Sliema Wanderers collected their first three points in the Euro Cup after defeating champions Birkirkara 3-1.
The Wanderers were a better side during the first half but the Stripes improved after the break and created better scoring opportunities, even after having a player sent off. However Sliema managed to increase the lead just before the final whistle.
Both sides had a number of players making their debut. Birkirkara included Brazilian goalkeeper Esequiel Lovizon and former Tarxien player Andrew Decesare while Italian striker Jacopo Camilli was included as a substitute.
On the other hand, Sliema included Hungarian goalkeeper Viktor Szentpeteri, Ivory Coast defender Sékou Tidiane Souare, Portuguese midfielder André Cabete Portulez, Argentine midfielder Emiliano Lattes and Portuguese midfielder Valdo Alhinho in their starting line-up. Adam Spiteri, formerly of Msida, was included as a substitute. Miguel Ciantar and Beppe Muscat were back after being on loan with Msida and Vittoriosa respectively.
Missing for the Blues were Alex Muscat, Josef Mifsud, Mark Scerri and Clayton Failla while Rowen Muscat, Angus Buhagiar and Joseph Zerafa were missing fro the Stripes.
Sliema could have easily taken the lead after just 54 minutes when Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza advanced all alone but his low shot from the edge of the area hit the foot of the post. On the 8th minute, Mifsud Triganza served Lattes but his conclusion was deflected into a corner by Andrew Decesare. From the resulting corner, Mifsud Triganza hit high.
Birkirkara replied with a header by Michael Galea following a cross from the right by Trevor Cilia which was neutralised by goalkeeper Szentpeteri. However Sliema went close once again with a close-range shot by Miguel Ciantar which was neutralised by Lovizon. A freekick by Shaun Bajada ended just over the bar on 21 minutes. John Mintoff then went close for Sliema with a diagonal shot.
The Wanderers finally managed to break the deadlock on 31 minutes when Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza received a through pass on the left flank and beat Lovizon with a diagonal shot from the edge of the area.
Shaun Bajada then tried his luck with a rising shot from outside the area ending high on 36 minutes. Szentpeteri saved partially a shot by Bajada from outside the area and off the rebound, Michael Galea’s poor conclusion was parried by the Hungarian goalkeeper.
Four minutes in the second half, Szentpeteri performed another good save on a direct corner by Shaun Bajada from the right.
The Wanderers doubled the score on the 50th when Valdo Alhinho’s powerful shot from outside the area beat Esequiel Lovizon with the ball hitting the upright before ending at the back of the net.
Birkirkara pulled one back on 56 minutes when off a pass by Alan Tabone from the right, Shaun Bajada hit low past goalkeeper Viktor Szentpeteri.
The Stripes now held the iniative and on 64 minutes, Paul Fenech exchanged the ball with Alan Tabone but the latter’s shot from the edge of the area ended wide.
The Stripes were reduced to ten men on 74 minutes when Shaun Bajada was sent off after hitting an opponent.
However Birkirkara went close once again with a rising shot by Paul Fenech which was neutralised by Szentpeteri on 79 minutes. Substitute Jacopo Camilli also tried his luck with a shot from outside the area but once again Lovizon performed a good save.
On the other side of the pitch, on the 86th minute, a freekick by Mifsud Triganza ended just over the bar.
The Wanderers sealed the issue with a third goal on the 90th when off a cross from the right, substitute Noel Turner managed to beat goalkeeper Esequiel Lovizon with a powerful shot.
On Wednesday, Birkirkara face Valletta in the second game while the third and final game will be between Sliema and Valletta on Friday.
Photos: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
B’KARA Esequiel Lovizon, Paul Fenech (91′ Ryan Scicluna), Andrew Decesare, Nikola Vukanac, Andrew Scicluna, Trevor Cilia, Shaun Bajada, Alan Tabone, Thomas Paris, Michael Galea (77’ Karl Pulo), Syvlano Comvalius (66’ Jacopo Camilli).
Subs not used: Omar Borg, Christian Francica, Andreas Galea, Fabian Zammit.
Coach: Paul Zammit
SLIEMA Viktor Szentpeteri, Ian Azzopardi, Beppe Muscat, Sékou Tidiane Souare, André Cabete Portulez, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Miguel Ciantar (56’ Adam Spiteri), Emiliano Lattes, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Valdo Alhinho (84’ Noel Turner), John Mintoff (80’ Ivan Woods).
Subs not used: Ini Etim Aktpan, Andrew Caligari, Luca Martinelli, Amadeo Mercieca.
Coach: Mark Marlow
Team Manager: Rupert Perry
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Edward Spiteri
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: Alhinho, Lattes, Paris
Red Cards: 74’ Bajada
Scorers: 31’ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (S); 50’ Valdo Alhinho (S); 56’ Shaun Bajada (B), 90′ Noel Turner (S)