Author: robert.busuttil

Hamrun’s second half comeback thwarts Citizens

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Hamrun Tre Angeli beat arch rivals Valletta 8-6 this evening to win the Gatorade KO competition.
It was indeed a memorable evening for Hamrun and their supporters as they not only landed their first trophy since the FMA took charge of the local futsal competitions but they did it at the expense of their sporting foes who were searching for the first honour of the season.
The match was an exciting affair with Valletta squandering their lead as the Reds fought back to level matters in the second half before scoring the crucial goals to make sure of grabbing the cup.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Valletta as they displayed some positive futsal and could have easily scored more goals had it not been for a couple of superb saves by Ħamrun goalkeeper Matthew Mifsud at the start of the second half.
Futsal international referee Franco Cachia was officiating his last game and prior to kick-off he was presented with a memento by the FMA officials.
Valletta began confidently and surged ahead on 5 minutes when Raphinha’s grounder beat Mifsud to make it 1-0.
The Spartans keeper, who was playing his last official match, performed a string of consecutive saves on Raphinha, Milijic and Di Maio.
But on the stroke of 13 minutes he could do nothing as Jovica Milijic hammered home to double the score for the Citizens.
Hamrun seemed confused and it was no surprise that they succumbed to Valletta’s third goal one minute later courtesy of Denis Di Maio who slotted in from close range.
After calling a time-out, Hamrun managed to reduce the score as Luke Stivala took advantage of a defensive blunder to make it 3-1.
Valletta maintained their positive attitude and scored their fourth goal after Hamrun’s Daniele Degennaro scored an own goal.
Two minutes from the end of the first half, the Reds scored twice through Degennaro and Luke Stivala to make a 4-3 scoreline before the interval.
Hamrun now drove forward with renewed vigour as they intensified their offensive runs to try to upset the Valletta rearguard.
In no time they drew level when Jason Mifsud was at the right time and place to put the ball behind Stefan Vella.
Five minutes later Hamrun went ahead when Degennaro tapped in a Florin Anton pass to make it 5-4.
The Lilywhites maintained their composure and hit the target twice through Milijic and Aguilera Puerto to turn the result into their favour.
Despite this setback, Hamrun continued to attack and immediately Degennaro and Peter Pullicino turned the tables for their team.
With two minutes left, Clayton Felice, the Citizens’ mentor opted for the flying keeper , to instill more pressure on Hamrun’s defensive department.
But in so doing they left their goal unattended and Reds’ keeper Matthew Mifsud took advantage as he applied the killer touch in the dying seconds of the match to seal the issue for his team.
At the end of the contest, Mireille Vella, an FMA officiaL, presented the Gatorade KO cup to Jason Mifsud , the captain of Hamrun.

Citizens take ‘sweet revenge’, Easy for Hamrun

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Valletta and Hamrun are the finalists of the Gatorade Knock-Out competition after eliminating their respective opponents in the semifinals played yesterday at the Corradino Pavillion.
Valletta made sure of the final after ousting holders Luxol 7-2 in the last four of the competition.
During this semifinal, the Citizens had an axe to grind. This was the seventh meeting between the two rivals this season and, to the Lilywhites’ obvious discomfort, Luxol won four of the other six matches played.
The St Andrews outfit had already wrestled the league crown off the head of Valletta four days before, therefore the latter made their ‘revenge’ against the same opponents with the stamp of efficiency.
Valletta navigated their boat in admirable fashion, making their opponents run into labyrinths, before unwinding with swift balls which invariably spelt danger.
Luxol, so nippy in Friday’s league game against Valletta but with several players missing through injuries, kept running at dead ends and in the final reckoning they should be the first to admit that they went down to a superior outfit.
Indeed, Valletta were worthy winners and now relish the possibility of winning their first honour of the season.
Denis di Maio, Rodrigo Patricio netted a brace while Melvin Borg, Jovica Milijic and Daniel Aguilera were the other goal-getters for Valletta.
Luxol reduced the arrears through Andy Mangion and William Barbosa.
On the other hand, Hamrun had an easy outing as they eliminated Marsascala 10-3.
The game was over as a contest before the break as the Reds surged into a four-goal lead before adding another six in the second half as the Southseasiders were outplayed.
Florin Anton was inspirational for Hamrun as he struck a hat-trick, Cleaven Portelli and Peter Pullicino scored a brace while Alex Ellul, Daniele Degennaro and James Ciangula sealed the issue.
Marsascala’s answered back through Reuben Degabriele, Liam Gauci and Steve Gambin.

