Messias 36, 90 pen.
BIRKIRKARA M. Zapytowski, D. Mariani (73 M. Gambin), J. Pajovic, E. Pepe, Y. Yankam, P. Mbong, K. Zammit ( 60 A. Satariano) , E. Pena Beltre (88 N. Micallef), Z. Simon (61 M. Maia), A. Diakite, A. Ciolacu.
MARSAXLOKK M. Drobnjak, Weder, Y. Messias, J. Walker (63 J. Ghio), A. Vaikainah, L. Aguirre, R. Scicluna, D. Pires Dall’Oca (80 N. Muscat), S. Akinbule (80 A. Obonogwu), J. Gomes (85 S. Boakye).
Referee Matthew De Gabriele
Yellow cards Vaikainah, Scicluna, Walker, Pajovic, Simon, Bonnici, Pena Beltre, Satariano, Pepe
Red cards Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara) 83, Ali Diakite (Birkirkara) 90.
Marsaxlokk, beaten by Birkirkara in last year’s FA Trophy, gained sweet revenge on Saturday when Yuri Messias turned in a vintage display with two goals to secure a priceless win for the southseasiders.
But it was a determined and defiant team performance that provided the foundations for a famous win.
Birkirkara had been a pale shadow of their usual selves, confirming their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reputation this season, they improved in the second half but could not break down Marsaxlokk whose resistance was epitomised by goalkeeper Marko Drobnjak.
The Stripes were firing on all cylinders up front – but all the time Marsaxlokk, in the shape of Yuri Messias, were waiting to probe the Birkirkara rearguard. They were almost rewarded for their endeavour when Daniele Mariani hit a free-kick which Drobnjak turned around in a corner.
But Marsaxlokk star Messias was an ever-present threat, and he took advantage of shambolic Yellows defending to grab a crucial lead for the Southseasiders after 36 minutes.
The Brazilian striker chased a long pass before he moved into top gear to outsmart Jovan Pajovic and Mariani and slid a perfect finish past Marcel Zapytowski.
Birkirkara opened in sparkling fashion after the break. And they should have equalised when Simon Zibo met Paul Mbong’s freekick with a firm header, which Drobnjak blocked.
Pepe, Diakite see red
With the clock ticking down, Birkirkara threw caution to the wind, adding two strikers with the introduction of Alexander Satariano and Maxuell Maia to increase their firepower.
The Stripes pressed forward with renewed verve and immediately pinned Marsaxlokk in their own half. On 68 minutes, Yannick Yankam’s fierce shot was tipped over the bar by Drobnajk.
As Birkirkara committed more men forward in search of the opener, Marsaxlokk were finding space in their opponents’ half.
The Birkirkara defenders were having a torrid time trying to tame Messias, repeatedly resorting to fouls and conceding a number of free kicks in key areas.
Seven minutes from time, Birkirkara’s woes increased when Pepe was sent off after two yellow cards in quick succession.
In stoppage time, Marsaxlokk assured themselves of victory when they were given a penalty after Ali Diakite was adjudged to have raised his arm to stop a shot from Armah Vaikainah in the Birkirkara area. The Ivory Coast midfielder was sent off as Birkirkara finished the game with nine men. Messias took responsibility for the penalty to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
GZIRA UNITED 1
Falcone 86 pen.
GZIRA UNITED D. Zarkov, G. Bohrer, Thaylor, Z. Scerri, M. Dias, L. Macula, L. Riascos, F. Zuniga, B. Borg (88 G. Essaka), T. Espindola, J. Mendoza (46 A. Borg).
VALLETTA J. Galea, E. Ruiz, S. Ferraris, C. Gauci (69 L. Susnjara), F. Falcone, B. Paiber, V. Filho, F. Vega, N. Micallef, A. Silas (55 D. Nogueira), D. Garba (89 J. Azzopardi).
Referee Alex Johnson.
Yellow cards Vega, Macula, Paiber, Thaylor, Nogueira.
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