Former Qormi midfielder Gustavo Villalobos scored twice as Pembroke Athleta defeated Qormi 2-1 at the Victor Tedesco Stadium to kick-off their maiden Premier League campaign with a win.
Having a completely new team, Pembroke had an edge over their opponents who lacked Alfred Effiong who completed his move to Balzan earlier in the day.
Led by new coach Winston Muscat, newly-promoted Pembroke Athleta had no less than eleven players making their debut – goalkeeper Mario Muscat, Alex Cini, Owen Bugeja, Louis Cutajar, Zoran Levnajic, Italians Paltemio Barbetti and Giacomo Ferri, Americans Gustavo Villalobos, Kyle O’Brien, Gibson Bardsley and Austin Martz.
Qormi, now under the guidance of Jesmond Zerafa, had Nigerian defender Nohan Olawole Ojuola and Scottish midfielder Carlo Gordon Monti making their first appearance.
Pembroke managed to take the lead on the 13th minute when former Qormi striker Gustavo Villalobos headed the ball home from close range following a cross.
Qormi equalised four minutes in the second half when off a Carlo Monti freekick, the ball reached Clifford Gauci whose rising shot from the edge of the area beat Muscat.
Pembroke regained the lead on 71 minutes when a freekick by Austin Martz was not held by Matthew Farrugia and Gustavo Villalobos placed the ball at the back of the net from close range.
Qormi went close with a Ryan Micallef effort from outside the area and on the other side of the pitch, substitute Peter Paul Sammut almost scored a third goal for Pembroke, having a fine effort scraping just past the post.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Alessio Cassar, Billy Berntsson, Noah Olawole Ojuola, Jonathan Bondin, Steve Agius, Clifford Gauci, Carlo Gordon Monti, Joseph Chetcuti (68′ Gilmore Azzopardi), Ryan Micallef, Leighton Grech (79′ Pietro Viggiani).
Subs not used: Andreas Vella, Juan Vieira Peixoto, Karl Sciortino, Duncan Pisani, Joshua Barbara.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
PEMBROKE Mario Muscat, Zoran Levnajic, Alex Cini, Owen Bugeja, Louis Cutajar, Paltemio Barbetti (84′ Peter Paul Sammut), Gustavo Villalobos, Kyle O’Brien, Gibson Barsdley, Austin Martz, Giacomo Ferri (76′ Siraj Eddin Arab).
Matthew Camilleri, Miguel Attard, Rennie Tanti, Geoffrey Spiteri, Tyron Fenech.
Coach: Winston Muscat
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Peter Abela
Fourth Official: Malcolm Spiteri
Yellow Cards: Bardsley, Levnajic, Barbetti
Scorers: 13′ Gustavo Villalobos, 49′ Clifford Gauci, 71′ Gustavo Villalobos
BOV Player of the Match: Gustavo Villalobos
Meanwhile at the Hibernians Stadium, Birkirkara found no difficulty in beating Naxxar Lions 4-0.
Birkirkara had Cain Attard and Frank Temile making their debut while Ishmael Grech, Luca Lodetti, Richard Cardozo, Zady Moise Gnenegbe and Emiliano Lattes were making their first appearance for Naxxar who are now led by Stefano Grima.
The Stripes took the lead on the 11th minuet when off a low cross from the left flank by Vito Plut to the on-rushing Fabrizio Miccoli whose shot was deflected on the goal line by a Naxxar defender before ending at the back of the net.
Two minutes later, Birkirkara doubled the score when Zady Moise Gnenegbe passed the ball back to goalkepeer Julian Azzopardi whose attempt to clear was intercepted by Vito Plut who placed the ball inside the empty net.
Two minutes from half-time, Birkirkara scored the third goal when off a cross by Cain Attard, Miccoli’s effort was deflected by a defender and off the rebound, Gareth Sciberras hit home from close range.
Paul Fenech sealed the issue with a fourth goal on the 73rd minute, beating Azzopardi from close range off a cross by Edmond Agius.
B’KARA Ini Etim Akpan, Cain Attard, Nikola Vukanac, Mauricio Matias Latini Mazzetti, Ryan Camenzuli, Marcelina Emerson, Gareth Sciberras (60′ Edmond Agius), Paul Fenech (74′ Kurt Zammit), Frank Temile (64′ Juan Quero Barraso), Fabrizio Miccoli, Vito Plut.
Subs not used: Justin Haber, Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Scicluna, Terence Vella.
Coach: Giovanni Tedesco
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Andrew Scicluna, Luca Lodetti, Richard Carlos Cardozo (76′ Duane Bonnici), Daren Falzon, Zady Moise Gnenegbe, Jurgen Debono (50′ Armando Tarlazis Viera dos Santos), Ishmael Grech, David Fenech, Angus Buhagiar (82′ Mattia Del Negro), Emiliano Patricio Lattes.
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, Kurt Drago, Ryan Gilmour Cassar, Ryan Mercieca.
Coach: Stefano Grima
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: Roberto Vella, Sammy Attard
Additional Assistant Referees: Marco Borg, Esther Azzopardi
Fourth Official: Paul Apap
Yellow cards: Lodetti, Buhagiar, Mandinho, Falzon
Scorers: 11’ Fabrizio Miccoli, 13’ Vito Plut, 43’ Gareth Sciberras, 73′ Paul Fenech
BOV Player of the Match: Vito Plut