Judgement day for Valletta and Luxol

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Judgment day has finally arrived for Luxol and Valletta as these two teams will cross swords in the highly anticipated third and final play-off decider (kick-off 20.00hrs) to determine this year’s Gatorade Elite winner.
For much of the past eight months, the two title hopefuls have been embroiled in a tug-of-war for the most prestigious silverware. Both teams had moments when they slipped but, after the end of the first phase of the campaign, there was nothing to separate these two and it should be tonight’s showdown to decide which team will be crowned champions.
In the first play-off match, Luxol had an easy outing as they saw off the Citizens 5-2. During this encounter the St Andrews side stunned the champions with some deadly counter attacks that resulted in a positive result.
Not so can be said in the second match as Valletta fought tooth and nail with Luxol and after a 4-4 scoreline during extra-time, the former managed to win the contest after the penalty shoot-out.
From what we have seen from these two matches, it will be a balanced affair between the two most consistent sides in the Gatorade Futsal League.
Having the best defence and attack on the island, and enjoying the most wins in the Elite Round, Luxol can rely on their foreign trio Celino Alves, Emil Raducu and Dejan Bizjak who have scored decisive goals in this campaign.
Frane Despotovic, Luxol’s player/coach, reiterated that his team is concentrated to the maximum for this encounter.
“The atmosphere is great and we are really enjoying the moment. All the players are focused and motivated to do well.”
When asked about some defensive mistakes from last week’s encounter, Despotovic was clear.
“Futsal is a game of mistakes and we know that these can happen naturally. Now we are working to try to reduce them to the minimum.”
On the other hand, the Lilywhites possess a competitive squad and this could be seen in their previous encounters against their rivals.
Clayton Felice, the Valletta mentor, hopes to recover the league’s top-scorer Raphael Felipe Ortiz de Oliveira who resulted decisive in many of his team’s matches.
After last week’s performance, Felice is hopeful that his team will show the same aggressive approach that led to his team’s victory.
“As we always did during all the season, we are approaching this game with the objective of winning this match.”
“The team wants to do well and I hope that we play with the same determination like last week.”
Denis di Maio is suspended for Valletta, and he is the only player missing for the Citizens. Luxol have no players suspended, but they have Nicola del Re, Carl Azzopardi, Matthew Attard and Giancarlo Sammut missing due to injuries.
Having mentioned these facts, this shows that there all the possible ingredients to make this decider-match an entertaining one. If the winner will not be decided until the 40 minutes, extra time and therefore penalties will take place.

Make or break for Valletta

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Luxol and Valletta meet tonight for the second leg of the Gatorade Elite play-off final (kick-off 20.00 hrs) in another decisive encounter.
While Luxol go into the game on a high following their imposing 5-2 win, the Citizens have all the pressure in their hands as it will be their last chance to level the matters and leave everything for a possible third match.
A win for Luxol will definitely give them the title as they would win two matches out of the possible three.
However Valletta are not ready to throw the towel and want to bounce back to victory. Clayton Felice’s boys are known for their determination and this could be a decisive factor ahead of today’s match.

