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Thursday, January 22, 2015

TUVALU IN HOLLAND: VV ELSENDORP 0:2 TUVALU

All roads led to the tiny village of Elsendorp, situated in the eastern extremities of the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, on 26/10/13 for the match between VV Elsendorp and Tuvalu, but, for those relying on public transport, there wasn't a bus in sight, only a five-mile walk from the nearby town of Gemert.

Still, it was a beautiful afternoon for a game of football, and VV Elsendorp certainly put its best foot forward in playing host to the visiting Tuvalu side playing the 19th match of its marathon 11-week, 21-game tour of Holland, at . The hosts, playing in the ninth level of the Dutch pyramid, had lost their first five games of the season and a win against their opponents would have provided a confidence-boost.

Almost straight from the kick-off, Rick Hubers darted off down the left wing towards and into the Tuvalu penalty-area, where he met a wall of defenders and, instead of barging through them all, ended up deflecting the ball over the goal-line for a goal-kick.

 STANDING TO ATTENTION: The Tuvalu bench watches on as their starting eleven and their counterparts from VV Elsendorp line up for the national anthems

There was precious little other action during the first ten minutes, during which Tuvalu were comfortable and gaining in confidence, and their erstwhile goalkeeper-turned-defender Jelly Selau had the game's first shot on 11 minutes, a 20-yard effort which flew a yard wide of Arno Peters' goal.

Lutelu Tiule had Tuvalu's next effort on goal in the 15th minute, receiving the ball after Sio Silitone's free-kick, turned an Elsendorp defender but shot wide. Three minutes later, Alopua Petoa latched on to a through ball, but, after a tussle with a home defender, was only able to send his effort high and wide of the left-hand post.

Roy van der Wetering had Elsendorp's first shot on goal soon after, his low effort easily gathered by Mauga Tonise in the Tuvalu goal. In the 23rd minute, Fatu Alefaio's booming shot from at least 35 yards out took a wild deflection out for a corner; from the corner, Tiute's firm header went just over Peters' crossbar. This was quickly followed by a long-range half-volley from Selau which ended up just off-target.

As Elsendorp attacked the Tuvalu penalty-area from the left-hand side with 27 minutes on the clock, Lars van der Cruijsen was left unattended around six yards out, but he got his header completely underneath the cross which found him.

In the thirty-third minute, Lutelu Tiute received the ball in the Elsendorp penalty-area and turned a defender, who knocked him down; referee Wim Faassen really had no option to award a penalty to the visitors. A minute or so later, after Tuite received some attention on the pitch, Alopua Petoa finally broke the deadlock from the penalty-spot, stroking the ball to Peters' left, sending the home 'keeper the wrong way.


 1:0 TO THE TUVALU: Manager Richard Steensma and substitute Eric Tealofi look on as Alopua Petoa opens the scoring with his 34th-minute spot-kick

Eric Tealofi came on for Selau immediately after the goal, and going behind galvanised the Elsendorp team into action, with Rick de Bruijn the focal point; he headed a corner just over the bar in the 37th minute, and a cross from Jordy de Vries the wrong side of the post two minutes later.

Uota Ale sent the ball over the Elsendorp bar from distance just over on 40 minutes, and this was more or less the last meaningful action of the first half, during which his team-mates Petoa, James Lepaio and Selau had performed well, while de Bruijn, Rick Hubers and Stijn Vos had more than done their bit for the hosts.

Petoa had been having a lean time in front of goal prior to this fixture, and a one-on-one with Peters in the 52nd minute following a breakaway and pass from Panapa Mafoa gave him the perfect opportunity to augment his goal-tally in this game and, by the same token, his confidence in front of goal; unfortunately for him, his shot beat Peters but trickled agonisingly wide.

There were signs early on in the second-half that Elsendorp had upped their game, and shots from Hubers and Ron Zomers in quick succession, together with Stijn Vos wreaking havoc on the left wing, suggested that the men in green and white had much to offer. Vos may have been leading the Tuvalu defence a merry dance, but he found a ready adversary in Fatu Alefaio, who was, as always, proving himself to be a two-legged bulldozer in the back-line.

GOT IT COVERED: Elsendorp 'keeper Arno Peters comes for the ball following a Tuvalu corner; among those in attendance are team-mates Lars van der Cruijsen and Dick de Bruijn
Elsendorp were suddenly looking the more likely to score, but, at the other end, Telava Folitau headed just over from a corner with 62 minutes gone. Six minutes later, Alefaio was injured in a crunching tackle with van der Cruijsen; the Tuvaluan came off worst and had to be substituted by Amatusi Telogo Peni, who had himself been substituted in the first half by Afelee Valoa.

Eric Tealofi had the next clear opportunity for Tuvalu on 74 minutes, but dallied too long and his shot, when it eventually came, was deflected behind for a corner. Seconds later, the ball was in the back of the Elsendorp net. The corner was met by three Tuvaluan players who had jumped together, unchallenged for the ball, which fell to Uota Ale, whose shot to Peters' right was well saved by the 'keeper. However, Telava Folitau, who had come on at half-time for Teake Filialofa, followed up for the rebound and knocked the ball out of the Elsendorp custodian's reach.

There were precious few chances for either team after that, though Petoa, put through once again in the 80th minute, saw his shot saved well by Peters, who saw a low shot from Tealofi go just wide of his left-hand post moments later.

Sepe Willie, who was turning out to be Tuvalu's most influential player on their tour of Holland, was injured in the run-up to the game, but managed to come on for the last few minutes, replacing Telogo Peni, who this time stayed off the pitch.

There was another moment of danger for the visitors as the game went into injury-time as de Bruijn's cross, again from the left-hand side, flew just centimetres in front of Jordy de Vries, but Tuvalu breathed again and could celebrate both a deserved win and a clean sheet.

VV ELSENDORP: 1 Arno PETERS (23 Tom ROOIJACKERS), 2 Han DE BRUIJN (12 Chiel VAN DEURZEN), 33 Bryan BOUW, 4 Dave BOUW, 5 Stijn VOS, 6 Lars VAN DER CRUIJSEN, 7 Kay VAN DE WETERING, 8 Jordy DE VRIES, 9 ROY VAN DE WETERING (15 Ron ZOMERS), 10 Dick DE BRUIJN (C), 11 Rick HUBERS

TUVALU: 1 Bill MAUGA, 2 Jelly SELAU (17 Eric TEALOFI), 3 James LEPAIO, 6 Uota ALE, 7 Lutelu TIETE (14 Sepe IONISI), 8 Panapa MAFOA, 11 Teake FILIALOFA, 12 Alopua PETAU, 15 Fatu ALEFAIO, 18 Sio SILITONE, 19 Amatusi TELOGO PENI (16 Afelee VALOA)
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THEN AND NOW: Sadly for VV Elsendorp,their season was not to get any better, and were relegated to the tenth (and bottom) tier of Dutch football. They are, at the moment, to be found in fifth place in their regional Zesde Klasse division.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: You can often tell what the people of a particular town are like by their football club, its supporters, players and staff. In Elsendorp's case, the club is the focal point of what is an extremely small village, and it represents its village well. Many thanks are due to club chairman Frank van der Munckhof and, in particular,to club secretary Anja van der Cruijsen.

