Malta Premier League match day 17

Ħamrun Spartans’ hopes for back-to-back Premier League titles improved tremendously on Sunday when they widened the gap between them and runners-up Floriana to five points following their easy victory over relegation-threatened Sirens, and the Greens dropped two points after being held to a draw by Balzan.

Ħamrun Spatans ….. 2 Sirens ….. 0

Ħamrun Spartans kept up their winning streak when they faced Sirens and beat them with two first-half goals for their eighth successive win. The Spartans won without exerting too much pressure against a Sirens that rarely looked capable of making a go of it as they struggled to avoid relegation.

Ħamrun could not have had a better start. It only took them four minutes to pave the way for the winning of the three points with a headed goal by Jonny Torres. They kept dominating and never looked like easing up. In a two-minute spell between the 26th and the 28th minute, the upright came to Sirens’ rescue to stop efforts by Luke Montebello and Jonny.

But in the 40th minute, Ħamrun doubled their lead through Luke Montebello, who finished off from a corner and then held on to the upper hand without creating other clearing many chances in the second half. Sirens were never a threat.

Floriana ….. 2 Balzan ….. 2

Floriana’s challenge to top team Ħamrun Spartans received a severe setback at the weekend when they failed to go beyond a 2-2 draw against Balzan. In so doing, they dropped two crucial points in the race for the title, and the gap between them and the reigning champions has now widened to five points.

At the start, things looked bright for the Greens when they took the lead after 15 minutes from a penalty awarded for a foul on Luis Willis Alves Furtado by Andre Prates. Alves obliged by converting said penalty.

Balzan reacted strongly and deservedly equalised in the 32nd minute through Floriana’s former player, Jan Busuttil, who beat goalkeeper Kitanov after an assist by teammate Olivier Rommens.

Balzan’s joy was short-lived, however, as they conceded once again on the stroke of halftime when Matheus Souza regained Floriana’s lead following a corner by Maksim Valadzko. Before the end of the half, the Greens came very near to adding to their tally, but this time, a Kemar Reid header smashed against the crossbar.

Floriana (green strip) in their 202 draw with Balzan. Photo: Walter Sargent

Floriana kept up the pressure in the initial stages of the second half. Still, after missing two good chances, they paid dearly for their shortcomings in the 66th minute when Balzan levelled the score for a second time from a Triston Caruana effort. He was the first to react when the Floriana goalkeeper saved but could not hold on to a goal-bound shot by Dimeji Awosanja.

Sliema Wanderers ….. 2 Marsaxlokk ….. 1

After dropping six points in their last three outings in their quest for a top-three placing and possible participation in a European competition, Sliema Wanderers returned to the winning ways by beating Marsaxlokk, their main rivals for the position, by 2-1. At the end of the 90 minutes, the Blues widened the gap behind their opponents to eight points.

It wasn’t easy for the Wanderers to claim victory and earn the three points. In the end, they managed it despite finding themselves a goal down after just ten minutes to a goal by Yuri Messias following an erratic clearance by Rashed Al-Tumi that let in Fernandinho, who in turn served his teammate to score.

Marsaxlokk, who had such a bright start to the season and had been enjoying a high position, are now only a point ahead of challengers Hibernians and Birkirkara after collecting only seven points from their last seven matches.

The Xlukkajri suffered the equaliser from Sliema in the 20th minute when they conceded from a Samuel Gomes da Mata header off a Denis Kouao assist and then fell behind in the second half, dominated by the victors who scored the all-important goal on the hour by Geoffrey Acheampong from a Joachim Adukor cross.

Birkirkara ….. 1 Hibernians ….. 1

Hibernians were cruising to a significant victory against Birkirkara that could have catapulted them into fourth place. However, under a new coach, their opponents rescued a point by converting from a stoppage-time penalty for a 1-1 result.

The match itself was a disappointment. None of the teams provided football worth watching in a game void of any excitement until the dying minutes of the tie when the Paolites drew ahead with a goal five minutes from time by substitute Isaiah Chukunyere. Then, six minutes into stoppage time, Birkirkara scored the equaliser from a penalty awarded for a foul by Higor Gabriel Fernandes Alves on Andrea Zammit, which the latter converted.

Gżira United ….. 3 Gudja United ….. 0

Gżira United, who had been hovering near the lower reaches of the league ladder for several months in their match against Gudja United, proved to everybody that the lowly position they had been occupying was not their rightful place. Despite playing for 90 minutes with only ten men, they dominated their opponents and won by three clear goals.

The victory, their third on the trot, helped Gżira to leapfrog over four other teams into seventh place with 21 points and continued to show that only a miracle can help Gudja avoid relegation as they currently sit fourteen points from safety after eleven defeats.

After four minutes, the Maroons were reduced to ten men when Marcelo Dias received two yellow cards quickly for a foul and for showing dissent after getting booked.

Gżira drew first blood after 19 minutes when Lucas Macula rounded a defender before beating goalkeeper Justin from the edge of the area and then added a second goal from a Zachary Scerri penalty awarded for a foul by Rodrigue Nanitelamio on Brooklyn Borg.

Gudja had the chance to reduce the gap in the 40th minute, but Matias Muchardi failed to beat Darijan Zarkov in the Gżira goal from a penalty awarded for a foul by Jackson Mendoza on Stephen Owusu.

Playing second fiddle and without ever troubling their opponents, Gudja fell further behind five minutes into added time when Gżira scored the third goal from Kyle Spence.

Mosta ….. 1 Valletta ….. 0

Mosta is finding their form, if not their luck, in the latter stages of the Premier League campaign by totalling nine points in an unbeaten run of five outings that has catapulted them into a much safer position in the league ladder. Their 1-0 victory with a late goal over Valletta gives them some breathing place and puts the Citizens in a precarious position in the relegation zone.

Ħamrun Spartans1744
Sliema Wanderers1734
Gżira United1721
Naxxar lions1721
Santa Lucia1718
Gudja United176
Premier League standings after 17 matches

The defeat was Valletta’s second against Mosta in a few days after their elimination from the FA Trophy by the same opponents.

Valletta had an excellent chance to take an early lead when they were awarded a penalty for a Jake Vassallo foul on Diego Cardoso Nogueira inside the penalty. However, Valletta’s Brazilian could not convert the spot kick that goalkeeper David Udoh Akpan saved.

Most of the time, the match was well balanced, with neither side looking as if it could make inroads, until a minute from time, when Mosta scored the victory goal from Chidera Henry Nwoga following a Damian Anene corner.

Santa Lucia ….. 1 Naxxar Lions ….. 0

Santa Lucia followed up on their close victory over Balzan in their previous match with another narrow 1-0 win, this time over the more fancied Naxxar Lions. It gives them some home in their struggle to avoid the drop, although they are still in the thick of it.

The Saints inflicted the third defeat on the trot on Naxxar Lions, who have now gone five matches without tasting victory in a disappointing run that leaves them in a mid-table position.

Naxxar suffered the goal that gave their opponents all three points in the 68th minute when goalkeeper Matthias Debono was beaten directly from a freekick by Evandro Pinto Gomes.

By TVOTM Staff

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