Luxol strike gold in convincing fashion

Valletta…..2
Luxol …..5

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Pitched in a direct confrontation with Valletta, the defending champions, Luxol conjured up a tenacious performance to overcome their rivals 5-2 and grab the first win in the Gatorade Futsal Elite play-off leg 1 final.
It was a typical encounter between two heavyweights in the local futsal scene with the St Andrews side showing nerves of steel to keep the Citizens at bay.
The atmosphere was in full swing when the two teams walked on to the court for kick-off with the Valletta fans unfurling three giant flags that covered their entire section at the western part of the Corradino Pavillion.
On their part even Luxol had a good amount of spectators as both sets of supporters gave their all to support their team.
Prior to kick-off both teams observed a one-minute silence in tribute to Xavier Saliba’s father and Rodrigo’s grandmother who both passed away this week.
The game was off to a storming start as Luxol took the lead inside the opening minutes.
It was Giancarlo Sammut who unleashed a stunning shot that gave Neil Cuschieri, the Valletta goalkeeper, no chance.
Spurred on by their bright start, Luxol continued to show the better ideas with their hard-running players bossing every part of the court.
The early goal rattled Valletta but they hit back as they were quick to break on the counter. Milijic, leaving a Luxol player behind him, passed to Raphinha who was ready to strike but instead it was Frane Despotovic who put the ball in his own net to help involuntarily his opponents drew level.

When the game resumed after the half-time break, Valletta tried to show greater intent but instead it was Luxol that punished the Lilywhites with well-taken goals.
First it was Frane Despotovic who surprised the Valletta keeper with a curling shot and minutes later it was Andy Mangion who struck home a first-timer after meeting a Bizjak corner to make the score 3-1.
Valletta tried to produce a reaction but they found themselves struggling to break down Luxol’s defence.
The latter took advantage of a defensive error to make it 4-1 as Dejan Bijzak’s grounder surprised Cuschieri after a personal action that wreaked havoc in the City box.
Luxol’s optimism rose when Mark Zammit received a good pass before rifling the ball into the net sparking joyous celebrations among the Luxol fans who were visibly over the moon after their team’s performance.
Valletta found the time to score a consolation goal through the league top scorer Raphinha who met a pass from Xavier Saliba to slot the ball into the net and make the score a more creditable one.
At the end of the match, it was Luxol and their partying fans who took centre-stage with their celebrations for this first leg win that puts them on the driving seat ahead of next week second leg final.

Qormi achieve play-offs dream

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
In the Gatorade First Division, Qormi Futsal joined Sliema, Msida and Mriehel ESS in the play-offs after winning their direct clash against Safi San Lorenzo 2-0.
It was a tight match between two teams that were aiming for a place in the final four.
After the first half ended in a stalemate, in the second half Qormi started aggressively and managed to score the goals that mattered through James Tabone and Adrian Fenech.
Msida grabbed their third consecutive victory after outclassing Marsascala 11-2.
The team led by Kevin Agius set the ball rolling from the first minutes of the game and succeeded in dominating their opponents who found little space to create goal-scoring opportunities.
Chris Cardona and George Frendo were in fine form as they struck a hat-trick, Chris Cutajar and Mohammed Elamari hit the target twice while Herbert Spiteri rubberstamped the Seasiders’ victory.
Marsascala’s consolation goals came through a brace from Franklin Abela.
Mriehel ESS strengthened their third place in the table courtesy of a 9-2 drubbing over Tarxien JMI.
Mriehel had a positive outing and established a 3-1 advantage before the interval.
In the second half, they controlled the match scoring six more goals in the process.
Ayoub Ahmad, Eslam Khalifa and Fabio Grech netted a double as Mark Anthony Galea, Kenneth Bonanno and Kamal Edgeli extended the score for Mriehel.
Joseph Meilak and Hamza Afifi were on the mark for Tarxien.