Apologies in advance should the above team information prove incorrect; should this be the case, kindly pass on the relevant information and the above article shall be updated as soon as this has been received.













Thursday, January 8, 2015

FIFA REFORM SUMMIT TO TAKE PLACE IN BRUSSELS: MEDIA RELEASE

A summit on the subject of reforming FIFA is due to take place in Brussels on 21/1/15, and shall be attended by some of those with an interest in the inner workings of the main global football organisation such as Jérome Champagne, candidate for the top post in FIFA, former FA chairman and scourge of Sepp Blatter - long before Michael van Praag dared to speak - Lord David Triesman, and Howard Mayne-Nicholls, a Chilean journalist and a former FIFA official. British Conservative MP Damian Collins is one of the driving forces behind the forthcoming summit.

The summit is all about change, but what will become of the smaller countries who are currently FIFA members under a reformed FIFA? Will countries/nations such as Greenland, Tuvalu, the Falkland Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Gibraltar be eligible for membership under a new, improved FIFA? These questions might, or might not, be answered during the summit, but if future versions of FIFA are to adhere to the organisation's slogan, "For The Good Of The Game," the issue of membership eligibility for all (and that means for all) will need to be addressed at some point in the future.

Please find below the text of a press release, received today, 8/1/15, from the media office of the organisation hosting the summit, New FIFA Now.
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Media Release: January 8, 2015
 
CAMPAIGN FOR A NEW FIFA NOW
 
Summit in Brussels to discuss how to make it happen
 
Football players and fans who are concerned with how world football's governing body, FIFA, is run have been invited to join a peoples' campaign for a new FIFA.
 
The campaign will kick-off at a Summit to be held at the European Parliament in Brussels on January 21st that will be attended by FIFA Presidential candidate, Jerome Champagne; the man who led the technical inspection team for the 2018/2022 World Cup Bids, Harold Mayne-Nicholls; the former Chairman of the England Bid and the English FA, Lord David Triesman, as well as other high profile football identities.
 
"People have had enough," said British MP, Damian Collins, who has been one of the most vocal critics of FIFA's management and governance practices.
 
"I speak to amateur and professional players, fans, and mums and dads whose children play and love the game. It has reached the stage where FIFA is a laughing stock.
 
"We all love the game. But we all detest how it's run."
 
Collins said the Brussels Summit is the first vital step in making a new FIFA a reality.
 
It's also the first of its kind where politicians, players, fans and corporations will come together in a campaign for change.
 
Champagne, Mayne-Nicholls and Triesman will be joined by co-hosts, European MPs Ivo Belet of Belgium and Emma McClarkin of England, as well as British MPs Gerry Sutcliffe, John Leech and Collins. Other attendees include the Chairman of SKINS, Jaimie Fuller, and Bonita Mersiades who is a former senior executive of the Australian FA and the Australian World Cup bid.
 
Collins says the Brussels Summit will focus on how change can happen.
 
"We don't intend to talk about what is wrong with FIFA, as we all know what's wrong.
 
"The experience since the Presidential election in 2011 - when we were promised things would change - shows that FIFA is incapable of reforming itself. But we also know that FIFA's problems go much further back than that."
 
Collins says that while recent events concerning the Garcia report into the conduct of the 2018/2022 World Cup Bids was the final motivation needed for he and other MPs to take action, the report and its publication is not a 'first order' issue.
 
"Like the decisions surrounding Russia and Qatar, the farce surrounding the Garcia report is symptomatic of a governing body where democracy, transparency and accountability were long ago forsaken in place of corruption, mismanagement and self-interest."
 
He said that the Brussels Summit will focus on what mechanisms can be employed to make real change happen.
 
"This is not about shifting deck chairs on the Executive Committee of FIFA," Collins said.
 
"It is real change for a new style of organisation that is befitting of FIFA's position overseeing the biggest sport in the world.
 
"We want to see football governed by people who make decisions and take action in a transparent manner, and who are held accountable in the best interests of the sport and civil society."
 
Collins urged everyone wishing to support the campaign for a New FIFA Now to sign the petition at www.newfifanow.org.
 
The Brussels Summit will be held in the European Parliament.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A FOOTBALLING WISH-LIST OR JUST A PIECE OF POPULIST..?

The Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter was the author of an article in which he outlined his own version of a 10-point manifesto, wish-list, call it what you will, covering football anno 2015. Said article was published on 31/12/14, and there were some points which would surely merit more than cursory consideration by the FA, and, perhaps, UEFA and FIFA.

However, once the bullet points were dispensed with, the fine print was somewhat less palatable, and occasionally bordered on cheap journalism with a little bit of casual xenophobia thrown in.

Winter's first point was titled "Revolutionise youth football," under which he pleaded for compulsory 9 against 9 matches up to the age of 13, and for the training of and the dispatch of skills coaches to schools, "encouraging two-footedness and self-expression." He also called for the building of indoor pitches "as well as the plethora of outdoor 3G."
The Charlie Hughes school of thought held sway in FA coaching circles, although this seems to be lessening somewhat as time goes on. However, this may not be the main reason that football has stagnated in the UK and Ireland.

Due to the Conservative government's policy of selling off brown- and green-field sites to property developers across the UK during the 1980s and '90s, manys a football pitch was covered over, not to mention fields and disused sites where children would gather to play football and learn the twin attributes of two-footed play and self-expression. If children didn't play in fields, etc., they played in the streets. That is now also largely a thing of the past, at least in much of Western Europe. 

Property developers should be encouraged to provide proper, safe, spaces for children to play in, be it football, volleyball or hopscotch, thereby encouraging kids to find "self-expression" and, more importantly, keep themselves fit. 
Point 2, "Improve refereeing [standards] asap," seemed to concentrate more on criticising PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited - who? - never heard of them either) "chief" Mike Riley for "undermining" Mark Clattenberg, and claiming that standards had never been lower, stating that referees did not know the difference between careless and reckless, and were inconsistent with regard to diving. 

Clattenberg is not a superb referee, but there are worse, far worse, and one of the things he does very well is communicate his decisions to those concerned, as does perhaps one of the best, Phil Dow. Winter and his fellow journalists would do well to lessen their own criticism of referees on occasion; after all, this leads to added pressure on the men (and women) in black, with the fear that one wrong decision will see them hauled up before the media's kangaroo court. Lest we forget, media pressure also ensured, alas, the advent of goal-line technology.

