Sliema continue their upward momentum
Back-to-back wins against Tarxien Rainbows and ‘old firm’ rivals Floriana yesterday, lift Sliema Wanderers in mid-table on nine points , same as Gzira United.
The Wanderers had to fight back from a goal down scored by Mario Fontanella after 12 minutes but they managed to turn the macth on its head with three goals within 15 minutes to take a comfortable lead by halftime.
Sliema had their central defender Marco Potezika, scorer of their third goal, sent off early in the second half but defended their lead with minimal difficulty against tame opponents, who only threatened with a Ruiz free kick that thumped against the bar.
The Greens are on a run of poor form and have only one win out of five and remain in sixth place. Yesterday they missed a good opportunity to climb further up into second place.
Sliema coach John Buttigieg did not change his starting line-up from the one that beat Tarxien Rainbows while Floriana, with coach Giovanni Tedesco and his assistant Salvatore Caleca both suspended, preferred Ignacio Varela instead of Ryan Camenzuli.
Floriana’s breakthrough after 12 minutes exposed a familiar weakness in the Sliema rearguard.Mario Fontanella chased a long through ball from the middle, beat the Sliema offside trap and turned round goalkeeper Zammit before depositing into an unattended goal.
The Wanderers looked like a different team after conceding as they took the game to Floriana and went into halftime with a 3-1 lead.
First they levelled matters midway through the half. On a Muchardi sailing free kick from the left, Jean Paul Farrugia scored with a firm header, the ball slipping underneath keeper Haber.
They forged ahead past the half hour as Muchardi played another pass to Salomon Wisdom who beat the Floriana keeper with a hard diagonal grounder.
And they even increased their lead four minutes before the interval as they broke on the counter through Marko Potezica’s lovely exchange with Mintoff, running in for the return
P W D L F A Pts Balzan 7 6 1 0 16 6 19 Birkirkara 7 4 1 2 15 6 13 Hibernians 7 4 1 2 10 8 13 Hamrun 7 3 2 2 15 10 11 Valletta 7 3 2 2 11 9 11 Floriana 7 3 1 3 9 8 10 Gzira 7 2 3 2 9 8 9 Sliema 7 3 0 4 8 10 9 Tarxien 7 2 2 3 7 11 8 Mosta 7 2 0 5 8 15 6 St. Andrews 7 2 0 5 6 14 6 Pembroke 7 1 1 5 8 17 4 pass to blast past the helpless Haber.
Sliema introduced Denni Dos Santos for the second half, after the player made his return with the club he used to play for last season but were down to ten men after only four minutes. Potezica was sent off for hacking down the advancing Vella outside the area.
Mark Scerri retreated deeper in defence. Monticelli played in a more advanced role as Ryan Camenzuli went in for Alex Cini.
The Greens tried to wear their opponents down but rarely offered a threat except when Camenzuli ran in from the right but keeper Zammit rushed off his line to blcock.
On 64 minutes Floriana went close with a Ruiz direct free kick that rebounded off the junction of the bar.
On the other end Denni tried to lob the ball from a distance but Haber was alert and stretched himself to turn into a corner.
But as the minutes ticked away, Floriana were showing less conviction. Sliema remained calm and in control and could defend their lead with minimal difficulty.
Jean Paul Farrugia of Sliema Wanderers (left) in a challenge with Enzo Ruiz of Floriana (right) Photo:Domenic Aquilina