Leaders Valletta regained a four-point lead on top the BOV Premier League table following a fine 4-1 win over Birkirkara.
The Stripes therefore stay in fourth place on level points with Sliema Wanderers. Lying just three points ahead of seventh-placed Qormi, they are yet to secure a place in the Championship Pool.
Birkirkara had Nikola Vukanac making his debut but Rowen Muscat and Alan Tabone were ruled out injured. Valletta, on the other hand, were in full strength.
Valletta took the lead after just four minutes when Denni Rocha dos Santos pounced on a Michael Mifsud through pass and managed to beat Reuben Gauci with a diagonal shot.
The Citizens doubled the score on 16 minutes when off a Roderick Briffa cross from the right, Ousseni Zongo slammed the ball past the Birkirkara goalkeeper
The Stripes’ reaction consisted of a powerful drive by Ousseni Zongo which hit the crossbar on 17 minutes. A minute later, a Shaun Bajada had a good shot ending just over the bar. Eight minutes from the end of the first half, a Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza shot from the left was deflected into a corner by Hogg.
Nikola Vukanac missed a good opportunity for the Stripes when served by Zerafa inside the area early in the second half.
On 58 minutes, Valletta were unlucky not to increase the lead when shots by Denni and Zongo were blocked with Rodrigo Pereira clearing off the goal line. Off the rebound, Zongo’s effort was tipped into a corner by Gauci. Another shot by Zongo hit the upright on 62 minutes.
Valletta increased the lead on 68 minutes thanks to a perfect lob by Jonathan Caruana when served by Denni.
Two minutes later, Gauci came to the rescue blocking into a corner a close-range effort by Michael Mifsud. A Shaun Bajada freekick ended just wide on 73 minutes.
Jorge Santos Silva tried his luck with a powerful shot from the right on 84 minutes but his attempt was saved partially by the Valletta goalkeeper.
One minute from time, Birkirkara scored a consolation goal when off a cross by Angus Buhagiar, Ryan Scicluna’s first attempt was blocked and off the rebound, Moises Avila Perez placed the ball at the back of the net.
Two minutes in added time, Valletta added another through substitute Alfred Effiong who headed the ball home off a Gilbert Agius freekick from the left.
Ousseni Zongo was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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B’KARA Reuben Gauci, Nikola Vukanac, Joseph Zerafa, Gareth Sciberras, Shaun Bajada (79′ Ryan Camenzuli), Rodrigo Pereira (65′ Moises Avila Perez), Paul Fenech, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (71′ Ryan Scicluna), Shola Shodiya Haruna, Angus Buhagiar, Jorge Santos Silva.
Subs not used: Karl Magri, McAllister Clinch, Fabian Zammit, Michael Camilleri.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Assistant Coach: Peter Pullicino
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Saidou Mady Pananadetiguiri, Ian Azzopardi, Roderick Bajada (60′ William Barbosa), Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Ousseni Zongo (85′ Alfred Effiong), Denni Rocha Dos Santos, Michael Mifsud (89′ Gilbert Agius).
Subs not used: Matthew Towns, Nahuel Jimenez Pulitano, Fillippo Andrea Scozzese, Siraj Arab.
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Paul Caruana
Yellow Cards: Bajada, Vukanac, Shodiya
After suffering seven consecutive defeats, Marsaxlokk collected a point as they came back from two goals down to hold Tarxien Rainbows in a 2-2 draw.
For Tarxien, this was a highly disappointing result as they stay second from bottom on sixteen points together with Hamrun.
The Rainbows took the lead on the 7th minute when off a cross by Ricardo Costa, Karl Pulo headed home past goalkeeper Christian Cassar.
Cassar turned into a corner a Ricardo Costa freekick on the 15th and three minutes later, a Lee Galea effort hit the upright and off the rebound, Jimmy Mayasis first effort was blocked by a defender and off the rebound, the ball was deflected into a corner. On 37 minutes, the Marsaxlokk custodian turned into a corner a Justin Grioli effort from outside the area.
Tarxien doubled the score just before the end of the first half when Jimmy Nzinga Mayasi advanced on the right flank and beat Cassar with a low diagonal shot.
Marsaxlokks reaction consisted of a Jean Paul Farrugia effort which was blocked by Nicky Vella in added time.
The Southseasiders pulled one back four minutes in the second half when they were awarded a penalty after Lee Galea brought Nemanja Stoskovic down inside the area. From the penalty spot, Alex Cesar Pedrozo made no mistake.
Marsaxlokk gained confidence and went close with a Peter Taiye Oladotun effort, served by Jean Paul Farrugia, blocked by Vella on 53 minutes. On the other side of the pitch, a rising shot by Ricardo Costa from the edge of the area ended just over the bar on the 59th.
The Southseasiders equalised on 68 minutes thanks to Alex Cesar Pedrozo who received a through pass by Oladotun, dribbled an opponent and beat the Tarxien goalkeeper with a low shot.
One minute from time, Tarxien were reduced to ten men as Justin Grioli was given marching orders by referee Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Ricardo Costa was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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M’XLOKK Christian Cassar, Patrick Borg, Jermain Brincat, Clive Brincat (46’ Peter Taiye Oladotun), Kevin Polidano (23’ Craig Debattista), Trevor Templeman, Nemanja Stoskovic, Jean Paul Farrugia, Gary Caruana, Ivan Kurtusic, Alex Cesar Pedrozo.
Subs not used: Jurgen Muscat, Gabriel Buttigieg, Luke Agius, Darrell Grech, Sunday Eboh.
Coach: Anton Cremona
Assistant Coach: Louis Cutajar.
TARXIEN Nicholas George Vella, Carlo Mamo, Everton Antonio Periera, Adrian Carabott (68’ Daniel Mariano Bueno), Ricardo Costa, Jimmy Nzinga Mayasi, Karl Pulo (88’ Warren Zerafa), Orosco Anonam, Ryan Mintoff, Lee Galea (56’ Julian Vella), Justin Grioli.
Subs not used: Luke Caruana, Steven Sadowski, Stefan Giglio, Mark Tanti.
Coach: Patrick Curmi
Assistant Coach: Michael Church.
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Chris Francalanza
Fourth Official: Chris Lautier
Yellow Cards: Anonam, Mamo, Kurtusic, Oladotun
Red Cards: 89′ Justin Grioli
Scorers: 7′ Karl Pulo (T); 45′ Jimmy Nzinga Mayasi (T); 49′ Trevor Templeman pen (M); 68′ Alex Cesar Pedrozo (M)