Spoils shared as Rainbows grab last-gasp equaliser

Marcelo Dias, of Hibernians, goes down after a challenge from Steve Sadowski, of Tarxien. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Marcelo Dias, of Hibernians, goes down after a challenge from Steve Sadowski, of Tarxien. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Hibernians 2
Farrugia 56; Lima 75 pen;
Tarxien Rainbows 2
Danilo 12; Andrezinho 90;

Tarxien Rainbows stunned Hiber­nians with a stoppage-time equa­liser to avoid having to return home empty-handed but with a deserved point in their bags instead.

Andrezinho’s last-gasp goal for the Rainbows was an exquisite strike that brought an end to a match in which the Paolites had to play the last 10 minutes with a man short following the dismissal of defender Adrian Pulis.

Hibs already had the taste of victory in their mouths after coming back from a goal down to go 2-1 up in a hard-fought derby but Tarxien never wilted.

The onus yesterday was on the Paolites to return to winning ways following two consecutive defeats in the league as they took on the modest Tarxien side who look a lot livelier these days with Clive Mizzi as their coach.

Michael Woods, the Hibs mentor, sprung a surprise with his team selection as he opted for Ayrton Azzopardi, fresh from his debut with the national team, and Clayton Failla who was back after serving a three-month suspension.

Jean Paul Farrugia was also given the nod to start in a Hibernians’ 4-4-2 module as he partnered Marcelo Dias up front.

Mizzi reverted to his tried-and-trusted troops to contain Hibernians’ threat, bringing in David Fenech and Orosco Anonam in place of Roderick Bajada and Carlo Mamo and moving Andrezinho into a central playing role in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

And the resilient Tarxien ran out determined to surprise their more-quoted opponents as Mizzi’s men fought for every ball and put pressure on Hibs in the opening period.

With Daniel Mariano Bueno chasing down every ball as if his life depended on it, Tarxien looked the more enterprising of the two teams.

Jackson Lima tested waters with a stinging free-kick that posed no trouble for Tarxien keeper Nicky Vella inside the first three minutes.

But inertia blighted the start of this encounter as both teams seemed to have forgotten all about constructive football.

So, when the goal did arrive after 14 minutes, it owed to a blunder by Hibernians defender Zoran Levnaic rather than renewed attacking flair by Tarxien.

A low pass from the halfway line by Karl Pulo seemed to pose little danger for the Paolites defence.

It was not to be, however, as Levnaic lost his balance when rushing in to nudge the ball away, letting Danilo off on a diagonal run before the Tarxien man poked it home from close range.

That goal was expected to spark Hibernians into life but they failed to create any meaningful chances as Tarxien’s defensive plan to stifle Lima, the Paolites’ main inspiration, was carried out to almost perfection.

Fenech and Manuel Caruana were given the task of shadowing the roaming Brazilian midfielder whose clever passing skills were the catalyst of most of his team’s attacking ploys.

That prompted Woods to effect a substitution at half-time with Udo Nwoko replacing Azzopardi as he switched to 4-1-3-2.

But Mizzi must have said something different to his players at the half-time break because within two minutes of the restart, they almost doubled their lead.

Justin Grioli crossed from the right and Pulo’s header from point-blank range finished just wide.

That seemed to wake up the Paolites, though, and a choral move saw the ball shift quickly from Lima to Dias, presenting the unmarked Farrugia with the simplest of tap-ins to level matters after 56 minutes.

Tarxien refused to buckle and on the hour mark, Danilo crossed the ball towards Bueno whose header finished just over the bar.

At the other end of the pitch, five minutes later, Failla’s free-kick brought an excellent save from Vella.

The Paolites nosed in front 15 minutes from time when the back-tracking Ryan Sammut gave away a penalty in his bid to stop Lima who finished on the ground.

From the penalty, Lima drilled his shot low into the left-hand corner of Vella’s net.

Hibernians looked home and dry but they were dealt an unexpected blow on 80 minutes when a second bookable offence by Pulis saw the Paolites reduced to 10 men.

The last few minutes were tense but substitute Anderson Ribeiro could have settled Hibs’ nerves only to fail to make proper contact with the ball in front of a gaping goal after being set up by Nwoko.

And Hibernians paid dearly for that miss.

Deep into added time, Andrezinho unleashed an unstoppable shot that flew past a helpless Mario Muscat, the ball hitting the top corner of the net to send the Rainbows into ruptures.

M. Muscat-6, R. Camilleri-6, A. Pulis, Z. Levnaic-5, R. Soares-5, B. Kristensen-6, M. Dias-7 (78 A. Ribeiro), A. Azzopardi-5 (46 U. Nwoko-6), C. Failla-6, Jackson Lima-7, J.P. Farrugia-6 (81 S. Pisani).

Tarxien Rainbows
N. Vella-6.5, S. Sadowski-6, M. Caruana-6, J. Grioli-6, Danilo-6.5, Andrezinho-8, K. Pulo-6 (62 R. Bajada-5), R. Sammut-5.5, D M Bueno-7.5, D. Fenech-6 (74 L. De Castro), O. Anonam-6.5.

Referee: Kevin Azzopardi.

Yellow cards: Bueno; Levnaic; Dias; Grioli; Pulis; Andrezinho; Soares;Caruana.

Red card: Pulis (H) 80.

BOV player of the match: Marcelo Dias (Hibernians).

Attendance: 1,164.


P W D L F A Pts
Valletta 8 7 1 0 24 5 22
Birkirkara 8 5 1 2 18 9 16
Hibernians 8 5 1 2 18 14 16
Mosta 8 5 0 3 18 12 15
Sliema W. 8 4 1 3 14 9 13
Tarxien 8 3 2 3 12 12 11
Balzan 8 3 1 4 12 14 10
Ħamrun 8 2 4 2 14 19 10
Floriana 8 2 3 3 11 13 9
Qormi 8 2 1 5 12 19 7
Melita 8 1 1 6 10 24 4
Rabat Ajax 8 0 2 6 4 17 2

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