"Football must respect women" was Winter's third point. However, he did not provide any opinion as to how the position of women in football would be elevated, instead preferring to have a go at Ched Evans, who is now out of prison on licence after serving part of his sentence for the rape of a young woman, and "his deluded followers continuing to make her life hellish." Not just Evans, but football as a whole, needs to learn how to respect women, and for Winter to concentrate solely on Evans was just cheap journalism. 

Football and the media go hand in hand these days; the tabloid media has little enough respect for women, so should thus refrain from calling the footballing pot black, and for churning out the hackneyed diatribe of footballers being role-models. One's parents are role-models, are as those growing up around them (neighbours, teachers, etc.); if they cannot properly advise youngsters not to copy the actions of sportsmen and women, then they have failed in their responsibilities. It is also less than worthy to heap the responsibility of being someone's role-model on to another.

The FA should set up a competent task force, with a majority female representation, with the aim of eradicating sexism from the game once and for all. May I suggest the likes of broadcasters Gabby Logan and Jacqui Oatley, as well as (former) players such as Sue Smith and Faye White to be put forward as members of said task force? 

Why also no mention of giving racism the order of the boot once and for all? What about properly tackling homophobia? There was also nothing mentioned on the subject of the rights of - and providing proper access for - disabled supporters?

Point 4 was titled "Improve athmospheres," and finally provided reading of worth. Ticket prices should be subsidised, Winter said, with the 16-21 age-group being targeted, and the journalist added that the Football Supporters' Federation's "Twenty's Plenty" campaign to cap ticket prices for away supporters at £20 should be implemented.

There are other ways to improve the athmosphere at the average Premier League ground: safe standing areas should be made mandatory at all grounds in Europe, never mind in the Premier League. (This, by the way, has long been called for by the FSF and assorted football supporters' groups.) Stewards should also not be harassing supporters who stand in seated areas; they have paid for their place, and, provided they are not impeding on the enjoyment of others, these supporters should be left well alone. Those who wish to sit could be moved to the front of the stand they are occupying. 

Flags should be allowed at all grounds, and also at European and World Cup tournaments. Klaxons, too. Homophobic, racist and sexist chanting should be outlawed (and properly dealt with), as should, on a rather less serious note, the playing of some third-rate ditty after a goal is scored..

Point 5: "More financial sanity please." Agreed, but this should also filter down to benefit the fans; ticket prices, the half-time cuppa, replica shirts etc. could all be less expensive (see Point 4).

Point 6 was titled "Cut through the paperwork and cut adrift the freeloaders." One would have thought that this would have fallen under Point 5 ("too many average players" and so on), but no; this was merely a plea to FA chairman Greg Dyke to "live up to his promise of really getting to grips with the work permit loopholes that allow average overseas players to silt up Football League clubs." 

All fine and dandy if you are an ultra-conservative Tory or a UKIP voter (even in the sports pages, the Daily Telegraph will always be the Daily Telegraph) who would support Winter's comments, which veer towards mild xenophobia, but the danger of deporting so many foreign players, potentially in one fell swoop, is that English clubs will instead be silted up by average English players, at least for the next few years. 

On to Point 7 ("More brains on board") now, and the assertion that the FA restructuring should entail the appointing of an ex-player of the calibre of Gary Lineker, Graeme Le Saux or John Barnes to the "main board." A good idea; get Graeme Le Saux on the FA board - erudite, articulate, intelligent, and he knows all about discrimination in football (unfortunately). Supporters should be represented, too; it would be prudent for someone from, for example, the FSF to represent the interests of the average fan on the FA board. The FA should also ensure that there is room for at least one woman on the board.

Point 8 carries the title "Target punishment." Winter is of the opinion that retrospective bans should, in part, be served by a player against the club whose own player fell victim to the offending player's transgression. No, they shouldn't; it's like telling someone sentenced to a custodial sentence that they would be allowed to remain at liberty until two days after their birthday. A retrospective ban should begin with the first game after the ban has been announced.

"Loosen up, wise up" is the title of Point 9, and calls for the scrapping of the "stupid rule punishing players for celebrating goals." Players should be carded for the tiresome "sshhh" routine and other (perhaps) provocative "gestures" towards opposing fans after scoring, not for taking their shirts off and whirling them about.They perhaps deserve, on occasion, a kick up the backside for their rather choreographed goal celebrations, but that's another story.

There was also a call to trial video technology; bad idea. The FA/PL had something going for it when they introduced goal-line assistants, but what did they do? They should have had 2 of them behind each goal, but instead got rid of the idea altogether. Get rid of goal-line technology, full stop; yet another sign of "them and us" in football, as the rules of the game should apply, without exception, from the very top of the footballing pyramid to the very bottom. Either implement the use of goal-line technology to the fullest extent, with the FA and Premier League subsidising the installation of the system on every football pitch in England, with all FIFA etc. member associations doing likewise, or get rid of it completely.

Winter alluded to the fact that football is "emotional," yet he clamours for the introduction of video technology (one video appeal per club per half) to accompany goal-line technology. Goal-line technology has, to an extent, already taken out the emotional, human element in football; video technology would kill it stone-dead. There would be no more talking-points down the pub if the media had their way; the game would be as tedious as American Football is now, and the pity is, due to a myriad of reasons, it's heading that way now.

Last, and probably least: "England must start practising penalties before Euro 2016." They'll have to qualify first.. 

There isn't really much more to add with regard to commenting on Henry Winter's wish-list for 2015, except to say that it is a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. If his wish-list were ever to become reality, it could be the death-knell for football as we know it, as anodyne and blind to the evils of society as football - let alone the media - at the top level has become. There is no need to dumb the sport down any further. 
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Henry Winter's article can be found via the following link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/11319906/Transform-youth-game-cut-ticket-prices-get-Gary-Lineker-on-FA-board-improve-referees-and-respect-for-women.html

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

PFB ON TOUR - RABAT AJAX : SLIEMA WANDERERS

The final match of this series of articles hauled from the archives, dating from season 2013-14 in Malta's BOV Premier League, was the second in a double-header which took place at Hamrun's Victor Tedesco Stadium on 8/2/14, and featured the contest between bottom side Rabat Ajax and fourth-place Sliema Wanderers.
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With the excitement of the first match of the double-header, between Valletta and Balzan Youths, out of the way, the day's schedule at the Victor Tedesco Stadium in Hamrun was concluded with a match between Rabat Ajax and Sliema Wanderers, and neither team had very much to play for. This was perhaps reflected in the small crowd, just over 860 strong, that had gathered to view proceedings.

