Late Mif­sud win­ner sinks gal­lant Tarx­ien

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Michael Mif­sud came off the bench to score Val­letta’s win­ner late in the game, in a hard fought vic­tory against Tarx­ien Rain­bows to keep up the pace with lead­ers Balzan.

It was a nar­row win for the cham­pi­ons through a com­bi­na­tion of their own blunt­ness and a dis­play from Tarx­ien that brimmed with en­ergy and or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Val­letta were un­con­vinc­ing but some­how did enough to build on last week­end’s restora­tive vic­tory over Gzira United.

For the Rain­bows, it was a case of what might have been, af­ter two suc­ces­sive games with­out de­feat, but they can nev­er­the­less take great en­cour­age­ment from their dis­play yes­ter­day.

Some no­table ab­sen­tees for Val­letta were Juan Cruz, Umeh Uchenna and Ro­mao. Dz­i­u­gas Bartkus from Lithua­nia played in goal in­stead of the sus­pended Henry Bonello.

Be­sides Ayr­ton Az­zopardi, Tarx­ien, who failed to win in their pre­vi­ous three league matches, also had Luke Mon­te­bello out in­jured, as they tried to sti­fle their op­po­nents in mid­field. In fact Marcelina, Tris­ton Caru­ana, Ponce and Kurt Zam­mit, of­ten had the bet­ter of Jean Borg, Ali­hno, Santiago Malano and Clau­dio Pani in that area of the field.

Still Val­letta had a Jean Borg shot from a dis­tance, nar­rowly miss­ing the tar­get and to­wards the half hour Fal­cone had his shot blocked but Jhon­nat­tann shot the rebound well over.

That did not pre­vent Tarx­ien from press­ing ag­gres­sively high up the pitch and pass­ing the ball with in­tent and zip, as Val­letta strug­gled to build mo­men­tum in the first half. On 34 min­utes Marcelina headed Tris­ton Caru­ana’s cor­ner over the bar.

Val­letta were soon dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory at the start of the sec­ond half, forc­ing Tarx­ien back and Nils­son’s pres­ence as the Rain­bow’s lone striker, to be­come in­creas­ingly iso­lated. At times there were eight men in blue sta­tioned in and around their penalty area in or­der to fend off at­tacks from their op­po­nents. On 54 min­utes, Tarx­ien in­tro­duced their sev­enth for­eigner – Clau­dio Frances – for Kurt Zam­mit, to give more sup­port in at­tack.

Min­utes later, Jhon­nat­tann forced keeper Cas­sar to re­pel his hard drive. On the other end a Pren­dez squeezed shot fell to Nils­son, whose vol­ley was tipped around the post by keeper Bartkus.

The lat­ter again saved Nils­son’s shot on the turn into another cor­ner past the hour.

At this junc­ture, it was still any­body’s game. Jean Borg limped off on 70 min­utes to be re­placed by Michael Mif­sud.

The lat­ter had been hardly four min­utes on the field when he took pos­ses­sion of Aguirre’s cross, ad­vanced in­side area on teh right and let fly a fierce shot to beat keeper Cas­sar and put Val­letta in front.

That was a hard blow for Tarx­ien to fathom but Val­letta showed all their ex­per­tice to pre­serve a pre­cious win and only their sec­ond clean sheet of the sea­son.

Val­letta Aguirre try­ing to get past Tarx­ien Alex Da Paixo Alves - Photo: Michael Camil­leri

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