Champions Valletta failed to impress in a narrow win over Tarxien Rainbows.
Goal-mouth action was rare throughout the ninety minutes and it was only a goal by substitute Jonathan Caruana which gave Mark Miller’s side the three points.
The Citizens had Shaun Bajada making his debut while Manuel Bartolo, Joao Gabriel da Silva, Leandro da Silva Almeida and Ricardo Barreto da Rocha Filho were making their first league appearance. The Rainbows, on the other hand, had Andrew Agius, Steve Bonnici and Brazilian striker Danilo Meira Santos making their debut together with new coach Danilo Doncic.
Valletta went close on the 3rd minute with a shot from the left by Shaun Bajada. A cross shot by Gabriel was neutralised by Nicky Vella on the 7th.Tarxien replied with a Danilo Meira Santos solo effort ending just wide on 19 minutes. Five minutes later, a shot by Leandro Almeida from outside the area was neutralised by Vella.
In added time, Ryan Fenech concluded a solo effort with a shot from inside the area which was parried by Vella.
Eleven minutes in the second half, Gabriel tried his luck with a shot from the left which was saved by the Tarxien goalkeeper who also managed to block a Dyson Falzon cross shot two minutes later.
Valletta managed to break the deadlock on 68 minutes when off a cross by Shaun Bajada, substitute Jonathan Caruana headed the ball home past Nicky Vella.
Three minutes from time, Shaun Bajada went close with a powerful drive which scraped past the post while Gabriel missed an incredible opportunity in added time when concluding a good run with a shot ending sky-high.
Orosco Anonam was voted BOV Player of the Match.
Photos: Copyright © Joe Borg
VALLETTA Manuel Bartolo, Steve Borg, Ryan Fenech (62’ Jonathan Caruana), Joao Gabriel da Silva, Leandro da Silva Almeida, Roderick Briffa, Ricardo Barreto da Rocha Filho, Dyson Falzon (80’ Ian Azzopardi), William Barbosa (63’ Denni Rocha dos Santos), Michael Mifsud, Shaun Bajada.
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Kurt Magro, Edmond Agius, Ian Zammit.
Coach: Mark Miller
Asst. Coach: Gilbert Agius
TARXIEN Nicky Vella, Carlo Mamo, Andrew Agius (80’ Manuel Caruana), James Shead (75’ Mark Tanti), Danilo Meira Santos, Karl Pulo (88’ Warren Chircop), Daniel Mariano Bueno, Luiz Romulo de Castro, Orosco Anonam, Steve Bonnici, Justin Grioli.
Subs not used: David Cassar, Steve Sadowski, Clive Fenech, Lee Galea.
Coach: Danilo Doncic
Asst. Coach: Steven Vella
Referee: Adrian Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Roberto Vella
Fourth Official: Paul Caruana
Yellow Cards: Pulo, Borg, de Castro, Bueno
Scorers: 68’ Jonathan Caruana
Hamrun Spartans and Balzan earned a point each as they shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw.
The Spartans were leading twice but Balzan did not deserve leaving Ta’ Qali empty-handed, also considering that they missed a penalty late in the first half.
The Spartans had several new faces in squad including Terence Vella, Terence Scerri and Bulgarians Adrian Ivanov, Angel Yoshev, Lyubomir Vitanov and Nikol Bozhov. Making their debut for Balzan, on the other hand, were Stefan Giglio and foreigners Matthew Mendy from Gambia and Brazilians Renato Garcia Conceicao and Elton Alexandre da Silva.
Hamrun managed to take the lead on 14 minutes thanks to a direct freekick by Massimo Grima from a central position which beat goalkeeper Matthew Camilleri.
Five minutes later, Balzan levelled matters when off a freekick by Pedro dos Santos Calcado, Matthew Mendy headed the ball home in style past goalkeeper Andrea Cassar.
Mendy went close once again on 22 minutes with a header ending just over the bar when served by Calcado. A powerful shot by Elton da Silva from the left ended wide a minute later. On 31 minutes, Elton da Silva advanced all alone on the left and rounded the goalkeeper but his conclusion was blocked by Adrian Yoshev. A fine Massimo Grima freekick from the left was tipped into a corner by Matthew Camilleri on 39 minutes.
Four minutes from the end of the first half, Balzan were awarded a penalty after Angel Yoshev brought Elton da Silva down inside the area. However Pedro dos Santos Calcado’s effort from the penalty spot was blocked by goalkeeper Andrea Cassar into a corner.
Six minutes in the second half, the Spartans regained the lead when off a cross by Angel Yoshev, Terence Scerri hit home from close range.
Andrea Cassar performed another good save on a freekick by Calcado on 54 minutes.
Balzan restored equilibrium on 66 minutes thanks to Pedro dos Santos Calcado who received a pass on the right and with a low shot, he managed to beat goalkeeper Andrea Cassar.
On 75 minutes, Elton da Silva served Martin Deyanov on the left and the latter’s curved shot was somehow saved by Cassar. On the other side of the pitch, two minutes later, an assist by Lyubomir Vitanov put Nikol Bozhov all alone in front of Camilleri but failed to place the ball at the back of the net.
Two minutes in added time, Balzan were reduced to ten men after having defender Renato Garcia Conceicao sent off by referee Mario Apap.
Andrea Cassar was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HAMRUN Andrea Cassar, Gianluca Calabretta (81’ Luke Grech), Roderick Fenech, Massimo Grima, Terence Scerri, Terence Vella (72’ Ryan Spiteri), Daniel Zerafa, Adrian Ivanov, Angel Yoshev, Lyubomir Vitanov, Nikol Bozhov.
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Ayrton Micallef, Gianluca Debattista, Gabriel Formosa, Melvin Busuttil.
Coaches: Stefan Sultana, Atanas Marinov
BALZAN Matthew Camilleri, Aaron Agius (63’ Martin Deyanov), Yessous Camilleri, Matthew Mendy, Stefan Giglio, Renato Garcia Conceicao, Jamie Pace, Dylan Grima, Jonathan Francica (77’ Malcolm Licari), Pedro dos Santos Calcado, Elton Alexandre da Silva.
Subs not used: Jacob Cipriott, Bjorn Bondin, Kevin Camilleri, Donovan Micallef, Jurgen Muscat.
Coach: Joe Borg
Asst. Coach: Silvan Ciscaldi
Referee: Mario Apap
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Clayton Pisani
Yellow Cards: Calcado, Mendy, Conceicao, Pace, Yoshev, Fenech
Red Cards: 90+2′ Renato Garcia Conceicao
Scorers: 14’ Massimo Grima (H); 19’ Matthew Mendy (B); 51’ Terence Scerri (H); 66’ Pedro dos Santos Calcado (B)