Ajax had been enduring a miserable season before the match kicked off; they had won just the one match out of twenty, and drawn three, and were nine points adrift of eleventh-placed Qormi. Sliema Wanderers were in fourth place and already qualified for the championship section.

MOVING IN: Malcolm Licari (Rabat Ajax) and Matias Muchardi (Sliema Wanderers) move in on the ball; Blues' captain Alex Muscat is in close proximity

It was all Sliema for the first ten minutes or so, and, with the exception of a few runs from Diego Carrillo Pendas, Rabat rarely ventured over the halfway line. Wanderers had the first decent chance after 10 minutes, though Admir Vladavic's effort from just inside the penalty-area went just wide. Stefano Biancardi's low header was palmed away by Rabat 'keeper Pavle Veilimirovic onto the crossbar and behind in the 18th minute, before Rabat finally had an effort on goal courtesy of Malcolm Licari, but his overhead-kick from 15 yards was tame and easily saved by Glenn Zammit.

It was an untidy first half with few real chances to speak of, and most of those that were created came mostly from the Blues. Vladavic blasted over the bar from 20-plus yards out in the 25th minute, and Matias Muchardi's angled effort four minutes later went across goal and wide. Jacob Borg then went on a run down the left, and teased in a ball towards Ivan Woods, but the veteran was just beaten to it by Velimirovic. There was a bit of pinball action in the Rabat area with seven minutes of the first half left, but when the ball came to Alex Muscat 18 yards out, the Sliema defender blasted over the bar.

Although Sliema had more of the possession in the first half, their general display was somewhat lacklustre and they paid the price in the 40th minute. A Sorin Virgil Oproiescu cross from the right was somehow missed by team-mate Licari, but not by Carrillo Pendas, who dummied two defenders and blasted the ball high into the net from 15 yards out to give Rabat a not altogether unmerited lead. 

The Magpies had shown much more purpose in the first half than had Sliema, and had dealt fairly easily with everything that their opponents had thrown at them. Woods had three attempts on goal before the end of the first half, but none of them were enough to bring the Blues level before the half-time whistle sounded.

SPOT THE BALL: Rabat Ajax under pressure as the ball goes out for a Sliema Wanderers' corner

Sliema had grounds for complaint four minutes after half-time when Trevor Cilia was pulled back in the Magpies' penalty-area, but the referee let play continue. Sliema were becoming increasingly dangerous, forcing Rabat Ajax to rely on the counter-attack, and Matias Muchardi's long-range drive was put behind by Velimirovic who hurt himself in doing so, but was able to resume goalkeeping duties after a lengthy delay.

The bottom side almost doubled their advantage on the hour, when Micallef danced his way from midfield through the Blues' defence, and his shot from 20 yards out beat Zammit but struck the outside of the post. A little period of pressure on Zammit's goal followed, with Micallef's shot from the edge of the area went high and wide. 

A couple of minutes later, Licari had the ball in the Sliema net, but referee Glenn Tonna ruled the goal out after adjudging that Zammit had been fouled; there was a slight nudge on the Sliema goalie, who then dropped the ball. You've seen them given..

Life slowly returned to Wanderers, and a cross from Cilia was headed wide by Stanley Ohawuchi. A little later, in the 70th minute, they equalised, much to the relief of those present with a blue heart. Ivan Woods cut in and passed to Muchardi from the left-hand side of the penalty-area, and he made no mistake from around 15 yards out, drilling a low shot with the outside of his right foot, first-time, past Velimirovic and into the bottom left-hand corner.

Carrillo Pendas was excelling for Rabat, as was Woods for the Blues, and his effort in the 82nd minute, following a move which had Ohawuchi and substitute Axl Xuereb at its heart, brought out the best in Velimirovic, who flew high to the left to palm Woods' curling shot over the bar.

Woods took the resulting corner, which went out to Ohawuchi on the left-hand side of the box. The Nigerian dummied Dylan Falzon before shooting through the legs of Shawn Gauci from 8 yards; it seemed to take an eternity for the ball to trundle across goal, through a confounded defence and past the wrongfooted Velimirovic before nudging the inside of the far post and crossing the line, but cross the line it did and Sliema were in front.

 MIDFIELD ACTION: Sliema Wanderers' Stanley Ohawuchi and Matias Muchardi, together with Rabat Ajax's Jonathan Bajada and David Azzopardi (just entering the picture), give chase


Ohawuchi's goal was the culmination of a good twenty minutes from Wanderers, which was probably their best spell of the match, and Xuereb and Muscat both had chances to make the game safe during the last five minutes of normal time,but Xuereb's shot was blocked by a defender, whilst Muscat's angled effort went into Velimirovic's midriff.

Five minutes of injury-time followed at referee Tristin Farugia Cann's discretion, and although the Magpies huffed and puffed, they could not really prise their way through a now clam-tight defence to gain a deserved point. Instead, all three points went to Sliema Wanderers, though no-one could doubt that they had earned them the hard way.

RABAT AJAX: 12 Pavle VELIMIROVIC, 4 Ivan CARAPIC, 5 Joseph CARUANA, 6 Shaun GAUCI, 7 Diego CARRILLO PENDAS, 8 Sorin Virgil OPROIESCU (22 Chris VELLA), 9 Malcolm LICARI, 11 Jonathan BAJADA, 13 Dylan FALZON, 18 Ryan MICALLEF (2 Darren BORG), 21 David AZZOPARDI

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 1 Jonathan AZZOPARDI (GK), 3 Zachary TANTI, 15 Stefan CORTIS, 16 Etienne SCICLUNA, 17 Patrick BORG

SLIEMA WANDERERS: 12 Glenn ZAMMIT, 2 Alex MUSCAT, 4 Jacob BORG, 10 Stanley OHAWUCHI, 13 Clifford GATT BALDACCHINO, 14 Ivan WOODS (6 Kane FARRUGIA), 16 Trevor CILIA, 25 Matias MUCHARDI, 28 Beppe MUSCAT (9 Axl XUEREB), 33 Stefano BIANCIARDI, 99 Admir VLADAVIC

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 1 Henry BONELLO (GK), 3 Clive PSAILA, 11 Alex PODDA, 17 Liam CACHIA, 18 Gabriel AQUILINA
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to the MFA matchday staff on duty; some of the above information was cross-checked against the Maltafootball.com website.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PFB ON TOUR - VALLETTA : BALZAN YOUTHS

The final double-header in this series, dating from season 2013-14 in Malta's BOV Premier League to be featured the contest between Rabat Ajax and Sliema Wanderers, but also a match of some relevance between Valletta and Balzan Youths. Both games took place on 8/2/14, and the latter fixture was the first to be played; the Victor Tedesco Stadium in Hamrun was the venue.
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The final weekend of the regular season in the 2013-14 BOV Premier League campaign kicked off, not with Rabat Ajax versus Sliema Wanderers, but with Valletta taking on Balzan Youths, and also with HIbernians up against Naxxar Lions, with both games taking place simultaneously, due to Balzan and the Lions being in contention for the sixth and final spot in the championship pool, which forms the second and final part of the Maltese football season. Before both games commenced, Balzan, occupying sixth place were on 28 points with Naxxar a point behind.

