Birkirkara maintained their positive run thanks to a 4-2 win over a depleted Rabat Ajax side at the Centenary Stadium to keep the pressure on leaders Hibernians. A win which puts the Stripes on level points with the Paolites.
In fact, Rabat lacked no less than seven players, namely Pavle Velimirovic, Diego Carrillo, Dani Pelaez, Shaun Gauci, Joseph Caruana, Jonathan Bajada and Adam Smeir. Birkirkara, on the other hand, lacked Rowen Muscat, Zach Muscat and Shola Shodiya.
Birkirkara took the lead on the 10th minute when referee Kevin Azzopardi adjudged Ivan Carapic to have floored Terence Vella inside the area. From the penalty spot, Vella converted.
The Stripes doubled the score on 33 minutes thanks to an angled shot by Paul Fenech which was surprisingly not held by Jonathan Azzopardi to end at the back of the net.
Early in the second half, Moises Avila Perez went close to reducing the gap for the Magpies but Justin Haber turned the ball into a corner.
However on the 54th minute, Birkirkara increased the lead thanks to Terence Vella who slotted the ball past Azzopardi when served by Edward Herrera.
Rabat threatened once again with a Clifford Gauci freekick which was deflected into another corner.
The Magpies pulled one back on 73 minutes when Clifford Gauci concluded a good move with a powerful shot from outside the area which was deflected by a defender past goalkeeper Justin Haber.
Paul Fenech scored a fourth goal five minutes from time when he served Demba Toure whose shot was blocked by the goalkeeper but off the rebound, Fenech placed the ball at the back of the net.
However it was not over yet as Rabat reduced the gap on the 89th with a fine goal by Aidan Azzopardi who managed to flick the ball in style past Haber off a corner from the left.
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B’KARA Justin Haber, Edward Herrera, Alejandro Mendoza, Nikola Vukanac, Paul Fenech, Joseph Zerafa, Frank Temile (64′ Ryan Camenzuli), Daniel Zerafa (58′ Demba Toure), Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, Terence Vella (86′ Antoine Borg), Ryan Scicluna.
Subs not used: Reuben Gauci, Kurt Zammit, Gareth Sciberras, Matheus Bissi da Silva.
Coach: Paul Zammit
RABAT Jonathan Azzopardi, Zachary Tanti, David Azzopardi, Dylan Falzon (88′ Kurt Muscat), Ivan Carapic, Clifford Gauci, Wayne Borg (89′ Sacha Cortis), Patrick Borg (46′ Ryan Micallef), Moises Avila Perez, Malcolm Licari, Aidan Azzopardi.
Subs not used: Andrew Zammit, Josef Tonna, Etienne Scicluna, Darren Borg.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
Referee: Kevin Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Duncan Sultana, Luke Portelli
Additional Assistant Referees:
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: W. Borg, Avila Perez, Z. Tanti, R. Micallef, R. Camenzuli
Scorers: 10′ Terence Vella, 33′ Paul Fenech, 54′ Terence Vella, 73′ Clifford Gauci, 85′ Paul Fenech, 89′ Aidan Azzopardi
BOV Player of the Match: Terence Vella
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At the National Stadium, Balzan defeated Vittoriosa Stars 2-1 in a clash between two teams from the lower part of the table.
The team led by Jesmond Zerafa therefore returned to winning ways after picking a precious point in a draw with Valletta in their last outing. Vittoriosa, on the other hand, remain third from bottom.
Rodrigo Pereira returned for Balzan but Dani Miguelez, Mark Spiteri and Firas Aboulezz were all ruled out injured. Vittoriosa lacked Siraj Arab apart from the usual Roberto Brincat, Luke Vella Critien and Sheldon Grech.
The Stars had the first attempt at goal on the 12th minute with a Mark Barbara effort, after an Oscar Guerrero freekick was blocked by the Balzan defence, but Michael Falzon neutralised his shot. Six minutes later, Marcelo Pereira hit the crossbar with a rising shot from inside the area. On the other side of the pitch, Jose Luis Armario Negrin advanced on the right and into the area but his cross was deflected by Ramon dos Santos into a corner before Joselito could do any damage. A first-timer by Andrew Scicluna ended just wide on 27 minutes.
Balzan forged ahead on 32 minutes when Cini punched away the ball off a Dylan Grima corner, Steve Bezzina served Jose Luis Armario Negrin who chipped the ball into the net.
One minute in added time, Vittoriosa levelled matters when Jose Filipe Aguiar won a loose ball and his central shot from outside the penalty area beat goalkeeper Michael Falzon.
Two minutes in the second half, the Stars went close once again with a header by Oscar Guerrero off a Marcio Teruel freekick but Falzon deflected the ball into a corner.
Balzan regained the lead on 58 minutes when Justin Grioli sent Armario Negrin through on the right and the latter rounded the goalkeeper, serving the unmarked Lydon Micallef who placed the ball inside the empty net.
Four minutes later, Joselito could have increased the lead further but his conclusion hit the crossbar.
Michael Falzon came to the rescue for Balzan turning into a corner a Marcelo Pereira effort on 78 minutes and a shot by Marcio Teruel to enable Balzan to take home the three points.
BALZAN Michael Falzon, Justin Grioli, Steve Bezzina, Rodrigo Frank Pereira, Andrew Scicluna, Fabio Vignaroli, Luke Sciberras (75’ Gianluca Calabretta), Dylan Grima, Lydon Micallef (90’ Aaron Agius), Joselito dos Reis Santos (83’ Godwin McKay), Jose Luis Armario Negrin.
Subs not used: Guilherme Lorenzi Schelski, Michael Borg, Ryan Darmanin, Erjon Beu.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
VITTORIOSA Sean Cini, Malcolm Buttigieg, Mark Barbara (63’ Gilbert Martin), Marcelo Pereira, Clive Spiteri (88’ Ryan Mifsud), Clive Brincat, Oscar Dario Guerrero, Lucas Ramon dos Santos, Marcio Teruel, Jose Filipe Aguiar, Samir Arab (65’ Michael Camilleri).
Subs not used: Lawrence Cauchi, Justin Camilleri, Adam Spiteri, Oluwafunmi Omoboy Ebiesuwa.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
Referee: Philip Farrugia
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Glen Tonna
Yellow Cards: Bezzina, Sciberras, Grioli, Martin, Buttigieg, Mifsud
Scorers: 32’ Jose Luis Negrin (B), 45’ Jose Filipe Aguiar (V) 58’ Lydon Micallef (B)
BOV Player of the Match: Fabio Vignaroli