A goal by Triston Caruana three minutes in added time enabled Tarxien Rainbows to grab a point in a 1-1 draw with Sliema Wanderers at the National Stadium.
The Blues had Italian striker Andrea Pisanu making his debut while Filippo Andrea Scozzese, Marko Potezica and Michael Mifsud made their first league appearance.
Tarxien, on the other hand, had no less than eight players making their debut, namely goalkeeper Jonathan Debono, Kane Farrugia, Alex Cini, Owen Bugeja, Triston Caruana and Brazilians Alvaro Silva, Wesley Pipico and Alessandro Lopes.
Tarxien went close to taking the lead on 26 minutes with an Alvaro Silva effort hitting the upright.
However Sliema managed to take the lead on 41 minutes when off a cross by Alex Muscat, Stefano Bianciardi headed home with the ball hitting the upright and bouncing onto Ryan Sammut before ending at the back of the net despite Johathan Debono’s desperate attempt to hold it on the goal line.
Marko Potezica went close to doubling the score eight minutes in the second half, off a corner by Pisanu, but his header just missed the target. On the other side of the pitch, Wesley Pipico had a good effort turned into corner by Zammit. A freekick by Barbetti ended just over the post on 82 minutes.
Three minutes in added time, Tarxien notched the equaliser when off an Alvaro Silva freekick, Tristan Caruana headed the ball home past goalkeeper Glenn Zammit.
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Alex Muscat, Filippo Andrea Scozzese (46′ Beppe Muscat), Marko Potezica, John Mintoff (89′ Luca Martinelli), Mark Scerri, Michael Mifsud, Andrea Pisanu (74′ Trevor Cilia), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Paltemio Barbetti, Stefano Bianciardi.
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Iousef Meli, Axl Xuereb, Peter Xuereb.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
TARXIEN Jonathan Debono, Kane Farrugia, Manuel Caruana (69′ Matthew Tabone), Owen Bugeja, Alvaro Andre Rodrigues Silva, Triston Caruana, Wesley Lima Silva, Ryan Sammut (46′ Carlos Menendes Hevia), Alex Cini, Alessandro Lopes Pereira (69′ Cleber Barbosa Viana), Jorge Santos Silva.
Subs not used: Sean Cini, Steve Sadowski, Manuel Xerri, Luke Aquilina.
Coach: Clive Mizzi
Referees: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, William Debattista
Additional Assistant Referees: Mario Apap, Malcolm Spiteri
Fourth Official: Paul Apap
Yellow Cards: Zammit, Pisani, Hevia, Bugeja, Barbetti
Scorers: 41′ own goal Ryan Sammut (S); 90+3′ Triston Caruana (T)
BOV Player of the Match: Stefano Bianciardi
At the Victor Tedesco Stadium, Birkirkara defeated ten-man Pietà Hotspurs 2-1.
Birkirkara welcomed back Paul Fenech after he missed the BOV Super Cup final through suspension but Edmond Agius, Gareth Sciberras, Joseph Zerafa and Ini Etim Akpan were all missing. Brazilians Eliandro, Liliu and Rafael Ledesma were all named in the starting line-up along with Matheus Bissi and Nikola Vukanac.
The Hotspurs, on the other hand, had Malcolm Licari and Brazilians Leonardo Fortunato dos Santos, Rafael Rodrigues da Silva and Rafael Xavier Zacarias all making their debut but the other two new signings – Claudio Frances and Joao Gabriel da Silva were unavailable.
Birkirkara went close with a good shot from outside the area by Ryan Scicluna was deflected into a corner by a defender on 29 minutes.
The Stripes managed to take the lead on the 40th minute thanks to Rafael Ledesma whose powerful shot from outside the area, following a short clearance, beat goalkeeper David Cassar with the ball hitting the post before ending at the back of the net.
To make matters worse for Pietà, Rafael Xavier was sent off four minutes in the second half for attempting to kick an opponent. Two minutes later, Birkirkara went close once again with an overhead kick by Liliu. A Matheus Bissi long-distance shot was parried by Cassar on 54 minutes and three minutes later, Rafael Ledesma hit the upright with the ball cleared into a corner by Leonardo Fortunato.
Birkirkara doubled the score on 76 minutes. Ellinton Costa Morais received a cross from the right by Zach Muscat, controlled the ball and beat the Pietà custodian with a fine shot from inside the area.
Substitute Leighton Grech could have added another on the 81st after receiving an intelligent pass but Cassar blocked his attempt. A powerful drive by Ryan Scicluna was turned into a corner by the goalkeeper.
In the dying minutes, the Hotspurs pulled one back thanks to Cain Attard who beat Haber from close range following a cross from the right.
Photos: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
B’KARA Justin Haber, Matheus Bissi da Silva, Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais (84′ Antoine Borg), Nikola Vukanac, Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma, Eliandro dos Santos Gonzaga (46′ Kurt Zammit), Paul Fenech, Zach Muscat, Ryan Scicluna, Edward Herrera (69′ Leighton Grech), Ryan Camenzuli.
Subs not used: Justin Tonna, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Andrea Curmi, Russell Gatt de Raffaele.
Coach: Paul Zammit
PIETÀ David Cassar, Cain Attard, Christian Grech, Leonardo Fortunato dos Santos, Jurgen Pisani, Quilin Refalo, Terence Agius, Rafael Rodrigues da Silva (77′ Neil Pace Cocks), Malcolm Licari (66′ Cleaven Cassar), Rafael Xavier Zacarias, Dylan Agius (59′ Luke Micallef).
Substitutes: Miguel Montfort, Karl Micallef, Jordie Delia, Ayrton Mizzi.
Coach: Noel Coleiro
Referee: Philip Farrugia
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Roberto Vella
Fourth Official: Sandro Spiteri
Yellow Cards: R. Scicluna, D. Agius, P. Fenech, K. Zammit
Red Cards: 49′ Rafael Xavier
Scorers: 40′ Rafael Ledesma (B), 76′ Ellinton Costa Morais (B), 90′ Cain Attard (P)
BOV Player of the Match: Rafael Ledesma