Two goals by debutante Luigi Ruggiero in the final minutes enabled Sliema Wanderers to beat ten-man Rabat Ajax 2-0.
This was the third win in six matches for the Blues and the fifth defeat for Rabat Ajax. The Magpies managed to control their opponents but the dismissal of Clive Brincat for an unnecessary handling of the ball ruined the day for them.
Rabat coach Silvio Vella could not count on his best formation due to the absence of Joseph Caruana, Patrick Borg and Ryan Micallef. Mark Scerri and Beppe Muscat were missing for Sliema.
The Blues had the first attempt at goal with Alex Muscat and Rabat replied with a David Azzopardi effort. On the 35th, Yan Cauchi went close after a cross by David Azzopardi was not cleared by Mintoff and two minutes later, an Ivan Woods effort was deflected into a corner.
Sliema were unlucky not to take the lead on 49 minutes when off a cross by Alex Muscat from the right, substitute Luigi Ruggiero hit the upright with a first-time effort.
A Manuel Moral Fuster freekick on 67 minutes was saved partially by Henry Bonello and the ball was cleared into safety by a defender. The Wanderers replied with a cross by Ruggiero and following a short clearance, Matias Muchardi hit just wide on 74 minutes. Two minutes later, a curved shot by Chris Schembri for Rabat ended just wide.
The Magpies were reduced to ten men on 78 minutes after defender Clive Brincat received a second yellow card for handling the ball and was therefore sent off by Welsh referee Markham-Jones.
A low shot by Ivan Woods from outside the area was parried by Jonathan Azzopardi on the 80th.
Sliema finally managed to break the deadlock on 84 minutes when Luigi Ruggiero advanced on the right flank and beat Jonathan Azzopardi with an angled shot.
Matias Muchardi was voted BOV Player of the Match.
RABAT Jonathan Azzopardi, Gaetano Gesualdi, Christopher Schembri, Ivan Carapic, Nerijus Astrauskas (86’ Clifford Gauci), Adam Smeir, Manuel Moral Fuster (86’ Justin Felice), Dylan Falzon, Clive Brincat, Yan Cauchi, David Azzopardi.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Heiner Backhaus, Christian Muscat, Wayne Borg, Shaun Gauci
Coach: Silvio Vella
Asst. Coach: Joe Galea
SLIEMA Henry Bonello, Luca Martinelli, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Stefano Bianciardi, John Mintoff, Matias Muchardi, Alex Muscat, Paltemio Barbetti, Ariel Laudisi (46’ Luigi Ruggiero), Ivan Woods, Miguel Ciantar (87’ Andrew Decesare).
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, Josef Mifsud, Alain Faccini, Gabriel Aquilina, Omar El Ghaouti.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Asst. Coach: Jo Jo Bajada
Referee: Bryn Markham Jones
Assistant Referees: Lewiss Edwards, Daniel Backett
Fourth Official: Richard Harrington
Yellow Cards: Gatt Baldacchino, Brincat, Fuster
Red Cards: 78’ Clive Brincat
Scorers: 84’ Luigi Ruggiero, 90+2’ Luigi Ruggiero
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Meanwhile Mosta registered their fourth successive win as they beat Floriana 3-1. A fourth win which puts them in third place on level points with Birkirkara, who however have a game in hand.
Floriana had Lee Waddington for the first time on the bench as coach. They lacked Clyde Borg and the suspended Aaron Brown. Mosta coach Steve D’Amato, on the other hand, could not count on Daniel Bogdanovic and Alex Cini.
Mosta took the lead on the 9th minute when Manolito Micallef released Obinna Obiefule on the left and the latter advanced before hitting low past Jonathan Debono.
Four minutes later, they doubled the score when off a Danail Mitev corner from the right, Ferdinando Apap headed the ball home from close range.
An Aman Verma effort was cleared off the goal line by Luke Dimech on 38 minutes. Then just before the end of the first half, Danial Mitev served Firas Aboulezz whose powerful shot ended just wide. On the other side of the pitch, Haber turned into a corner a Sunday Wasiu effort.
Seven minutes in the second half, Carl Tremarco went close with a low shot from outside the area, when served by Duncan Pisani from the right but the ball ended just wide. A diagonal shot by Tremarco from the left ended just wide two minutes later.
Sunday Wasiu missed an incredible opportunity on 65 minutes when he received an inviting cross by Trevor Cilia from the right but all alone in front of Justin Haber, the Nigerian-born striker hit high.
Mosta scored the third goal on 69 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after goalkeeper Jonathan Debono brought Ousseni Zongo down inside the area. Kane Farrugia, who is on loan with the Greens from Mosta, received a yellow card and eventually a red card for comments in the direction of referee Marco Borg. Meanwhile from the penalty spot, Obinna Obiefule converted despite Jonathan Debono’s deflection.
Firas Aboulezz was sent off for Mosta on 72 minutes. A minute later, Bryan Agius cleared off the goal line a goal-bound effort by Aman Verma.
Floriana scored a consolation goal seven minutes from time thanks to Akanni-Sunday Wasiu who received a pass on the left and beat Justin Haber with an angled shot.
Danail Mitev was voted BOV Player of the Match.
MOSTA Justin Haber, Mano Micallef, Bryan Agius (82’ Steve Bezzina), Luke Dimech, Ferdinando Apap, Carlos Campagnoli, Ryan Grech (60’ Jonathan Bajada), Ousseni Zongo, Firas Aboulezz, Danail Mitev, Obinna Obiefule (78’ David Maia dos Santos).
Subs not used: Noel Attard, Steve Onyii Chiemeka, Adrian Farrugia, Emanuel Okafor.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
FLORIANA Jonathan Debono, Tyrone Farrugia, Duncan Pisani, Owen Bugeja, Kane Farrugia, Carl Tremarco, Valdo Alhinho, Aman Verma, Trevor Cilia, Sunday Wasiu, Ryan Darmanin.
Subs not used: Jurgen Micallef, Francesco Guzman, Thomas Paris, Sacha Borg, Mark Spiteri, Joseph Borg.
Coach: Lee Waddington
Asst. Coach: Alan Lewer
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Ingmar Spiteri, William Debattista
Fourth Official: Mario Apap
Yellow Cards: Tremarco, Debono, K. Farrugia
Red Cards: 68’ Kane Farrugia, 72’ Firas Aboulezz
Scorers: 9’ Obinna Obiefule, 13’ Ferdinando Apap, 69’ Obinna Obiefule pen (M); 83′ Akanni-Sunday Wasiu (F)