The first ten minutes of the match saw some Valletta pressure, but the first real sniff of a chance fell the way of Balzan's Lydon Micallef in the 10th minute with a run and chip into the Valletta penalty-area, but the Citizens' goalkeeper Jonathan Caruana was alert to danger, intercepted the ball and sent it on its way downfield. The ball eventually made its way to Abdelkarim Nafti, who crossed to Hamza Barry, whose header from six yards out was acrobatically saved by Manuel Bartolo in the Youths' goal. 

The ball was promptly sent in the other direction via Lydon Micallef, where Pedro Dos Santos dispossessed Valletta defender Steve Borg some 25 yards form goal. The ball rolled to José Luis Armario Negrin, who rounded Caruana but lost his balance somewhat in doing so and shot wide. 

 UP IN THE AIR: Early pressure on the Valetta goal by the Balzan forward line (Balzan in pink and black)

Balzan looked dangerous three minutes later after good work from Armario Negrin, Dylan Grima and Justin Grioli led to the distinct possibility of a clear opportunity, but none of the three appeared willing to take a chance, and the moment was lost. Team-mate Edison David Bilbao did have a go from 20 yards two minutes after, but his low shot from 20 yards ghosted wide of Revishvili's left-hand post.

The next 20 minutes belonged almost exclusively to Valletta; Namza Barry was denied six yards out by a well-timed tackle by Godwin McKay, whilst Abdelkarim Nafti's attempt from the edge of the area went high and over Youths' keeper Bartolo's bar. 

With 22 minutes gone, Valletta fashioned the best move of the game up to that point as Steve Borg took the ball down the right wing and delivered a low cross, which was met some 14 yards out to the left of the penalty-spot by Hamza, whose sidefooter struck the outside of the base of Bartolo's left-hand post and went behind.

From then on until the half-time whistle, it was pretty much Valletta who dominated possession, though chances were few. Abdelkarim Nafti had a shot on goal which Bartolo saved easily, quickly followed by a dangerous Jean-Pierre Mifsud Triganza cross which was not picked up on by either defence or attack. To be fair, Edmond Agius was looking dangerous on the right for Valletta every time they moved forward. 

Mind you, Balzan did have their moments; Lydon Micallef was put through after a lovely pass from Dos Santos, and ran into the penalty-area, but dallied too long when he should have shot and was tackled just in time, which resulted in the ball going behind for a corner, which was easily dealt with by the Valletta defence. Micallef and Bilbao were going hammer-and-tongs at the Valletta defence every chance they got, but they did not receive the support needed to create sufficient chances. 

Micallef was laid out after a late challenge from Nafti, but was able to play on. Shortly afterwards, in the last minute of the first half, Mifsud Triganza was denied by what can only be described as a save bordering on the miraculous from Youths' 'keeper Bartolo, who flew across goal to keep out Mifsud Triganza's header from a little over six yards out. It had been a good display thus far from both sides, with a draw probably being the correct score at half-time, which would have pleased Balzan manager Jesmond Zerafa, especially as his team's opponents were his former charges, by whom he was sacked in 2012.

The first ten minutes of the second half were rather tranquil until Valletta captain Ryan Fenech was yellow-carded for a reckless foul on Grima. Bartolo was clattered a few minutes later at the edge of his area, and the first shot in anger in the second half came just after the hour from Micallef, whose free-kick was saved by Micallef.

 NO WAY THROUGH: Valletta's Shaun Bajada's run is thwarted by Balzan defenders Kurt Magro (on ground) and Justin Grioli; Luke Sciberras is on hand just in case..

Bilbao received a yellow card for a foul on Fenech, and Dos Santos joined him in the book seconds later after making a crude gesture towards the Valletta fans, who responded in kind. Fenech did the same towards the Balzan supporters not long after his booking, grabbing his crotch and doing the old heaving boobies gesture, for which he got the bird from the Balzan contingent, but no second yellow card was forthcoming from the ref.

Valletta were now in control as the clock ticked past 70 minutes, but chances were still few and far between. Abayoni Seun had a chance to put the Citizens into the lead in the 72nd minutes, but his looping header from just shy of the penalty-spot floated harmessly wide.

Magro earned himself a yelllow card for a high tackle on Abayoni Seun before Bartolo was able to wave at a Mifsud Triganza header from 15 yards out which went past his left-hand post. Downfield, Dos Santos beat two Valletta defenders and put a ball through in the direction of Bilbao, but Micallef was out in good time to smother the ball.

Abayoni Seun was increasingly causing worry in the Youths' defence, and his run and pass into the penalty area had his adversaries at sixes and sevens, but the ball was cleared. With ten minutes to go, a huge cheer erupted from among the contingent of Balzan supporters, who learned that Hibernians had scored against Naxxar Lions, thanks to a Obinna Obiefule header.



 CELEBRATIONS (PART 1): The Valletta players gather round goalscorer Aziz Corr Nyang; watching on are players from Sliema Wanderers, warming up for their match against Rabat Ajax

As it stood, Balzan were in the championship play-offs as long as Naxxar did not score, and their supporters cranked up the volume still further when information came through that Obiefule had scored a second for Hibs on 84 minutes.

However, the cheers had hardly died in the Balzan supporters' throats when, just seconds later, Corr Nyang gave the Valletta support something to cheer about: a sumptuous strike - after a solo run along the 18-yard line - which flew into the top right-hand corner of the net.

Five minutes of normal time remained, but both teams were now content just to play out the full 90 minutes. There was still time for the referee to write the names of Mifsud Triganza and Ramón Dos Santos in his notebook as the game entered injury-time. 

Any frayed nerves amongst those following the team playing in pink and black were soothed with news that Hibernians had scored a third goal against the Lions, Jurgen Degabriele doing the damage. Cue celebrations amongst the Balzan supporters and a place in the championship pool. Oh, and Valletta walked away with the three points, so everybody went home happy.

