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Returning to a full squad a priority, says Naxxar coach

Naxxar’s Leejoe Schembri (right) and Swieqi’s Josuael Azzopardi fight for the ball. Photo: Jonathan Borg


Naxxar Lions returned to winning ways on Saturday as they beat Swieqi United 2-0 at the Centenary Stadium.

On paper, Swieqi United started as favourites, but it turned out to be a dominant performance from Naxxar who contained their opponents’ offensive prowess while securing their three points with two early goals.

Lions coach George Vella admitted his aim was to do better than they had in the first round – a 4-1 loss back in October.

“Naturally we wanted to win the match but the first thing we said today was that if we get a point against (Swieqi) today it would be more than we did against them in the first round – sometimes you go to get the three points and end up getting nothing,” Vella told The Times of Malta.

“We weren’t completely defensive, but we were aware that a point is still better than zero.”

While Naxxar remain in eighth place in the standings, level with Vittoriosa Stars on 23 points, for Swieqi, the loss pushes them down to fourth place, three points below San Ġwann but with a game in hand.

“We were playing against the third-placed team that has a formidable attack which for me is their most important department, so we had to contain them and go on the counter. But rather than just going on the counter, I emphasized especially against the wind, to play the ball low which we did,” Vella explained.

“We had a bit of a problem at the back because Farid Zuniga got injured in the first few minutes, but we played with a back four which was full of Maltese players and they delivered well.

“I believe that after the second goal, we could have even scored the third. We changed some things around in the second half to keep on containing them, but our aim was to keep the rhythm down because Swieqi are very dangerous, and we managed to do it.”

Two of Naxxar’s three substitutions on Saturday were due to injury and while it is concerning for Vella, he said that players are returning and that they are looking to improve on the squad to have more competition.

“Injuries are part of football I must admit. Unfortunately, last year we had three long-term injuries but at least, today we had a lot of players returning and that’s a good indication, because we need competition,” he said.

One of the side’s January additions is Leejoe Schembri, who joined from Qrendi and made his debut in the 3-0 loss to Pembroke in midweek.

“We had been following Leejoe for a while. For me it was very important that he goes and makes an impact upfront especially since this year, our main striker got injured in the first friendly and is still struggling with post operation problems,” Vella said.

“We will be bringing in another two foreigners to continue strengthening the squad for the second round because there are still many games to go.”

The match was a balanced affair with no threats to either side in the opening minutes but Naxxar took charge after 15 minutes with the first real opportunity of the game. Edson Farias controlled the ball with his back towards goal, turned and hit straight past Swieqi goalkeeper Jean Claude Debattista.

The goal gave a sort of adrenaline rush to the side as just ten minutes later, they made it two.

Schembri fed a cross into the crowded area, missed by many but met by Farias who tapped in.

It was only after the half hour that custodian Omar Borg had to make his first save as the Reds looked in control.

After the break, it was the shot-stoppers who were put to work the most with Debattista coming to the rescue after the hour, after a Schembri interception lead to a 1vs1 situation with Farias but the Swieqi man came out on top this time.

Borg was forced into his best save of the day in the final minutes from a Luke Zammit free-kick destined for the top corner.

SWIEQI UNITED: J.C. Debattista, I. Micallef, M. Attard, J. Magri
Overend (59 L. Zammit), J. Micallef, J. Willy (46 T. Ayorinde), I. Salis, M. Vella, F. Temile (63 C. Cutajar), J. Azzopardi, S. Elfarsi (77 M. Ivanovic).
NAXXAR LIONS: O. Borg, M. Fenech, M. Mifsud, A. Azzopardi, R. Cassar, A. Tenorio (75 W. Zamble), F. Zuniga (22 R. Mercieca), S. Meilak, N. Borg (92 J. Sciberras), L. Schembri, E. Farias.
Referee: Aleksandar Jovanovic
Best Player: Edson Farias (Naxxar Lions).



PEMBROKE ATHLETA: P. Schranz, A. Marshall, J. Farrugia, D. Sant, K. Frendo, P. Santos (69 J. Ogunuppe), N. Frendo (82 T. Fenech), A. Temitope, C. Zammit, J. Bajada, P. Sammut (91 M. Zarb).
MARSAXLOKK: F. Tabone, C. Degabriele, J. Morales, N. Ghio (74 D. Sammut), P. Doffo (80 D. Cartella), J. Spiteri (80 JP. Mifsud Triganza), B. Sciberras, C. Brincat, P. Xuereb, R. Winchester, R. Fenech (80 R. Sammut).
Referee: Andrea Sciriha
Scorer: Frendo 78.
Red card: Brincat (M) 85.


ST ANDREWS: D. Formosa, M. Muscat, I. Azzopardi, M. D’Alessandro, G. Stefansson (46 M. Vella Vidal), J. Farrugia (74 S. Cassar Torregiani), R. Micallef Decesare, A. Borg Olivier, J. Sixsmith (74 W. Camilleri), L. Borg, D. Jackson.
QRENDI: C. Abdilla, L. Martinelli, J. Busuttil, S. Schembri, B. Muscat, A. Nilsson, D. Sammut, A. Agius, D. Bueno (72 M. Gatt), C. Camilleri (80 S. Perdomo), M. Brincat.
Referee: Slawomir Olucha.
Scorer: Sammut 14.
Red card: Nilsson (Q) 67.


ZEBBUG RANGERS: M. Grech, S. Bugeja, J. Micallef, A. Mizzi, L. Mijic, J. Silveira (90 M. Vella), R. Vella, S. gauci, C. Vella (86 J. Camilleri), S. Miloskovic, K. Tanti (84 K. Vella).
FGURA UNITED: B. Bartolo (37 L. Moore), J. Stensen, J. Barbara, S. Abela (63 T. Grech), JP. Attard, G. Martin, S. Nanapere (75 C. Ciantar), J. Vella (75 M. Vella), J. Cassar (63 S. Borg), N. Ojuola, D. Qunitero.
Referee: Stefan Pace
Scorers: Micallef 8; Mizzi 70; Mijic 71.


SAN GWANN: C. Formosa (83 D. Sciberras), Q. Adediran, L. Mallia (75 A. Falzon), C. Gauci, S. Kuyper, O. Spiteri, Z. Bowman (83 J. Bowman), C. Omoruanzoje, C. Gauci, U. Calistus (90 A. Chibueze), G. Pace.
VITTORIOSA STARS: R. Marmara, C. Spiteri, I. Abela, G. Sultana, Q. Bregman (72 B. Debrincat), A. Cilia Mumford (90 K. Pace), D. Sowatey, R. Dalli (46 I. Curmi), R. Farias (90 A. Oularbi), D. Serna, L. Gauci (46 R. Previ).
Referee: Matthew De Gabriele
Scorers: Adediran (S) 29, 74; Mallia (S) 41; Farias (V) 45 pen.; Calistus (S) 77.


QORMI: M. Falzon, G. Borg, R. Caruana, A. Oliveira (66 A. Ayoub), N. Falzon, T. Grima, N. Meli (66 J. Bonnici), S. Seychell (55 L. Farrugia), O. Sidibe, R. Uriu, M. Busuttil (66 S. Magri).
PIETA HOTSPURS: J. Chircop St. john, L. Cassar Jackson, J. Ghio (60 C. Bouvet), S. Okoh, N. Pace Cocks, M. Portelli (86 N. Buttigieg), L. Galea, Z. Leonardi (86 E. Camilleri), S. mizzi, L. Scicluna (46 G. Borg), D. Segura.
Referee: Alex Johnson
Scorers: Segura 60; Portelli 78.
Red card: Caruana (Q) 90.

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