Last chance for Hamrun, Luxol prepare for final

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Hamrun Tre Angeli head into tonight’s Gatorade Elite Play-offs semifinal second leg (kick-off 20.00) needing to reverse a 6-2 deficit against Valletta to progress to the final.
As Hamrun’s experienced keeper Matthew Mifsud said, the team must pull up their socks and show more cohesion and precision to produce a remarkable comeback.
Despite all this, Mifsud admitted that the group was a bit disappointed but still hopeful.
“Although we knew before the first leg that we were the underdogs of this tie, naturally we hoped for a better result.”
“Despite all this, the team is upbeat and positive. We are a small but united team and despite the many setbacks due to injuries, we have always trained hard to achieve and are still confident as ever of our own capabilities.”
On the other hand, Stefan Vella, the Valletta custodian, is certain Hamrun will adopt an offensive plan.
“We’re expecting Hamrun to attack as from the very first second. We have prepared for this eventuality and all the players are psychologically prepared for this match. We believe that we can do it.”
As regards to the atmosphere in the Valletta clan, Vella confirms the unity of the team.
“The atmosphere between us is stronger than ever. We are all in it to win and book a place in the final.”
The former Lija keeper is excited about the prospect of his first ever final in his career.
“I’m really looking forward as this would be my first final in the play-offs.”
On the other hand, Luxol head into their second leg play-off final clash against Swieqi tonight (kick-off 21.30 hrs) in high spirits after a 10-1 mauling over their same opponents on Friday.
The St Andrews side will take to the court at the Corradino Pavillion eager to record a second consecutive win to clinch the title for the second time since FMA took charge of the organization of the local futsal scene as well as participate for the second time in the UEFA Futsal Cup.
While Luxol go into the game on a high following their first leg big victory, Swieqi know that they have a mammoth task to overturn this deficit and are facing this encounter without any particular pressure eager to show off a better performance from the last match as coach Nikola Farrugia explained.
“We are approaching the second leg as we did for the other matches, with determination and play our style of futsal.”
“Although we lost the first leg, we are going for the second match to put in a better performance. Throughout the season, we showed what we can do and we will give our hundred per cent no matter what.”
Farrugia is overwhelmed by what Swieqi have done so far.
“Boicho (Marev) and I are very happy with this year’s performance. Even the defeat against Luxol in the play-offs didn’t dampen our year.”
“We had two targets; firstly to reach the Elite round and then qualify for the play-offs. We reached our target and now we will resume our progress by learning from our mistakes.”
Despite their massive advantage, Luxol’s Andy Mangion seemed cautious in his approach.
“It’s true we have earned a good advantage from the first leg, but that doesn’t mean we should underestimate our opponents. We will get into the match with respect towards Swieqi while at the same time trying to manage our advantage keeping in mind that we need to be physically and mentally prepared for the eventual final.”
In these double headers, the team with the best aggregate result will qualify for the final. If at the end of the second leg, the match ends in a draw, extra-time will be played following which penalties will decide the winner of the contest.

Play-off semifinals fixtures:
20.00 hrs – Valletta vs Hamrun
21.30 hrs – Swieqi vs Luxol

Five goal Frendo propels Msida to victory

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
George Frendo marshalled his team to victory as he helped Msida to see off Qrendi 14-2 and maintain the chase after leaders Sliema Wanderers.
The Seasiders, who are assured of a place in the last four play-offs, produced a commanding performance against a side that had few spaces conceded to produce a reaction.
Frendo opened up his goal scoring spree to five goals as Mohammed Elamari netted a poker.
Chris Cutajar scored a brace while Armando Gjepali, Floren Manea and Ricardo Ortega Toro were also on the mark.
Mriehel ESS were held 6-6 by minnows Zurrieq Wolves in a very entertaining match.
More was expected from Mriehel as they failed to capitalize several occasions at goal with Zurrieq battling hard and reacting swiftly to obtain a merited draw.
Ayoub Ahmed hit the target three times while Marwan Terlisi scored a brace.
Eslam Khalifa scored Mriehel’s last goal to salvage a dramatic point against a surprising Zurrieq side.
The latter had returning player Russell Camilleri their main protagonist when he scored four goals while Nicolai Damato and Alistair Camilleri added to their tally.
Qormi Futsal obtained a precious win to continue their chase for a play-off spot when they saw off Marsascala Construct Furniture 5-1.
They had their nippy striker Ryan Gilmour Cassar putting his name twice on the score sheet while Miguel Alcaraz, James Tabone and an own goal sealed the issue for the Yellows.
Josef Balzan scored Marsascala’s only goal.

Mriehel back to winning ways

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Mriehel ESS were back to winning ways when they came from behind to beat Qormi Futsal 8-2 after another round of matches from the Gatorade First Division was played at the Corradino Pavillion.