 CELEBRATIONS (PART 2): The Balzan team walk off to the acclaim of their supporters

VALLETTA: 2 Nukri REVISHVILI, 24 Jonathan CARUANA, 4 Steve BORG, 6 Ryan FENECH, 8 Edmond AGIUS (11 Luke MONTEBELLO), 9 Jean-Pierre Mifsud Triganza (23 Irakli MAISURADZE), 10 Roderick BRIFFA, 15 Owonikoko ABAYOMI SEUN, 16 Namza BARRY, 18 Shaun BAJADA, 30 Abdelkarim NAFTI (17 Aziz CORR NYANG)

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 1 Yenz CINI (GK), 3 Ian AZZOPARDI, 21 Llewellyn CREMONA, 13 Dario TABONE

BALZAN YOUTHS: Emmanuel BARTOLO, 3 Ramón Dos Santos, 4 Justin GRIOLI, 5 Luke SCIBERRAS, 7 Lydon MICALLEF (99 Ryan DARMANIN), 8 Edison David BILBAO Zarate, 9 José Luis ARMARIO NEGRIN, 10 Dylan GRIMA, 16 Pedro Henrique DOS SANTOS Calcado, 17 Godwin McKAY (6 Furas ABOULEZZ), 19 Kurt MAGRO

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 29 Michael FALZON (GK), 13 Mark SPITERI, 50 Juan CORBALAN, 66 Charlie FULLER, 88 Gianfranco MICALLEF
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THEN AND NOW: Valetta finished the regular season with 53 points, three behind Birkirkara. They went on to  win seven out of ten championship matches, drawing the other three. This was enough to see them crowned champions at the end of the season by a point from Birkirkara, whom they defeated 2:0 in a dramatic last game of the season on 26/4/14. They went on to achieve the double, defeating Sliema Wanderers 1:0 in the FA Trophy Final on 1/5/14.

This season, Valletta are, along with everybody else, a country mile behind Hibernians, and, at the time of writing, have lost 5 out of 16 matches, although they find themselves in second place, in front of Birkirkara by goal difference. They hammerered Birzebugga St. Peter's 7:1 in the third round of the Maltese FA Trophy, and will be up against Sliema's "other" team, Melita, in the fourth round.

Balzan did not have a good time of it at all in the championship pool; out of ten games, their only win came against Sliema Wanderers, who beat them on penalties in the fourth round of the FA Trophy. They drew one game and lost the rest. 

They currently lie in fourth place in the table this time round, but are nine points behind Valletta and Birkirkara. Balzan defeated Kirkop United 2:0 in the third round of this season's FA Trophy, and have been drawn against third-level Zabbar St. Patrick in the fourth round. All matches in the fourth round are scheduled to take place on 17/1/15 or 21/1/15.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

PFB ON TOUR - SLIEMA WANDERERS : FLORIANA

Due to rather inclement weather conditions across Malta at the beginning of February, two matches scheduled to take place in the Maltese BOV Premier League on 1/2/14 - Sliema Wanderers against Floriana, and Hibernians versus Qormi. The games were played on 3/2/14 at the Hibernians Ground in Coradino, and Old Firm clash between Sliema Wanderers and Floriana was the second fixture in the double-header.
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There was a time when a match between Sliema Wanderers and Floriana would attract an attendance of several thousand football followers from across the Maltese islands; however, the "Old Firm," as both clubs are (still) collectively known, have had to play second fiddle in recent years to Valletta and Birkirkara. Attendances have dipped, and a crowd of some 200-300 supporters turned up to watch this particular edition of one of the most celebrated fixtures in Maltese football.

Sliema were forced to make a late change to their starting line-up when Paltemio Barbetti, originally listed as a substitute, took the place of Abubaker Bello-Osagie in midfield. Regardless of any inconvenience which might have been caused by this enforced change, Sliema began brightly in what was a fairly quiet first 15 minutes or so; captain Alex Muscat had a half-chance from a second-minute corner but shot wide, whilst, four minutes later, Marc Scierri's shot went over the Floriana bar, but 'keeper Daniel Hanford was untroubled.

The game only really sprang to life after a quarter of an hour when a verbal bust-up ensured between Scerri and Gary Muir from Tal-Irish, which was ended after referee Glen Tonna's intervention. Brooke Farrugia had Floriana's first shot in anger in the 18th minute from more than 20 yards out, and it caused Wanderers' goalkeeper Henry Bonello to scurry across goal, but the shot flashed the wrong side of the post.

Stanley Owahuchi put Admir Vladavic through for Sliema more or less from the resulting goal-kick, but Vladavic's weak shot was easily saved by Hanford. A Miur free-kick in the 20th minute, taken from the right-hand angle of the penalty-area, seemed to completely bamboozle both the Sliema defensive wall and Bonello in goal, who could only help the ball into the right-hand corner of the net, and Floriana were in front.

 BACK IN THE GAME: Sliema Wanderers celebrate Stefano Bianciardi's equaliser against Floriana in the Old Firm game at Corradino

Wanderers slowly clawed their way back into contention, and Matias Muchardi forced Hanford into a good save with a header from 10 yards out which came after a cross from the right. Two efforts from Floriana followed in the 27th minute, Luca Casha shooting tamely after working hard to get himself into a good position, and Igor Coronado shooting low - but just wide - from the edge of the box after the Blues lost possession from the goal-kick following Casha's effort.

Sliema took advantage of the reprieve; within three minutes, they were level, courtesy of a bullet header from Stefano Bianciardi, who met, and dispatched, Vladavic's corner-kick from the right-hand side with some authority.

Another quiet period followed, puncuated only by shots from Floriana pair Diogo Pinheira De Sousa and Farrugia; Pinheira De Sousa fired just over after Sliema lost possession and he received the ball from a team-mate, whilst Farrugia's shot shortly afterwards from more than 20 yards out was easily saved by Bonello.

The 43rd minute almost saw Sliema go in front: a cross from the right hand-side of the Greens' penalty area was picked up by Ohawuchi, who passed to Muscat, but the Wanderers' captain's turn and shot from close range was well dealt with by Hanford.

The second half was two minutes old when Vladavic's long ball reached Ohawuchi, who slid the ball to Trevor Cilia some 20 yards from goal, but his effort from the left-hand side went over the angle of Hanford's goal.

Pinheiro De Sousa went down in the Sliema penalty-area, but his team-mates' appeals for a penalty were ignored by the referee, but this was a rare Floriana foray into Sliema territory in the first ten minutes or so of the second half, though Pinheiro De Sousa and, particularly, Sacha Borg did have shots on goal before the hour mark, Borg coming close with a curling shot from the left which went just a yard wide of Bonetti's left-hand post. Both efforts sandwiched a Bianciardi header from a John Mintoff free-kick, but Halford foiled the Blues again.

Things changed suddenly after Borg's shot, which seemed to awaken a sense of urgency in the Sliema collective, and they immediately began to play with much more drive and purpose. A flurry of shots rained on Halford's goal during the next six or seven minutes, and Ohawuchi's shot in the 61st minute was just the start.

