Santa Lucia stun Birkirkara to boost relegation hopes
GŻIRA UNITED 1
G. Kitanov, O. El Hasni, M. Veselji, J. Arias (81 J. Busuttil), M. Albuguereque, O. Spiteri (87 K. Nwoko), M. Garcia, C. Zammit Lonardelli (61 D. Vella), L. De Grazia (61 L. Furtado), M. Valadzko, A. Kouro.
D. Zarkov, G. Bohrer, Thaylor, Z. Scerri, M. Dias, L. Ribeiro (82 C. Filho), L. Riascos, F. Zuniga, B. Borg (82 A. Borg) T. Espindola, J. Mendoza.
Referee: Fyodor Zammit.
Yellow cards: Valadsko , Kitanov, Riascos, De Grazia, Thaylor, Scerri, Espindola.
Thaylor Aldama hit home a fine strike to hand Gżira United a stunning victory over title challengers Floriana and boost their hopes of avoiding the drop this season.
The Maroons, who were under the charge of caretaker coach Andrew Cohen following the departure of Darren Abdilla, fully deserved the three points as they managed to fend off Floriana’s second-half fight back to secure three vital points that lifted them outside the relegation zone as they have now moved on 14 points, two clear fourth from bottom Mosta and Santa Lucia.
On the other hand, this was Floriana’s second successive defeat and left them three points adrift of leaders Ħamrun Spartans.
Marsaxlokk failed to profit from Floriana’s slip-up as they were held to a goalless draw by Balzan while Birkirkara’s hopes of moving into the top four were shattered by the struggling Santa Lucia who secured a 2-1 win that gave a huge push to their survival aspirations.
The Floriana-Gzira was the top fixture on Sunday and after only a few minutes of play Riascos lost possession cheaply on the edge of the area but Matheus’s tame shot posed no danger to Darijan Zarkov.
Maksim Valadzko was having a torrid time trying to tame Thaylor on his left flank, repeatedly resorting to fouls. But the Belarussian winger was a different proposition going forward. On 34 minutes, Valadzko’s mazy run ended with a teasing low cross which Matheus diverted wide.
However, it was Gżira who took the lead against the run of play just before half-time. Gabriel Bohrer’s clever backheel set the Maroons moving as Thaylor showed great skill to control the ball and beat the onrushing Georgi Kitanov with a fine lob.
Floriana tried to hit back after the break. But in their eagerness to restore parity, the Greens began to leave themselves exposed to the counter-attack. Brooklyn Borg worked the ball quickly to Macula whose drive finished wide off Kitanov’s near post.
As the game wore on, there was a growing sense of frustration from the Greens’ crowd as Floriana struggled to break down a resolute Gżira defence.
On the other side, the Maroons should have sealed the points three minutes from time when Thaylor played Thiago Espindola through but his low drive finished wide.
Floriana had Gzira on the back foot from there on and Busuttil saw Zarkov deny him a goal from a swerving free-kick.
In the first match of the day, Birkirkara stumbled to a 2-1 defeat against Santa Lucia.
Tatsuro Nagamatsu gave San Lucia the lead on 22 minutes, taking full advantage of a defensive mix-up before beating Marcel Zapytowski.
Birkirkara took two minutes to draw level when Andrei Ciolacu netted his seventh league goal of the season.
Just before half-time, Alessio Piazza, who came on as an early substitute for Nagamatsu, scored with a fine strike to ensure Santa Lucia grabbed a second consecutive win that lifted them to the 12-point mark, just two away from safety.
Marsaxlokk climbed to fourth in the table with a drab draw against a battling Balzan side.
Chances were few and far between for both teams, with Marsaxlokk’s best effort being a rising shot from Yuri Messias that crashed against the crossbar. The Southseasiders had loud appeals for a penalty turned down when Olivier Rommens blocked Messias’ shot past the hour mark.
Marsaxlokk upped the ante at the start of the second half when Messias woke up to his responsibilities.
Balzan’s best attacking move came five minutes from time when Samir Arab fed the overlapping Jake Grech who squared for Aleksa Andrejic only to see his shot blocked by the rearguard.
The Southseasiders were pouring forward themselves, and they did go closest to breaking the deadlock in the closing stages of the game. Substitute Anthony Obonogwu swiveled on the edge of the box and delivered an excellent ball for Messias who reacted well to hit a powerful shot against the crossbar.
D. Golovic, I. Bozovic, S. Arab, T. Caruana, P. Fenech (88 M. Grima), M. Aguek (58 A. Andrejic), J. Grech, A. Katanic, N. Zerjal (90 D. Oluwatobiloba), N. Braunovic, O. Rommens.
M. Drobnjak, Weder, K. Micallef, N. Muscat (79 A. Obonogwu), Y. De Jesus, J. Walker, S. Boakye (64 Pires Dall’Oca), L. Aguirre, N. Raden, R. Scicluna, S. Akinbule.
Referee: Alex Johnson.
Yellow cards: Bozovic, Grima.
SANTA LUCIA 2
Nagamatsu 21; Piazza 40
F. Da Paz, M. Ellul (61 A. Temitope), S. Pisani (87 J. Valletta), T. Nagamatsu (25 A. Piazza), A. Bradshaw (87 S. Xerri), J. Pisani, A. Mrdja, N. Virano, F. Moracci Santiago, E. Pinto Gomes.
M. Zaptowski, E. Pepe, A. Zammit, K. Zammit (61 Q. de Jesus), A. Satariano (83 M. Gambin), M. Pena Beltre, A. Coppola, S. Zibo, A. Diakite (90 O. Elouni), Maxuell, A. Ciolacu.
Referee: A. Sciriha.
Yellow cards: Piazza, Ellul.
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