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Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Another, more recent, visit to Malta saw seven matches being taken in, the first of which, Tarxien Rainbows versus Qormi, formed part-of a double-header which took place on 27/1/15. The aforementioned matches shall be featured here in due course.

The Victor Tedesco Stadium in Hamrun was the setting for a coming together of the third- and fourth-bottom teams in the BOV Premier League, and for Tarxien Rainbows, a win was essential as they had only won once in their previous nine matches. Qormi, meanwhile, were enduring a thoroughly miserable run: they had not won a match since 25/10/14 and had lost their last five games heading into this fixture.

Qormi's Frank Temile had the first shot on goal after three minutes, his hook shot from 10 yards out sailing over Jonathan Debono's goal. Tarxien went on the attack immediately, and Carlos Hevia's shot from the edge of the penalty-area ruffled the back of Qormi 'keeper Matthew Farrugia's side-netting. 

GETTING IN EARLY: Tarxien Rainbows' Ultras setting up before kick-off

Tarxien had the ball in the net two minutes later thanks to Darlington Obinna's header from two yards out, but the debutant's effort following a cross-shot from Hevia on the right was correctly ruled offside. Undeterred, the team in red kept up the early pressure, and, on 11 minutes, Obinna almost got on the end of Eduardo Vallecillo Casado's cross from the right-hand side, but he was just a split-second too late.

Temile then went on a one-man sortie down the left-hand side, but lost his bearings completely on the edge of the Rainbows' penalty-area, but his team-mate Alfred Effiong had more luck in the 13th minute. After a good spell of play down the right, Joseph Chetcuti stroked the ball to Effiong, who controlled the ball, dummied a Tarxien defender, turned and shot from just beyond the penalty-area, and his low shot to Debono's left put Qormi in front.

Despite Tarxien having slightly more efforts on goal at this stage, Qormi were the more dangerous, incisive team and Effiong was a constant threat. He had grounds for complaint in the 20th minute when he appeared to be pulled back by Ishmael Grech on the edge of the Rainbows' penalty-area, but referee Adrian Azzopardi did not react.

The reaction came from Tarxien, and it was instant. The ball went straight up the other end, where Hevia's pass was met by Obinna, and the Nigerian fired in a powerful shot to which Debono got both hands, but the ball still flew into the top corner to level the scores. Sailors' hats suddenly flew onto the pitch from the direction of the dug-out, and Obinna and Hevia obligingly donned them and saluted the small contingent of Rainbows fans.

Things quietened down somewhat after the goal, shot-wise at least, but after a hefty fifty-fifty challenge in midfield in the 33rd minute, Firas Aboulezz collected the loose ball, ran on and shot from just over 20 yards, but his effort was always rising and cleared Farrugia's crossbar with a foot to spare.

There were bookings for Qormi's Leighton Grech and Duncan Pisani, both as a result of fouls, and another one for Tarxien's Alexander Cini for handball, but it appeared to be more of a case of "ball struck hand" than the other way round. Not long after, Effiong left Cini stranded on the left-hand side and played a dangerous ball into the Tarxien area, but Debono was alert and smothered the ball before any Qormi player could get close enough. 

Temile took sufficient advantage of a poor back-header from Aboulezz, running down the right and firing in a cross, which Cini headed behind for a corner. From the corner, Chetcuti attempted an audacious overhead kick, but Manuel Bonaque Acevedo's clearance was, if anything, even more spectacular. 

The rest of the first half was nothing to write home about, and half-time came as a bit of a relief, though the first half had been entertaining enough in patches, with neither team being short-changed by the 1:1 scoreline.

The second half began with another flurry of yellow cards. Qormi's Zoran Levnaic was the first to be yellow-carded on 50 minutes after almost taking Aboulezz's head off with a high kick, though, to be fair, Levnaic was going for the ball. Hevia received a yellow a minute later for a foul on Mauricio Mazzetti; from the free-kick, Temile appeared to be impeded inside the area, but the referee waved play on. Hevia was then joined in the book by Eduardo Vallecillo Casado for a foul and subsequent dissent. A verbal spat then followed between Hevia and Temile after a perceived foul by the latter went unpunished.