Barbetti won the ball in midfield, brought it forward and passed to Ohawuchi, who shot straight at Hanford. Another effort from Ohawuchi, one from Scerri and two from substitute Ivan Woods followed. Woods came closest with his swivel and shot on 66 minutes; this followed some good play and an inviting cross from Matias Muchardi, but he shot just wide.

CLEARING THE LINES: Floriana's defence do just that as another Sliema Wanderers attack breaks down
 
Persistence always pays off, or so it is said, and Sliema finally got their noses in front on 68 minutes. Owahuchi bulldozed his way into the Floriana box and passed to Woods, who turned and crossed and saw Trevor Cilia arriving to knock the ball past a flailing Hanford and the last defender from close in.

Five minutes later, it was 3:1 to Wanderers, when Baretti took the ball from his own half and passed to Mintoff on the wing; Mintoff beat two defenders before sending Hanford the wrong way at the near post from 8 yards out.

The goal seemed to deflate the Floriana team completely, and Sliema pretty much coasted home for the last 15 minutes or so, with both teams creating little of note, though Ohawuchi was fouled by Muir just inside the Greens' penalty area with ten minutes left on the clock. Ivan Woods stepped up to put the penalty past Hanford, low into the right-hand corner of the keeper's net. And, apart from a Vladavic free-kick which sailed over Hanford's bar in the 88th minute, that was pretty much that.

Woods' introduction was a pivotal moment in the game, though Ohawuchi looked threatening throughout most of the 90-plus minutes, and the Sliema defence, well-marshalled by Muscat, looked fairly secure. John Mintoff also had a good game, as did Muir for the losing side, though Hanford could legitimately claim to be his side's man of the match.

SLIEMA WANDERERS: 1 Henry BONELLO, 2 Alex MUSCAT (C), 7 John MINTOFF (9 Kane FARRUGIA), 8 Mark SCERRI (14 Ivan WOODS), 10, Stanley OHAWUCHI, 11 Abubaker BELLO-OSAGIE, 13 Clifford GATT BALDACCHINO, 16 Trevor CILIA (4 Jacob BORG), 25 Matias MUCHARDI, 33 Stefano BIANCIARDI, 99 Admir VLADAVIC

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 9 Axl XUEREB, 12 Glenn SAMMIT (GK), 28 Beppe MUSCAT

FLORIANA: 1 Daniel HANFORD, 2 Andre SCICLUNA, 4 Ibok EDET, 10 Igor CORONADO (8 Roland EMEKA), 11 Diogo PINHEIRO DE SOUSA, 14 Darrel BALDACHINO, 16 Clyde BORG, 19 Luca CASHA (24 Dylan KOKAVESSIS), 20 Brooke FARRUGIA (17 Joseph BORG), 23 Gary MUIR (C), 25 Sacha BORG

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 12 Seán MINTOFF (GK), 3 Sunday EBOH, 15 Jonathan XERRI, 22 Isaac GALEA

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THEN AND NOW: Floriana ended the 2013-14 regular season in eighth place, which meant that they were forced to take part in the series of matches in the relegation pool. However, they were never really in danger of being relegated, and six wins out of ten matches saw them rise to the top of the pool and out of harm's way.

The Greens have already beaten Sliema twice this season, once in the league, and also on penalties in the third round of this season's FA Trophy. They were drawn to face Qormi in the next round, and the game is scheduled to take place on 21/1/14. Floriana currently sit in fifth place in league competition, whilst Sliema Wanderers are in seventh. 
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks, as ever, go to the MFA matchday staff. The Times of Malta was a useful cross-referencing tool.

 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

PFB ON TOUR - HIBERNIANS : QORMI

Due to rather inclement weather conditions across Malta at the beginning of February, two matches scheduled to take place in the Maltese BOV Premier League on 1/2/14 - Sliema Wanderers against Floriana, and Hibernians versus Qormi - were called off in the Maltese BOV Premier League on 1/2/14. The games were played on 3/2/14 at the Hibernians Ground in Coradino, and Hibernians and Qormi were the first teams to take the field.
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Goals, goals, goals were the order of the day in the clash between Hibernians and Qormi, taking part in front of a fairly sparse crowd at the Hibernians Ground, and the game's first corner went to Qormi after just 24 seconds, though this was cleared. The visitors, second from bottom, kept up their early pressure and were rewarded with a goal just a minute or so later, after Christian Terribile was put through by Leighton Grech; Terribile, in turn, put the ball through Hibs' goalkeeper Daniel Balzan's legs from 10 yards. There was a hint of offside about the goal, but there were no protests from the home team's players.

Lucas Cantoro was almost put clear in the third minute, but Balzan cleared the danger. Hibernians tried to fashion a quick reply, but their first attempt on goal in the 5th minute was an unsuccessful one. Jackson De Lima Siqueira's ball out to the left hand side found Matthew Bartolo, and the latter's curled effort was hard but a little wayward.

Hibs cancelled out Qormi's early lead with an early enough goal of their own after 9 minutes. Obinna Obiefule barged his way into the penalty, jinked his was around Gorgio Gianola and toe-poked the ball to the left of Qormi 'keeper Mathew Farrugia.

A minute later, the Lilywhites were in front after Qormi lost the ball in midfield and the ball came to Edison Luis Dos Santos on the right, who cut into the penalty-area and fired the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from 12 yards out.






PRELIMINARIES: Hibernians and Qormi players indulbe in the now mandatory pre-match handshake routine


Bartolo almost made it three, getting on the end of a powerful cross in the twelfth minute, but the ball skewered wide of Farugia's goal. Obiefule did get the third three minutes further on after good work from De Lima Siqueira who had bombed through from midfield. A perfectly-weighted pass from the Hibs' number 7 found Obiefule on the left, and he neatly put the ball past Farrugia's left.

Bartolo and Brandon Muscat both tried their luck in the 20th minute, Farrugia saving the former's effort well, only for the ball to rebound to Muscat who blazed his effort high and wide. Hibernians were very much on top at this juncture, and Qormi's cause was not help by a couple of suspect offside decisions being awarded against them. Still, they pressed on, and Grech's good ball to Cantoro on the right-hand side almost paid dividends, only for Balzan to foil Cantoro's low shot from 10 yards out.

Three minutes later, in the 28th minute to be exact, Obiefule's run - past two defenders - and shot from the left was parried by Balzan; however, Dos Santos skied the rebound from four yards out, and in front of an open goal, too.

Terribile headed over the bar on 37 minutes after a move of route one proportions involving goalkeeper Farrugia and Grech; Terribile appeared to have been pushed by Jonathan Pearson whilst contesting Grech's cross, but the referee was unmoved. Controversy was also to be found in the Qormi penalty-area; defender Gianola appeared to handle Obiefule's shot four minutes later, but the referee gave nothing on this occasion either. A minute later, yet another penalty appeal was waved away after Qormi's Alfred Effiong was seemingly pulled down in the box by two Hibs defenders.

