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Plut and Miccoli tame the Lions

Fabrizio Miccoli (left) looking for openings against Naxxar, yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Fabrizio Miccoli (left) looking for openings against Naxxar, yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Birkirkara 4
Miccoli 11; Plut 13, Sciberras 43; Fenech 73;
Naxxar Lions 0

Birkirkara made a comfortable start to their league trek as they broke little sweat to see off the feeble challenge of Naxxar Lions yesterday.

The Stripes were clearly in a class of their own as, inspired by the swift movement of strikers Vito Plut, Fabrizio Miccoli and Frank Temile they tore apart a sluggish Naxxar defence that could not keep up with their opponents’ fluid play.

Two quick goals inside the opening 13 minutes, scored by Miccoli and Plut, put Birkirkara in control with Naxxar never showing signs of recovery.

In fact, the Stripes maintained a firm grip on the match with their midfield duo of Gareth Sciberras and Paul Fenech adding further goals to underline their team’s potential this season.

Birkirkara coach Giovanni Tedesco made three changes to the side that lost to Hibernians in the Super Cup final last week.

Nigerian Ini Akpan was given the nod to start in goal at the expense of Justin Haber while Cain Attard was handed his first start since his move from Pietà Hotspurs as Zach Muscat, who is attracting interest from Lega Pro side Pisa, was left out.

Gareth Sciberras was handed his first start of the season in lieu of the unfit Rowen Muscat while Temile was handed his debut as Ryan Camenzuli started at right-back instead of Joseph Zerafa.

Naxxar were forced to make do without Benin striker Oussou Sidoine as his registration was not completed in time. Veteran Victor Bellia is out with injury.

As expected, it was Birkirkara who made all the early running and on four minutes Sciberras burst into the area to connect to Fenech’s cross but his header was pushed away by Julian Azzopardi, the Naxxar goalkeeper.

However, Birkirkara were not to be denied in their next foray on 11 minutes. Plut ran clear on the left before teeing up Miccoli who beat Azzopardi from close in.

More woes laid in store for the Lions as two minutes later as Azzopardi lost his footing when trying to control Moises Gnenebe’s backpass and in came Plut to divert the ball inside an empty net.

Naxxar were clearly on the ropes and on 23 minutes they almost fell further behind.

From another Plut run, the Slovenian released Miccoli on the edge of the area but the Italian forward’s lob was palmed away by Azzopardi.

Naxxar finally threatened on 28 minutes when Richard Cardozo released Daren Falzon but the striker was anticipated by the alert Aktpan.

Temile then ran at goal but fired wide and the chance was lost. Clearly, the Lions were struggling to contain Birkirkara’s swift play.

Two minutes from the break the Stripes extended their lead to three goals when Miccoli was first to Attard’s cross. His shot on the turn was blocked but in came Sciberras who blasted his shot home.

Four minutes into the second half Grima tried to add more guile into his team’s engine room when he withdrew Jurgen Debono and roped in Mandinho.

Tedesco’s response came on the hour when he introduced Ed-mond Agius for Sciberras while three minutes later he withdrew Temile and brought on latest signing Juan Querro Barraso.

On 65 minutes, Plut picked Miccoli inside the area but the Italian was unlucky to see his shot crashing against the bar. Agius was first to the rebound but his effort was cleared off the line by Gnenegbe.

Birkirkara’s fourth goal arrived a few minutes later though when Agius made inroads on the right before serving Fenech who calmly slotted home at the far post.

Miccoli went close to adding a fifth goal late on but his volley from just inside the area was stopped by Azzopardi.

Deep into stoppage time Akpan denied the Lions a consolation goal when he dived to his right to keep out Falzon’s inswinger from a free-kick.

Birkirkara
I. Akpan-6, C. Attard-6, N. Vukanac-6, M. Mazzetti-6, R. Camenzuli-6, E. Marcelina-6.5, G. Sciberras-6.5 (60 E. Agius-6), P. Fenech-6.5 (73 K. Zammit), F. Temile-5.5 (63 J. Querro Barraso-6), F. Miccoli-7, V. Plut-7.5.

Naxxar Lions
J. Azzopardi-4, A. Scicluna-5, L. Lodetti-4, R. Cardozo-6 (75 D. Bonnici), D. Falzon-5, Z. Gnenegbe-5.5, J. Debono-5 (49 Mandinho-5), I. Grech-4.5, D. Fenech-5.5, A. Buhagiar-5 (82 M. Del Negro), E. Lattes-5.

Referee: T. Farrugia Cann. Yellow cards Lodetti, Buhagiar, Mandinho, Falzon.

BOV player of the match: Vito Plut (Birkirkara).

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