Late goals seal issue in favour of Stripes
Birkirkara yesterday returned to winning form as they beat Tarxien Rainbows 3-1 in a match which only came to life in the final 10 minutes.
The Stripes had been without a win in the last three matches – a defeat and just two draws.
But this victory has enabled them to join Valletta and Floriana on the 24-point mark with the Citizens having today’s match against Mosta in hand.
It was a hotly disputed penalty eight minutes from the end which paved the way for the Stripes’ victory.
From then on it was a different match as Birkirkara added two more goals to their tally for a flattering 3-1 scoreline (Tarxien scored a consolation goal just before the final whistle).
Tarxien had no coach on the bench and were under the charge of assistant Brian Testaferrata, who is their youth coach.
In the first half, mediocrity reigned supreme except for a few moments, especially from set pieces. In fact, it was only in added time that Birkirkara almost opened the score through Plut who was unlucky to hit the upright.
Otherwise, although the Stripes seemed to be technically superior to their opponents, it was obvious that they were finding difficulty in penetrating a well organised Tarxien defence whose aim was to keep the Birkirkara strikers far away from goalie Cassar.
The Rainbows also had their few moments, but they were found wanting up front so much so that they did not produce one single decent shot at goal. In actual fact, both sides were guilty of erratic passing which seemed to be the order of the day.
The second half was perhaps a little livelier, but Birkirkara attacked a lot more and created the best chances.
However, they were made to fight harder than expected by this Tarxien side which only went to pieces after that penalty goal.
The Rainbows fought every inch of the way and although mostly in defence, they closed all gaps until that penalty award which gave the opportunity to the Stripes to move ahead.
The match had a rather quiet start, but in the 9th minute, B’kara threatened seriously, first when from a Dimitrov cross, a Scicluna first timer was blocked to a corner by Caruana. From the corner, a melee ensued in front of the Tarxien goal with Frank Temile missing a good chance, hitting wide from three metres.
Tarxien replied four minutes later when from a Da Paixao Alves cross, it was Ponce who had a good shot blocked by Sciberras to corner.
At the other end, following a good move by Temile, it was Dimitrov who had a low shot well saved by Cassar.
The match fell into mediocrity with a lot of midfield play ensuing and with both sides rarely, if ever, testing the two goalkeepers.
But in the 38th minute, Dimitrov advanced on the left flank only for his dangerous cross being handled perfectly by the alert Andrea Cassar.
Moments later, at the other end, Frances had a distant shot easily saved by Birkirkara goalie Kopric.
In the 45th minute, Birkirkara were unlucky not to score when in a quick breakaway, Dimitrov set Plut in the area and the latter’s first timer hit the base of the upright with goalie Cassar completely beaten.
As the second half started, in the 50th minute, Birkirkara went close through a Dimitrov freekick which just missed the target.
Birkirkara maintained the initiative and after a Bajada freekick was punched out by goalie Cassar, it was Gareth Sciberras who fired a shot from the edge of the area which, however, went wide.
The very active Dimitrov again tried his luck for the Stripes with a shot from the edge of the area, but his shot went wide.
In the 73rd minute, it was defender Bubalovic who had a good effort going just wide.
In the 82nd minute, Birkirkara were awarded a penalty when ‘golden’ substitute Desira Buttigieg was deemed to have been floored by Tabone in the Tarxien area. Vito Plut brought a big sigh of relief for Birkirkara as he converted the penalty in style.
In the 87th minute, it was 2-0 as a Dimitrov freekick hit the Tarxien barrier with the ball being deviated to the other side of goalie Cassar.
As if it was not enough, the Stripes added a third in the 90th minute when Plut received a good ball from Temile, advanced into the area and his shot was unluckily deviated by Matthew Tabone into his own net.
It was not yet over as Tarxien still had the energy to at least score a consolation goal just before the final whistle – a beauty of a goal from Triston Caruana.
Tarxien captain Triston Caruana in action against Birkirkara yesterday. Photos Martin Agius