessous Camilleri’s low cross caught the Reds’ defence napping and in came Lydon Micallef to tap the ball in.

The Youths now started to push forward with purpose and on 67 minutes Borg effected a fine one-handed save to keep out Calcado’s free-kick that looked destined to hit the back of the net.

The Spartans ended the match with 10 men when Agius was dismissed for a second booking.

Balzan almost struck again when Calcado exposed the Ħamrun defence with an inviting ball that was met by Forace who, however, hit badly from a good position.

But, after that Ħamrun easily administered their lead to secure three useful points.

Balzan Youths
M. Camilleri-5, C. Ciantar-5 (78 R. Farrugia), R. Forace-6, Y. Camilleri-5, B. Guga-5, N. Tasic-6 (75 D. Fenech), L. Micallef-7, S. Ciscaldi-5.5 (55 B. Bondin-5), P. Calcado-7, D. Grima-5, D. Sibalin-4.

Ħamrun Spartans
O. Borg-6, N. Gacesca-6, M. Grima-7.5, R. Mangion-7, R. Fenech (90 R. Spiteri), A. Ribeiro-7.5 (90 D. Zerafa), L.J. Agius, K. Sammut-7, M. Gauci-6.5, S. Bonnici-6, G. Calabretta-6 (73 D. Camilleri).

Referee: Fyodor Zammit.

Yellow cards: Tasic, Agius, Grima, Mangion, Calcado.

Red card: Lee James Agius (ĦS) 83.

BOV Player of the match: Massimo Grima (Ħamrun Spartans).

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