As the first half neared injury-time, Cantoro's free-kick from some 22 yards out cannoned off the crossbar, though Balzan actually got his fingertips to the ball, thereby producing a good save in the process. A scramble caused by the ensuing corner came to nothing, and the three minutes of injury-time ticked by without further incident.

Qormi were first on the attack a minute into the second half, but Duncan Pisani's shot from the edge of the penalty-area was parried by Balzan, who succeeded in gathering the loose ball at the second attempt.

Hibs' two-goal cushion became three in the 48th minute, with a delightful goal from De Lima Siqueira making it 4:1 for the hosts. A one-two with Bartolo saw De Lima Siqueira confronted with a Qormi defender, but this proved no problem for him; he simply flicked the ball over the defender and half-volleyed the ball into the net from eight yards out. De Lima Siqueira almost turned provider moments later, passing the ball to Obiefule, but his shot from around 12 yards out was saved by Farrugia.

 HANDBAGS: An altercation between Qormi and Hibernians players is quickly brought under control by match referee Marco Borg

There was an off-the-ball incident in which Dos Santos appeared to have been elbowed by Cantoro, but the referee elected to keep the game moving; this led to a Qormi counter-attack at the end of which Grech shot just wide. Cantoro himself had a chance to peg the score back when he was left unmarked in the Hibs' box, but his header from a Grech cross went over Balzan's crossbar.

The deficit was reduced to two goals courtesy of a goal in the 59th minute from Alfred Effiong. A patient build-up, emanating from inside the Qormi half and involving Simone Quintieri and Grech amongst others, saw a Pisani cross being chested down in a congested penalty-area by none other than Effiong, who beat Balzan with a scuffed effort from six yards out. Pisani himself himself had a chance to cut the difference to one goal, but shot wide from a corner.

The game had provided plenty of goals and various talking points; the yellow card was much in evidence during the second half as well. Roderick Bajada had already been booked for Qormi during the first half; Terribile also found his way into the ref's notebook just before Qormi's second goal, and Hibs' Zoran Levnaic joined him after a foul on Effiong. Effiong was also booked for appearing to lash out in retaliation after a foul by Timothy Tabone Desira, which was followed by a head-to-head with De Lima Siqueira, who was also booked for his troubles. Qiuntieri then received a yellow card for a foul on Muscat.

The two teams eventually got back to playing football, and Dos Santos put the ball over the bar after some human pinball in the Qormi penalty-area following a corner. After a show of speed from Dos Santos on the right in the 79th minute, he unleashed a cross-shot which only just evaded Obiefule, but was cleared for a corner by Effiong. Obiefule then put an effort just over a minute later after a one-two with substitute Jurgen Degabriele, and then fellow sub Jonathan Bezzina almost put the result beyond Qormi's reach with his first touch of the game on 85 minutes, but his shot to the right of Farrugia was palmed away by the keeper'and eventually cleared.

In between times, Qormi had the ball in the Hibs' net, but offside had already been flagged. Jonathan Grech did eventually score a deserved third for the team in yellow in the 86th minute; he was on the end of a clever ball from Effiong, and stroked the ball past Balzan from 12 yards out, although there was a suspicion of offside about the goal, which stood despite appeals from the Hibernians defence.

NO PRESSURE: The Hibernians defence prepare to launch another attack on the Qormi goal

Effiong himself was almost in on goal two minutes later, but he was foiled by a good tackle from the last Hibs defender. Degabriele had a chance to wrap things up with a minute to go, but his shot after turning a Qormi defenderflew just over Farrugia's bar.

No matter, the game was finally put to bed by De Lima Siqueira in the second minute of second-half injury-time. He was the intended target of a long through-ball, which instead reached Farrugia, who had come out to the edge of his area to beat the Hibs man to the ball. However, his attempted clearance was charged down by De Lima Siqueira, who simply ran on with the ball and tapped into the empty net before being immediately substituted by Zachary Scerri as the clock ran down.

It was a pity that the game ended in such a manner for Farrugia, who, despite conceding five goals, had played well, as had Balzan in the Hibernians' goal. De Lima Siqueira, Obiefule and Dos Santos were the stars of the show for Hibernians, whilst Grech and Cantoro impressed for Qormi, with honourable mentions for Degabriele's cameo for the Lilywhites and Effiong for a determined performance for the losing team.

HIBERNIANS: 1 Daniel BALZAN, 2 Timothy TABONE DESIRA, 5 Ryan CAMILLERI, 6 Jonathan PEARSON, 7 Jackson DE LIMA SIQUEIRA, 3 Scott CHIRCOP (14 Jurgen DEGABRIELLE), 18 Brandon MUSCAT, 16 Zoran LEVNAIC, 17 Matthew BARTOLO (19 Johann BEZZINA), 21 Edison Luis DOS SANTOS (10 Zachary SCERRI), 20 Obinna OBIEFULE

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 4 Neil FALZON, 12 Jurgen BORG, 15, Dunstan VELLA, 23 Aaron HILL

QORMI: 1 Mathew FARRUGIA, 4 Alfred EFFIONG, 8 Roderick BAJADA, 27 Christian TERRIBILE (6 Leonardo GABRIELI), 16 Giorgio GIANOLA, 31 Lucas CANTORO, 10 Simone QUINTIERI (99 Dylan PIROTTA), 19 Emerson VELLA, 21 Duncan PISANI, 5 Roderick SAMMUT, 7 Leighton GRECH

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 9 George PORTELLI, 12 Steve SULTANA, 14 Terence ABELA, 15 Karl SCIORTINO, 29 Stefano ZAMPA
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THEN AND NOW: Hibernians went on to finish in third place in the regular championship season, nine points behind leaders Valletta. They were to finish the play-off season in the same position, and qualified for the first round of the 2014-15 Europa League as a result. Their campaign was a short one, losing 9:2 on aggregate to Slovak side Spartak Trnava.

Qormi ended the regular season in tenth place, ahead of Tarxien Rainbows on goal difference. They moved up a place to finish ninth at the end of the play-offs.

So far this season, Hibs have astounded everybody involved in Maltese football, winning 15 of their first 16 league games so far this season, building up an imposing 15-point gap on nearest challengers Valletta and Birkirkara (who else?). Qormi are currently ninth, finding themselves a point in front of Tarxien Rainbows. Pietà Hotspurs follow in 11th place, with Zebbug Rangers currently occupying bottom spot with 9 points.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to the MFA's matchday staff, and in particular to the security guard, who was also on duty the day before the the National Stadium in Ta'Qali and who doubles up as Hibs' groundsman! The Times of Malta proved a handy reference point.