ON THE ATTACK: Qormi put the Tarxien Rainbows' goal under pressure once again

Amongst all the transgressions, a football match broke out, and Temile broke down the left, beat two defenders and delivered a teasing cross, which Bonaque Acevedo got to just before Chetcuti. The ball broke to Clifford Gauci, but the Qormi man skewed his shot wide.

All appeared to have returned to normal, but a 61st-minute spat between Hevia and Mazzetti on the right-hand touchline saw Hevia fall to the ground in front of the linesman as though he had been poleaxed. Whilst around a dozen players attempted to debate the issue amongst themselves in their own manner, the referee consulted the linesman, after which Hevia received his second yellow card. Tarxien manager Clive Mizzi was none too pleased with the outcome of the officials' discussion, and he imparted his thoughts to the fourth official in no uncertain fashion.

Mercifully, both teams seemed to decide to concentrate on playing football for the remainder of the game, although the Rainbows, now playing with a numerical disadvantage, found themselves increasingly on the backfoot, though they were egged on by a rather vociferous female contingent.

Qormi were turning the screw and enjoying the majority of the possession, but they were not creating many chances at this stage. A tasty cross from the right by Jonathan Bondin was latched onto at the edge of the six-yard box by a lunging Effiong, but the presence of an onrushing Debono appeared to have been enough to put him off, and the ball limped wide. A Mazzetti free-kick was bent around the Tarxien wall but Debono made the save to his right look easy.

With twelve minutes left, a passage of play on the left-hand side ended with Chetcuti all alone with the ball some 20 yards from goal, and he let fly, only for the ball to thump off the crossbar and away to safety. Qormi's Swedish defender Billy Berntsson ambled forward for a corner-kick and almost got his name on the scoresheet, but his glancing header from four yards out flew past Debono's left-hand post. This was followed by a 20-yarder from Levnaic which went some 10 yards wide.

After surviving what more or less amounted to a second-half onslaught, Tarxien sprung a surprise with 82 minutes showing on the clock. A Triston Caruana free-kick was directed to Vallecillo Cassado, and his cross was headed in at the far post from four yards by substitute Matthew Tabone; despite a valiant effort by Debono to keep the ball out, the ball crept over the line. Scenes of disbelief and joy from the Rainbows' fans were replicated on the field of play, and Tabone received a yellow card for removing his shirt.

A stunned Qormi team threw everything at Tarxien for the remaining couple of minutes of normal time and 5 minutes of injury-time, during which Caruana was booked for time-wasting. A last throw of the dice from Qormi led to substitute Ryan Micallef crossing the ball into a congested penalty-area, where it was met by Effiong, but his meaty header from close range was well beaten out by Debono.

The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of joy and relief by the Tarxien team and support, but the result left Qormi's faithful with moods as black as their shirts; their team had more chances to win but couldn't take them, and this left them with no points from their last six matches. The Rainbows simply showed more grit and resolve and got their reward, coming away with a slightly fortuituous three points.

TARXIEN RAINBOWS: 1 Jonathan DEBONO, 4 Manuel CARUANA, 9 Triston CARUANA, 10 Firas ABOULEZZ (19 Matthew TABONE), 11 Eduardo VALLECILLO CASADO (3 Kane Paul FARRUGIA), 14 Carlos HEVIA MENENDEZ, 15 José Angel GODAR PEREIRA, 16 Ishmael GRECH, 17 Alexander CINI, 21 Darlington OBINNA (13 Ryan SAMMUT), 23 Manuel BONAQUE ACEVEDO

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 12 Antonio CHETCUTI, 2 Steven Marc SADOWSKI, 5 Owen BUGEJA, 22 Luke ZAHRA

QORMI: 1 Matthew FARRUGIA, 6 Mauricio Matias MAZZETTI LATINI (8 Marcelo Roberto LIMA DE MATTOS), 10 Joseph CHETCUTI (9 Steve AGIUS), 11 Alfred EFFIONG, 14 Clifford GAUCI, 17 Frank TEMILE, 20 Zoran LEVNAIC, 21 Duncan PISANI, 22 Jonathan BONDIN, 27 Billy BERNTSSON, 77 Leighton GRECH (18 Ryan MICALLEF)

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 12 Jurgen CILIA, 4 Björn BONDIN, 5 Roderick SAMMUT, 19 Emerson VELLA
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The above information was augmented with a couple of snippets from The Malta Independent. Thanks go to James and the rest of the MFA matchday team.


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