Gzira United kicked-off season 2017/18 with a comfortable win as they defeated ten-man Lija Athletic 4-0 at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
The newly-promoted side played for practically the whole game in ten men after having defender Patrick Borg sent off after just five minutes. However it was only just before half-time that Gzira managed to break the deadlock, adding another three goals after the break.
The Maroons had foreigners Gary Muir, Samba Tounkara and Emmanuel Okoye together with substitutes Amadou Samb, Roderick Briffa and Luca Brincat making their first appearance while Lija had two players making their debut – Djamel Leeflang and Marcelo Dias de Souza.
Gzira forged ahead two minutes in added time at the end of the first half when off a Karl Pulo cross, substitute Amadou Samb rose high to head home past Bonnici.
Andre White doubled the score on the 75th minute with a low shot following a corner by Andrew Cohen and two minutes later, the Maroons added a third goal thanks to Samba Tounkara who hit hard past Bonnici when served by substitute Roderick Briffa.
Ten minutes from time, Amadou Samb scored the fourth goal with a rising shot which gave the Lija goalkeeper no chance.
LIJA Luke Bonnici, Leon Muscat, Patrick Borg, Daniel Scerri, Erjon Beu (46′ Carl Cassar), Antoine Borg, Abubakar Bello Osagie, McAllister Clinch (83′ Aiden Galea), Leejoe Schembri (15′ Predrag Babic), Marcelo De Souza Dias, Djamel Leeflang.
Subs not used: Jonathan Martinelli, Dylan Mintoff, Predrag Babic, Carl Cassar, Aiden Galea, Aaron Sammut, Nigel Spiteri.
Coach: Joseph Galea
GZIRA Anthony Curmi, Zack Scerri, A. Cohen, Juan Carlos Corbolan (45′ Amadou Samb), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Moises Avila Perez, Karl Pulo, Samba Tounkara (78′ Luca Brincat), Gary Muir, Emmanuel Ndubuisi Okoye (67′ Roderick Briffa), Andre White.
Subs not used: Cliff Aquilina, Roderick Briffa, Luca Brincat, Christian Sammut, Samuel Ogundare, Nikolai Muscat.
Coach: Darren Abdilla
Referee: Matthew De Gabriele
Assistant Referees: Theodore Zammit, Dusan Petrovic
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: P. Borg, Corbolan, Clinch, A. Borg, Dias
Red Cards: 5′ Patrick Borg
BOV Player of the Match: Amadou Samb
Meanwhile at the Centenary Stadium, Birkirkara and Floriana shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
New Birkirkara coach Peter Pullicino had no less than eight players making their debut in the starting line-up – Renato Camilo, Lucas Maia, Martin Klein, Jake Grech, Llywelyn Cremona, Bruno Andrade, Luke Montebello and Alex Nilsson – along with Philip Schranz, Kurt Zammit and Ryan Camenzuli who were back with the club after spending last season on loan elsewhere.
On the other hand, former Birkirkara goalkeeper Ini Etim Akpan was making his debut for Floriana along with James Baldacchino and Juninho Cabral who were making their league debut after making their first appearances in the UEFA Europa League commitments against Red Star Belgrade. Another new signing, Leighton Grech, was included as a substitute.
Floriana managed to take the lead on the 19th minute when off a short clearance by Birkirkara captain Martin Klein, Mario Fontanella slotted the ball past goalkeeper Philip Schranz.
Five minutes later, the Stripes levelled matters when off a cross by Ryan Camenzuli, Bruno Andrade controlled the ball before hitting hard past Akpan.
The Greens could have regained the lead on the 69th minute but Mario Fontanella’s close range effort hit the foot of the upright. Two minutes later, Birkirkara were reduced to ten men after having Edmond Agius sent off after receiving two yellow cards.
B’KARA Philip Schranz, Kurt Zammit, Renato Camillo Bezerra, Ryan Camenzuli, Lucas Verane Maia, Martin Klein, Jake Grech (79’ Cain Attard), Llywelyn Cremona (46’ Edmond Agius), Bruno Fernandez de Brito, Luke Montebello, Georgios Alexander Nilsson (73’ Walter Anibal Acevedo).
Subs not used: Amara Sylla, Matthew Guillaumier, Carlos Alberto da Silva, Neil Micallef.
Coach: Peter Pullicino
FLORIANA Ini Etim Akpan, James Baldacchino, Enrico Pepe, Enzo Ruiz, Steve Pisani, Clyde Borg (79’ Leighton Grech), Ignacio Varela (50’ Nicolas Hernan Chiesa), Maurizio Vella, Juninho Cabral, Alex Cini, Mario Fontanella
Subs not used: Matthew Grech, Denilson Borg Castaldi, Neil Spiteri, Jake Stenson, Mattia Zarb.
Coach: Giovanni Tedesco
Referee: Malcolm Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Martin Borg
Fourth Official: Stefan Pace
Yellow Cards: Zammit, Cremona, Agius, Schranz, Ruiz, Pisani, Fontanella
Red Cards: 71′ Edmond Agius
BOV Player of the Match: Mario Fontanella