Cabrera 51, 80 pen, 90
Pepe 59 og; Okoh 71, 86
A. Sylla, O. Iorio, E. Pepe (81 M. Fedele), A. Alves (67 A. Ciolacu), Y. Yankam, P. Mbong (81 D. Pires), K. Zammit, C. Attard, E. Cabrera, S. Zibo, D. Ribeiro (86 N. Micallef).
I. Akpan, R. Briffa (55 K. Yamazaki), C. Ememe, L. Tenebe (46 G. Sciberras), D. Bonniċi (46 M. Okoh), C. Failla, B. Diarra, S. Kingue (83 F. Dore), J. Vassallo, Z. Brincat, R. Ekani.
Referee: Philip Farrugia.
Yellow cards: Ememe, Diarra, Ekani, Sylla, Brincat.
Birkirkara could have had the scent of success in their nostrils when they came out on top in a topsy-turvy IZIBET FA Trophy semi-final against Mosta on Wednesday.
Gżira United’s surprise elimination has surely whetted their appetite to land their first silverware in eight years.
Yet, Birkirkara had to dig deep in their resources to lower the colours of a resilient Mosta side.
The Stripes saw a 2-0 lead wiped out by two quick-fire Mosta goals in the space of 10 minutes, before the Blues also annulled Birkirkara’s second match point.
But even super-sub Michael Okoh, who struck twice in the second half, had to concede defeat to Enzo Cabrera’s prowess in front of goal as the Argentine’s hat-trick sealed Birkirkara’s FA Trophy final place against Marsaxlokk on Sunday.
Mosta rode their luck somewhat in the early stages although Jake Vassallo did brilliantly to control Cabrera.
And Birkirkara almost started in sensational fashion as they did everything but score in the sixth minute. Vassallo made a brave last-ditch tackle on Cabrera as the Argentine striker raced clear.
Birkirkara were dominating the opening stages and Paul Mbong should have put them ahead after 24 minutes, shooting over an open goal from a rebound.
Mosta held off the Stripes with determined defending as they tried to punish their opponent’s flat-out approach with deadly counter-attacking moves.
With Zachary Brincat in top form – four goals in the last two matches – causing panic in the Birkirkara defence, and the Stripes’ keeper Amara Sylla looking decidedly jittery, Mosta might have taken the lead on 32 minutes.
Linus Precious Tenebe’s long-range effort took a wicked deflection off a defender and wrong-footed the Birkirkara goalkeeper. With Sylla beaten, the ball finished wide off his far post.
Mosta finally began to find their feet and Christ Ememe sliced his shot after being put through by a defensive mistake.
Yet, Birkirkara looked to have taken the lead when Cabrera netted in the 35th minute but after the players had celebrated the goal, it was chalked off for offside against the striker, even though TV replays showed quite clearly that when Alex Alves’ cross went straight to the Argentine player, he was onside.
But down both flanks, Alves and Denis Ribeiro were providing all sorts of threats to Clayton Failla and Rodriguez Ekani.
More inventive work from Alves again exposed Mosta shortly afterwards.
The Brazilian turned Failla inside and out and crossed for Ribeiro who was in the right position, to hit a swerving shot into the top corner after the good work from Alves.
Mosta, inevitably, tried to step up the pace after the interval as Joseph Grech, the Mosta coach, made a double substitution, when he replaced Duane Bonniċi and Tenebe with Gianluca Sciberras and Michael Okoh.
But matters only got worse for them when a driving run from Yannick Yankam opened up the defence before he served Alves.
Ini Akpan dived to block the Brazilian’s effort but from the rebound, Osvaldo Iorio hit a cross for Cabrera who exercised his neck muscles to reach the ball and arch it past the goalkeeper.
Even two goals behind, Mosta’s lone striker Brincat remained isolated upfront and Birkirkara’s defence had a relatively easy task.
But shy of the hour mark, Mosta were handed a lifeline when Failla won a ball in midfield, ran into the penalty area and put a long ball into the area where Enrico Pepe struck out his leg, and sent the ball into the bottom corner of his own net with Sylla stranded.
Mosta’s recovery was complete on 71 minutes when Okoh headed home from Ememe’s corner.
But seven minutes later, however, the match took another turn when Boubakary Diarra tackled Yankam in the area as he was poised to shoot at goal.
From the resulting penalty, Cabrera confidently stroked the resulting penalty into the low right-hand corner.
Four minutes from time, Okoh headed home another Failla cross to revive Mosta again and set up the prospect of sending the tie into extra-time.
But more drama ensued as Birkirkara refused to lie down.
Iorio took a quick throw-in for substitute Andrei Ciolacu who squared the ball for Cabrera who was left incredibly unmarked at the far post to poke it home.
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