This was Mriehel’s first win after a barren run of three matches which had seen them suffer back-to-back defeats to Sliema, Qrendi and Msida.
The match turned out to be highly entertaining with both teams playing attacking futsal with Mriehel easily administrating a late lead till the end.
Ayoub Ahmad helped himself with a brace while Kenneth Bonanno,Essa Benatiya, Marwan Telisi, Faisal Alnakua, Kamal Edgeli and Eslam Khalifa were also on target for Mriehel.
James Tabone was twice on the mark for Qormi.

Tarxien JMI and Swieqi Under 21, two sides struggling to move away from the basement zone, produced an exciting match. Neither team will have been satisfied with the drawn outcome as Tarxien edged Swieqi 5-4.
Tarxien were by far the better side in the first part of the match, during which they stormed into a three-goal lead with strikes from Ruben Sanchez, Joseph Meilak and Mark Galea.
Just after the break, Jurgen Ciantar pulled one back for the youths but Tarxien extended their lead as Ruben Sanchez and Michele Bucciano were also on the mark.
Swieqi tried to make a late comeback as goals from Timmy Gingell, Karl Sciortino and Darryl Schembri were not enough to salvage them a point.
The same score was registered in another evenly contested match as Marsascala overcame the stiff opposition of Safi San Lorenzo.
The Southseasiders came from behind to beat a mighty Safi side who got the upperhand in the first part of the match.
However Marsascala quickly levelled the matters to hit back and also managing to turn the tables in the process.
The match continued to be a rollercoaster of emotions even in the second half as both teams produced attacking futsal.
However it was Marsascala who applied the killer touch seconds from the end of the match.
Johann Callus was twice on the mark for Marsascala while Reuben Degabriele, Steve Gambin and Franklin Abela added to their tally.
Safi had Clive Calleja netting a brace as Alexei Saliba and Mauro Damato also put their names on the score sheet.

Title challengers share spoils in 4-4 draw

ROBERT BUSUTTIL
Title contenders Hamrun and Luxol had to settle for a point apiece after their Gatorade Elite Round top-of-the-table clash ended in a 4-4 draw.
Both teams gave life to an absorbing encounter which saw them share them eight goals in a nail-biting draw.
After breaking the deadlock early in the match, Hamrun tried to impose themselves on the game but the St Andrews outfit made a bold reaction to level matters and consequently net the second goal.
Three minutes from the break, Hamrun managed to restore parity
The second half was balanced with both teams trading goals. The drawn result was a fair outcome as neither side deserved to lose.
Jason Mifsud struck a brace for Hamrun with Peter Pullicino and Cleavon Portelli adding more goals for the Reds.
Giancarlo Sammut, who scored a hat-trick and Mark Zammit put their names on the scoresheet for Luxol.
Swieqi FC returned to winning ways after seeing off University of Malta 13-1 to prepare well for the upcoming play-offs.
As the finale scoreline clearly indicates, it was a rampant attacking performance from Nikola Farrugia’s boys who tore apart the students’ defensive department.
Boicho Marev was the undoubted protagonist for Swieqi as he netted six goals. Besides that he had a hand in the majority of the goals scored by his team yesterday as his surging runs created havoc in the University defence.
Fredrick Johansson was another outstanding performer for the Oranges, particularly for his distribution of the ball and openings in the opponents’ half as he also found the time to net a brace.
On the other hand Dylan Micallef, Dexter O’Brien, Redeemer Borg, Dimitar Petev and Vesko Gerenski were also on the mark for Swieqi.
University of Malta scored their consolation goal through Andrea Farrugia.
Meanwhile in the Gatorade First Division, Sliema extended their positive patch after defeating Mriehel ESS 5-2.
Mauro Busuttil and Radovan Duric hit a brace for the Wanderers with the other goal coming from Aleksandar Ribic.
Mriehel, who are still in contention for a play-off berth, had Ayoub Ahmad hitting the target twice.
Tarxien JMI also returned to winning ways as they hammered Zurrieq Wolves to the tune of 6-0.
Their third win of the season was never in doubt from the moment Leonard Alla fired them ahead after just 4 minutes.
What followed was a brilliant performance from Tarxien who outclassed the poor Zurrieq, adding five more goals from a hat-trick by Joseph Meilak, Ruben Sanchez and Vince Camilleri.