Marsa go top as Pembroke Athleta suffer first defeatPublished: 23-02-2021 11:30
BOV Challenge League
By beating Swieqi United 2-0, Marsa have gone top of the BOV Challenge League on Sunday after Pembroke Athleta were unexpectedly beaten the day before against Fgura (0-1). In the lower parts of the table, there were important victories for Mqabba and St Andrews, while St George's continued their revival with a draw against Marsa in a game played last Thursday. Marsa 2 Swieqi United 0 Marsa are the new league leaders in the Challenge League after beating promotion hopefuls Swieqi United 2-0. Swieqi had their fair share of ball possession but practically did not create any danger throughout the match. The best chances in the first half were for Marsa with Lydon Micallef and Shola Haruna Shodiya just missing target in the first 20 minutes. Close to the half-hour, Swieqi goalkeeper Jean-Claude Debattista made a brilliant save from a close-range Jackson Lima effort. Gradually, Swieqi started to see more of the ball but in added time of the first half, Dylan Grima surprised Debattista with a grounder after being served by Micallef. Swieqi continued to show their mettle in the second half but the Marsa rearguard stood firm, clearing anything that came their way. On 72 minutes, Micallef added Marsa’s second after wonderful solo effort, beating Debattista with a low shot from close-in. A Mirco Vella header from the edge of the box two minutes later sailed inches over the crossbar for Swieqi and on the other side, the surging runs of Patrick Teixeira and Lydon Micallef kept the Swieqi defence on their toes. Veteran Jackson Lima marred his positive display but being sent-off for retaliation with one-minute regular time left on the clock. On the stroke of full-time, Marsa coach Ivan Zammit was also sent-off for continued remarks towards the referee. Pembroke Athleta 0 Fgura United 1Pembroke suffered their first defeat of the season against relegation troubled Fgura in a very interesting match. Apart from losing their long unbeaten record, Pembroke also missed out on three precious points in their quest to win the title as Marsa have now moved three points clear. Fgura played a brilliant match in defence, especially when they were reduced to ten men in the final 30 minutes. Noah Ojuola played a blinder in defence, winning all aerial duels and also heading home what proved to be the winner. Pembroke were not at their best on Saturday. Pembroke also had Peter Paul Sammut missing and despire enjoying the initiative for long stretches, they had no clear scoring opportunities, at least in the first hour of the game. Fgura scored the winner on 39 minutes when, from a Thomas Grech free-kick, Ojuola headed home from close range. In the second half, coach Thane Micallef introduced striker Joseph Ogunnupe for defender Adolphus Marshall, as Pembroke pushed for the equaliser. The sending-off of Owen Mifsud on 59 minutes gave them that added boost but Fgura did not surrender. The last 30 minutes was a continuous onslaught on the Fgura fort with goalkeeper Lydon Moore making a couple of good saves. The closest Pembroke could get was ten minutes from time when a Kyle Frendo header hit the base of the upright. San Ġwann 5 Qormi 2 San Ġwann returned to winning ways after suffering two consecutive defeats, beating bottom side Qormi in an entertaining game. For Qormi it was yet another defeat, even though the boys in yellow gave a very good account of themselves. San Ġwann went on the attack from the initial stages but had to wait till the 34th minute to break the deadlock when Adediran Quadri squared to the unmarked Attah who scored from close range. Sixty seconds later a carbon copy move with Adediran this time passing towards Andrea Zammit who drilled the ball home. Four minutes into the second half, San Ġwann scored a third when Attah Chibueze lobbed the ball beautifuly home over goalkeeper Miguel Falzon. A minute later it was Qormi’s turn to open their account when Ryoma Uriu did the running on the right and passed towards substitute Luke Farrugia who fired home. On the hour San Ġwann scored a fourth goal with Zammit passing towards Adediran, who rounded the goalkeeper before putting at the back of the net. Late in the game Qormi pulled one back with a powerful Ousmane Sidibe header and could have scored a third when Luke Farrugia’s drive finished against the crossbar. In stoppage time San Ġwann scored the fifth and final goal when substitute Petar Kanzurov scored with a precise grounder.