Playing one of their best games so far, Rabat Ajax managed to hold Birkirkara in an entertaining 3-3 draw.
Birkirkara therefore missed the chance to take sole leadership and now share the second place with Hibernians, one point behind leaders Valletta. Rabat, on the other hand, are still anchored at the bottom of the table.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg / MFA
Spanish striker Jose Luis Armaro Negrin was making his debut for Rabat but Clive Brincat joined Christopher Schembri, Adam Smeir and Ryan Micallef on the casualty list. On the other hand, Reuben Gauci, Gareth Sciberras, Shola Shodiya Haruna and Joselito dos Reis were missing for Birkirkara with Yosimar Hernandez making his league debut.
The Magpies surprisingly took the lead on the 4th minute when Manuel Moral Fuster managed to beat Birkirkara goalkeeper Ini Etim Akpan with a powerful shot from the left ending in the top corner.
Rabat goalkeeper Sean Mintoff performed a good save on Jhonnattann on 32 minutes after the Brazilian forward rounded a defender and tried his luck with a shot from the edge of the area. Ten minutes later, Yosimar Hernandez had a shot from outside the area ending just wide.
Two minutes in the second half, Alejandro Mendoza failed to connect off an inviting cross by Nikola Vukanac from the right.
Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza hit just wide for Birkirkara when served by Jhonnattann on the left on 58 minutes.
Birkirkara equalised on the hour when off a cross from the left by Rowen Muscat, Mifsud Triganza served Ryan Scicluna who hit home past goalkeeper Sean Mintoff.
Nine minutes later, the Stripes forged ahead when Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza served Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao who beat the Rabat custodian with a diagonal shot from the right.
Rabat restored equilibrium on 77 minutes thanks to a header by Justin Felice which beat goalkeeper Ini Akpan following a David Azzopardi freekick from the right.
Birkirkara regained the lead on the 83rd minute. Sean Mintoff saved partially a Mifsud Triganza effort and off the rebound, Nikola Vukanac slammed the ball home.
However it was not over yet as two minutes from time, Rabat equalised once again when Jose Luis Armario Negrin received a through pass and all alone in front of Akpan, he slotted the ball past the Birkirkara goalkeeper.
In stoppage time, Mintoff was prominent with a good save on Mifsud Triganza turning the ball into a corner.
Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao was voted BOV Player of the Match
RABAT Sean Mintoff, Ivan Carapic, Joseph Caruana, Justin Felice, Jose Luis Armario Negrin, Manuel Moral Fuster, Dylan Falzon, Patrick Borg (89’ Gaetano Gesualdi), Yan Cauchi (72’ Wayne Borg), David Azzopardi, Clifford Gauci (86’ Chris Vella).
Subs not used: Jonathan Azzopardi, Kurt Muscat, Neil Farrugia, Luke Cauchi.
Coach: Silvio Vella
Asst. Coach: Joseph Galea
B’KARA Ini Etim Aktpan, Ryan Scicluna (85’ Rodrigo Pereira), Nikola Vukanac, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Yosimar Hernandez (78’ Joseph Zerafa), Zach Muscat, Paul Fenech, Rowen Muscat, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Ryan Camenzuli (90+2’ Kurt Zammit).
Subs not used: Jonathan Martinelli, McAllister Clinch, Antoine Borg, Fabian Zammit.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Asst. Coach: Peter Pullicino
Referee: Mario Apap
Assistant Referees: Paul Apap, Albert Borg Cardona
Fourth Official: Kevin Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Jhonnattann
Scorers: 4’ Manuel Moral Fuster (R), 60’ Ryan Scicluna (B), 69’ Jhonnattann Benites Conceicao (B), 77′ Justin Felice (R), 83′ Nikola Vukanac (B), 88′ Jose Luis Armaro Negrin (R)
Meanwhile Valletta moved back at the top of the BOV Premier League table as they returned to winning ways, defeating Qormi 2-0.
This was the first win for Mark Miller’s side after four draws and a defeat to Mosta in their last outing.
Steve Borg and Jonathan Caruana were both missing for Valletta with Michael Mifsud once again starting the game on the bench. Qormi lacked Roderick Sammut, Matthew Bartolo and Leighton Grech.
Qormi had the first attempt at goal on 32 minutes when Sebastian Aurelio Siritto rounded a defender before trying his luck with a low shot from the edge of the area which was saved by Manuel Bartolo.
Leandro da Silva Almeida had a close range effort blocked by Matthew Farrugia one minute in the second half. Then it was the turn of substitute Michael MIfsud to try his luck with a shot from just inside the area which was parried by the Qormi goalkeeper on the 56th minute. On the other side of the pitch, Manuel Bartolo saved a header by Abubakar Bello-Osagie off a cross by Edison Bilbao Zarate.
Valletta finally took the lead on the hour when off a cross by Leandro Almeida from the right, Denni Rocha dos Santos slammed the ball past goalkeeper Matthew Farrugia.
The Citizens went close once again with an Ian Zammit effort on 73 minutes while a shot by Sebastian Aurelio Siritto from inside the area was parried by Manuel Bartolo on the 80th. A few seconds later, Michael Mifsud hit high for Valletta.
Valletta secured the three points six minutes from time when Leandro da Silva Almeida exchanged the ball with Joao Gabriel da Silva before hitting past goalkeeper Farrugia.
Ian Zammit was voted BOV Player of the Match.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Kris Thackray, Joseph Chetcuti, Abubakar Bello-Osagie, Luke Sciberras, Matthew Gauci, Sebastian Aurelio Siritto (79’ Vincenzo Pisani), Edison Bilbao Zarate, Jonathan Bondin, Alessio Cassar, Stephen Wellman.
Subs not used: Steve Sultana, Carmelo Farrugia, Kane Guedjoma, Dormond Micallef, Gabriel Buttigieg, Dylan Pirotta.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Asst. Coach: Joe Brincat
VALLETTA Manuel Bartolo, Roderick Briffa, Dyson Falzon, Ricardo Barreto da Rocha Filho, William Barbosa, Edmond Agius, Ian Zammit, Leandro da Silva Almeida (88’ Joseph Jo Jo Ogunuppe), Denni Rocha dos Santos (73’ Joao Gabriel da Silva), Ian Azzopardi, Kurt Magro (46’ Michael Mifsud).
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Ryan Fenech, Llywelyn Cremona, Shaun Bajada.
Coach: Mark Miller
Asst. Coach: Gilbert Agius
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Alex Grech
Fourth Official: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Yellow Cards: Barbosa, Sciberras, Zammit, Briffa, Bilbao Zarate
Scorers: 60’ Denni Rocha dos Santos, 84’ Leandro da Silva Almeida