Late Mifsud winner sinks gallant Tarxien
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