Despite lacking seven players and having a player sent off late in the game, Rabat Ajax earned a point in a 1-1 draw with Naxxar Lions at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
Coach Steve D’Amato handed youth team players Zachary Tanti, Wayne Borg and Chris Vella a place in the starting line-up as Dylan Falzon, David Azzopardi, Jonathan Bajada and Diego Carrillo were all ruled out through suspension while Dani Pelaez, Aidan Azzopardi and Adam Smeir were all injured. Victor Bellia and Mattia Del Negro were missing for Vittoriosa.
Rabat took the lead on 38 minutes when Ryan Micallef tried to serve Malcolm Licari, the ball was blocked by a defender with the ball still falling into the path of the veteran striker who managed to slot the ball past Julian Azzopardi.
Three minutes from the end of the first half, Angus Buhagiar intelligently served Terence Scerri but the latter’s fine shot scraped past the post.
On the 45th, Malcolm Licari headed just wide off a Wayne Borg freekick from the left.
Three minutes in added time, Naxxar were awarded a penalty after Patrick Borg accidentally handled the ball inside the area. However Andre Rocha da Silva’s effort was neutralised by Pavle Velimirovic.
In the second half, Naxxar held the initiative but Rabat controlled their opponents well.
On the 82nd, the Magpies were reduced to ten after Zachary Tanti received a second yellow card for a foul just outside the area.
Naxxar took full advantage, equalising four minutes later with Terence Scerri hitting home from close range following a cross by Raimi Bakare.
Scerri almost notched the winner on the 90th but his fine header was held on the goal line by Velimirovic.
RABAT Pavle Velimirovic, Shaun Gauci, Zachary Tanti, Patrick Borg, Ivan Carapic, Joeph Caruana, Wayne Borg, Sorin Oproiescu, Malcolm Licari, Ryan Micallef, Chris Vella (90+2′ Sacha Cortis).
Subs not used: Jonathan Azzopardi, Stefan Cortis, Etienne Scicluna, Nicolai Caruana, Darren Borg, Sean Abela.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Raimi Bakare, Duane Bonnici (79′ Jurgen Debono), Angus Buhagiar, Ryan Gilmour Cassar (46′ Daren Falzon), Andrew Decesare, Thiago Lopes de Sousa, David Alejandro Reano, Andre Rocha da Silva, Terence Scerri, Filip Stojanovic (46′ Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro).
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, John Debono, Ryan Mercieca, Yaron Sammut.
Coach: Winston Muscat
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Mitchell Scerri, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Philip Farrugia
Yellow Cards: Tanti, Gilmar
Red Cards: 82′ Zachary Tanti
Scorers: 38′ Malcolm Licari (R); 86′ Terence Scerri (N)
BOV Player of the Match: Malcolm Licari
Meanwhile at the Hibernians Stadium, Floriana returned to winning ways as they beat Qormi 3-2.
For the Greens, this was the first win after five defeats and a draw. Qormi, on the other hand, have now gone nine games without a win.
Floriana lacked Emmanuel Ibok Edet and Joseph Borg while Qormi could not count on Matthew Farrugia, Owen Bugeja, Roderick Sammut and Giorgio Gianola.
Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa put Floriana ahead on the 9th minute. Leighton Grech levelled matters eight minutes in the second half but five minutes later, Diogo made it 2-1 for the Greens. An own goal by former Floriana defender Duncan Pisani put them 3-1 ahead with Alfred Effiong reducing the arrears six minutes from time.
The first half was a balanced affair, however it was the Greens who took the lead on the 9th minute when a through pass by Steve Pisani was well controlled by Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa whose first timer ended into the net behind Steve Sultana.
Daniel Hanford blocked a Lucas Cantoro effort from outside the area when served by Bondin on 22 minutes. Two minutes later, Igor Coronado took advantage of a defensive error, advanced inside the penalty area but his low shot was parried by Steve Sultana. Then Gabriel da Silva failed to connect off a fine freekick by Jorge Pereira Da Silva on the 29th. Seven minutes later, Alfred Effiong hit just high off an assist by Roderick Bajada. Then just before half-time, Leighton Grech dribbled past the Floriana defenders inside the penalty area and his shot from a central position hit the upright and was blocked by the goalkeeper off the rebound.
Qormi equalised eight minutes in the second half when off an assist by Jorge Pereira da Silva, Leighton Grech advanced into the area, beating Hanford with a low shot.
However Floriana regained the lead on 58 minutes when off a pass by Igor Coronado, Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa connected well, beating Sultana with a low shot.
The Greens sealed the issue with a third goal on 75 minutes when former Floriana defender Duncan Pisani committed an own goal in an attempt to clear a through pass by Igor Coronado into safety.
Qormi reduced the arrears six minutes from time when Gabriel da Silva’s corner was met by a magnificient Alfed Effiong header which beat Hanford.
FLORIANA Daniel Hanford, Andre Scicluna, Steve Pisani, Christian Caruana (87’ Luca Casha), Igor Coronado, Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa (79’ John Roland Emeka), Jonathan Xerri, Clyde Borg, Brooke Farrugia (64’ Isaac Galea), Gary Muir, Sacha Borg.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Darell Baldacchino, Rodrigo Felix Aguiar, Dylan Kokavessis.
Coach: Ian Dawes
QORMI Steve Sultana, Duncan Pisani, Alfred Effiong, Leighton Grech, Emerson Vella, Triston Caruana, Jorge Pereira da Silva, Jonathan Bondin, Lucas Cantoro, Roderick Bajada (64’ Simone Quinteri), Gabriel da Silva.
Subs not used: Andreas Vella, Stefano Zampa, Leonardo Gabrieli, Karl Sciortino, George Portelli, Dylan Pirotta.
Coach: Karel Zeman
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Sammy Attard.
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: S. Pisani, C. Borg, S. Quinteri, J. Pereira Da Silva, C. Caruana, A. Scicluna, J. Perreira Da Silva, J. Bondin, I. Coronado
Scorers: 9’ Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa (F), 53’ Leighton Grech (Q), 58’ Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa (F), 75’ own goal Duncan Pisani (F), 84’ Alfred Effiong (Q)
BOV Player of the Match: Diogo Pinheiro De Sousa (Floriana)