ŻEBBUĠ RANGERS 1
J. Azzopardi-6.5; S. Bugeja-7, Wilker-6.5, Y. Tonna-6 (70 T. Bartolo), S. Jankovic-6.5, C. Ngoy-6.5, R. Sanchez-6.5, R. Vella-6 (77 G. Gaetano), Almir-6, S. Miloskovic-6.5 (70 M. Jimenez), K. Bondin-6.5 (70 J. Sciberras).
G. Nava-6; E. Pepe-6, D. Pires-6 (70 N. Micallef), A. Alves-6.5, Y. Yankam-6, P. Mbong-6.5 (86 O. Iorio), K. Zammit-6.5, C. Attard-6.5, E. Cabrera-6 (86 J. Farrugia), A. Coppola-6, K. Tulimieri-6.5 (79 D. Ribeiro).
Referee Darryl Agius.
Yellow cards Pires, Tonna, Ngoy.
BOV Player of the Match Kevin Tulimieri
Birkirkara clinched their second consecutive victory after beating Żebbuġ Rangers 2-1 at the National Stadium on Saturday.
The Stripes cancelled a one-goal deficit after last year’s Challenge League champions had stunned Birkirkara through a Stanimir Miloskovic header.
Birkirkara’s two goals came through Kevin Tulimieri and Enzo Cabrera, two of their summer transfer signings, as Giovanni Tedesco maintains his perfect start in his second spell at coach of the Stripes.
Coached by Brian Spiteri, Żebbuġ put on a strong showing in the first half as they were denying all passing channels to Birkirkara.
Shaun Bugeja, in particular, commanded the backline and was instrumental in halting Birkirkara’s chances in the final third.
Yet, Birkirkara’s quality emerged in the second half as the Stripes made it a one-sided affair and could have even extended their lead on more than one occasion.
In the closing stages of the game, Birkirkara handed a debut to their new signing Jean Paul Farrugia who, after being close to joining Floriana, decided to pursue this campaign at the Stripes. An important addition to Tedesco’s team in the absence of Argentine forward Federico Falcone who picked up a knock in the league’s opener against Sirens.
Birkirkara could have forged ahead immediately when Alex Alves was on his way in front of goalkeeper Jamie Azzopardi but the Brazilian could not beat the Maltese goalkeeper.
That opportunity looked as if Birkirkara were going to dominate proceedings but instead it was Żebbuġ who drew first blood.
Roberto Sanchez’s right-hand cross was met by Stanimir Miloskovic whose header bounced in front of Giacomo Nava and rolled into the net.
The Stripes were looking to stage a reaction but they could not break down the Żebbug team with their frequent long balls from the back.
Alves forced Azzopardi into action again with a deflected effort from the edge of the area but the Żebbuġ goalkeeper diverted into a corner.
Enzo Cabrera tried his luck with a low drive after making his way into the penalty box but failed to hit the target.
Nonetheless, Birkirkara managed to level terms through Kevin Tulimieri who headed home into the first post from a corner kick situation.
After the change of ends, Birkirkara came out all guns blazing and managed to turn the score to their favour through Cabrera.
Yannick Yankam directed Angelo Coppola’s long ball into the path of Paul Mbong. The Birkirkara winger beat his Żebbuġ marker before finding an unmarked Cabrera who slotted from point-blank range.
The Stripes continued to pile the pressure on the newly-promoted side with Alves attempting two long shots while Mbong had a header cleared on the goalline by Shaun Bugeja.
Żebbuġ Rangers’ coach Brian Spiteri made three changes 20 minutes from time, including forward Miguel Jimenez in an attempt to find an equaliser.
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