Żebbuġ Rangers 1 Naxxar Lions 4 Naxxar Lions moved further up the table beating Żebbuġ in an interesting match which only came to life in the second half. Both teams are passing through a very good patch with Żebbuġ coming to this encounter after five successive wins. However, the first half was rather disappointing as both teams surely could perfome better. On 33 minutes Naxxar broke the deadlock when a Mark Fenech deflected shot completely deceived Żebbuġ goalkeeper Matthew Grech. Two minutes from the break Naxxar doubled the score when Naxxar’s best player Blandon Robinson beat Grech with a low shot. On the resumption Żebbuġ went on the attack and were back in the game on 53 minutes thanks to an Ayrton Mizzi drive following a Clive Gauci cross from the right. Ten minutes from time Naxxar sealed the issue when Robinson finished off in style a good Naxxar move. Two minutes later Żebbuġ had the opportunity to come back in the game when they were awarded a penalty for a handling infringement, but Luka Mijic’s drive from the penalty spot was saved by Omar Borg. Deep in stoppage time Naxxar scored the fourth and final goal with substitutes Chris Bikaku and Santiago Martinez splitting the Żebbuġ defence and with the latter hitting home from close range. Pietà Hotspurs 2 St Andrews 3 St Andrews grabbed the three points at stake against Pieta scoring three goals inside the first seventeen minutes of the match. It was a precious victory for Brian Said’s side in its quest to avoid relegation. Pieta’ appeared to have the edge in the opening minutes but the Saints forged ahead on nine minutes when Kei Sano’s shot was partially blocked by Miguel Chetcuti and Degran Jackson was on hand to hit home the rebound. On 15 minutes Gunnar Stefansson nodded down towards Sano who scored his first goal for the club with a low drive. A further two minutes and the Saints were on the mark, again with Stefansson scoring a great goal with a header. On 23 minutes Pieta pulled one back when Zean Leonardi first time home from a corner action. In the second half Pieta went on the attack with Diego Segura hitting the base of the upright. However, St Andrews had many scoring opportunities with their fast breaks, with Stefansson denied by two brilliant Chetcuti saves. The same Stefansson missed a sitter on 72 minutes heading incredibly wide in front of goal. On 90 minutes Pieta won a disputed penalty for a Masashi Ono tackle on Ze Lucas, with the same Ze Lucas hitting low into the net from the penalty spot.Qrendi 0 Mqabba 2 Yesterday evening, Mqabba returned to winning ways after a streak of nine matches without a win, including an 8-0 drubbing by Gżira in the FA Trophy, beating neighbours Qrendi with a goal in each half. This derby victory is precious for Mqabba as they now have fresh hopes of avoiding the big drop. Mqabba however are still third from last, and it is still extremely difficult for them to make it. On other hand the defeat puts Qrendi under pressure as the relegation haunted teams are closing in on them. Both teams started on a slow note, both afraid not to suffer the first goal. Scoring chances were scarce with Mqabba having the only effort from a Ryan Spiteri freekick. However, Mqabba broke the deadlock when a Gianfranco Micallef shot slammed against the crossbar and from the rebound Kurt Borg headed home. Qrendi attacked in full force in the second half but Mqabba goalkeeper was only once severely tested with an Alex Nilsson low drive that was blocked by Maverick Buhagiar. On 72 minutes Mqabba doubled the score with a fast break by Micallef who passed to Gabriel Mannino, who in turn served Spiteri who dashed for the ball to slot home. Qrendi generously continued to attack, but Mqabba were now in full control. In the final seconds Qrendi even hit the woodwork through Nilsson, but Mqabba were not to be denied from their precious victory. Vittoriosa Stars 0 Marsaxlokk 2 Also on Monday night, Marsaxlokk moved into a safer position in the ranking as they beat Vittoriosa Stars with a goal early in the match and one at the end. It was a deserved victory for the Southseasiders, who need the points in their battle against relegation. Italian livewire Dennis Cartella opened the score in the 8th minute after a superb assist from Russell Fenech. Vittoriosa had the chance for an equalizer in the second half as they were awarded a penalty the 72 minutes but Ryan Dalli failed to convert. With two minutes regular time on the clock, substitute Rafael de Fex doubled the score for Marsaxlokk, who added a valuable three points to their tally. Marsa 2 St George’s 2 In a match played last Thursday, St George’s continued with their revival, surprisingly blocking Marsa in an exciting 2-2 draw. The Saints confirmed their late progress with yet another good performance with both their Japanese imports on the scoring sheet. It might be too late for the Cottonera side, but at least they are now giving any team in the NCL a good run for their money. St George’s took the lead on 18 minutes when Yuta Nomura dribbled a couple of Marsa defenders and from an acute angle slotted the ball under the onrushing goalkeeper and into the net. Marsa pushed forward for an immediate equaliser and after a couple of near misses they drew level on the half hour with another Lydon Micallef goal. On 63 minutes Marsa took the lead when a Lydon Micallef shot was partially saved by the Saints’ goalkeeper and Dylan Grima shot home the rebound. But the Saints did not throw in the towel and six minutes from time snatched a point when Wilfred Zamble proved to be too fast for the Marsa defence and his cross was easily met by Suemitsu Kouta who drilled home from close range.