ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
Referee Ishmael Barbara
Roko Prsa was the toast of Ħamrun Spartans as the Croatian midfielder struck at the death to hand the Malta champions a dramatic win over leaders Floriana at the National Stadium.
It was a stunning outcome to a match that had seen Floriana dominate proceedings for much of the 90 minutes and could have easily taken the three points themselves.
In fact, the Greens were left to rue a penalty miss from Ulises Arias who saw his penalty saved by goalkeeper Henry Bonello after 12 minutes while they also created the better chances and, had they been more clinical, they could have stretched their lead to six points.
But the Spartans also deserve credit for their resilience as despite struggling to keep control of the match they kept fighting and managed to punish the Greens for a rare defensive error from goalkeeper Georgi Kitanov to secure a vital win that lifted them to the top of the standings, level with the same Floriana.
Floriana made a fast start to the match and had a great opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty after only 11 minutes when Steve Borg fouled Kemar Reid inside the area.
However, from the resultant penalty, Henry Bonello dived to his right to push away Ulises Arias’s shot.
Despite that early setback, Floriana continued to enjoy more possession with the Spartans struggling to build any attacking forays.
The stormy conditions at the National Stadium further made life difficult for both sets of players as the strong winds and rain showers made it tough to see any form of constructive football.
Bonello again came to the Spartans’ rescue on the half-hour mark when from a Carlo Zammit Lonardelli corner-kick, Owen Spiteri connected with the ball but his thumping header was brilliantly pushed away by Bonello.
Seven minutes from the break, Kemar Reid tried to make space for himself from the edge of the area but his thumping drive flew over.
Ħamrun responded two minutes later when Jonny played in Duranovic but the Montenegrin forward fired his shot just wide of the upright.
Floriana remained the better side at the start of the second half, as despite they were playing against the strong wind they were still managing to dominate possession with the Spartans showing little flair when trying to push forward.
On 68 minutes, Floriana goalkeeper Georgi Kitanov was lucky to somehow keep out Joseph Mbong’s cross-shot as the Bulgarian just managed to keep hold of the ball before going behind the goalline.
A minute later, Bjelicic sent a fine cross into the path of Steve Borg who headed over.
Bonello was again providential for Ħamrun Spartans on 73 minutes as the Malta no.1 produced strong hands to repel Kemar Reid’s thumping drive.
Ten minutes from time, Zauri roped in Seth Paintsil and Eder for Duranovic and Camenzuli in a bid to add more muscle to his team’s engine room and try and have more control of the match.
Nine minutes from time, the Spartans almost struck when Montebello’s dipping cross-shot was touched by Kitanov onto the crossbar before finishing wide.
From the resultant corner kick, Eder stormed inside the area and squared the ball to Paintsil who, however, was anticipated in time by the excellent Zammit Lonardelli.
Four minutes from time, Willis Furtado was handed his debut from coach Mauro Camoranesi as he replaced the ineffective Matheus while Lorenzo Di Grazia came on for Dunstan Vella.
Eder came close a minute from time but his shot from the edge of the area finished over.
When it looked as though the match would finish in a goalless draw, Ħamrun struck the winner.
Floriana goalkeeper Kitanov made a hash of his attempt to block Mbong’s cross with the ball falling to Montebello who nodded the ball into the path of Roko Prsa who had the easy job of tapping the ball into an empty net to the delight of the Spartans.
Pisani strikes late to hand vital win for Sta Lucia
GŻIRA UNITED 1
SANTA LUCIA 2
Letherby 15; Pisani 90
Referee Matthew De Gabriele.
Santa Lucia scored a very important win in their battle against relegation when they overcame rivals Gżira United 2-1.
The win lifted Sta Lucia off the bottom spot as they have now nine points from 12 matches.
Santa Lucia should have taken the lead after two minutes of play when Bradshaw was brought down in the area by Gabriel Bohrer with the referee pointing to the spot.
However, Jurgen Pisani saw his effort saved by Zarkov from the resultant penalty.
Still, Santa Lucia managed to take the lead on 15 minutes with a goal created by their three latest signings.
Aleksa Mrdja served Santiago Moracci inside the area and his shot was partially saved by Zarkov but from the rebound, Letherby fired home.
However, Gżira United managed to fight back after the break and drew level on 58 minutes when from a Thiago Espindola corner kick, the unmarked Bohrer headed the ball past Celio.
When it looked as though the match would finish in a draw, Sta Lucia scored the winner.
Zarkov somehow kept out Adam Bradshaw’s shot but the ball fell to Sven Xerri who squared the ball into the path of Pisani who headed home.
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