Month: March 2016

Hamrun and Luxol cross swords in top match

This week’s programme from the Gatorade Elite Round is definitely highlighted by the top of the table clash between league leaders Luxol and their immediate followers Hamrun Spartans. At present, Luxol have 48 points while the Spartans, who also have a game in hand, are second on 43.
Luxol, who have an experienced team, were only beaten once during this season, but will have to be on full alert against Hamrun who showed their best form so far this season.
In fact, the Spartans showed their firm intentions of making a very strong challenge for this season’s title boasting also of a good firepower in the league top-scorer Raphinha who together with Brazilian counterpart Michel Melo Jose have scored most of Hamrun’s goals during this campaign.
Hamrun are coming from a run of four successive wins. The Spartans defeated Sliema, Msida and Valletta before beating Lija 5-3 last week while Luxol registered wins over Msida and Swieqi before beating Valletta 4-1 in their last outing.
This website has contacted Hamrun’s keeper Clint Mifsud who is aware but hopeful of the daunting task ahead.
“We know that Luxol are a good team and it is going to be a very tough match. But our team spirit and unity are helping us to produce some exceptional performances. Therefore I’m sure we will give them a great opposition.”
When asked about the play-offs stage, the Hamrun custodian thinks that all the teams have a good level.
“Whether we’re playing against the third or fourth team, it doesn’t make any difference because every team is well-equipped with good players.”
On the other hand, Luxol’s Clint Cope has a lot of respect towards tonight’s opponents.
“Hamrun are passing from a very bright patch. It isn’t a surprise as they possess some good quality players, who can turn the outcome of the match in any minute of the game.”
“We have to be highly concentrated for this match. We want to win so that we stay at the top of the table before the start of the play-offs.”
Even Cope thinks that all the teams that will be competing in the play-offs are well-balanced.
“I can say that Valletta, Hamrun and Lija are going to give us a challenge in the final four. It’s going to be an interesting phase of the championship.”
Luxol will extend their lead if they beat their rivals. Hamrun will get closer to top the table if they win.
In the first round, Luxol beat Hamrun Spartans 4-3.
Whatever happens in tonight’s game, although being a direct encounter between the first and second, there’s a long way to go.
In fact at the end of the second round the first four teams will contend the play-offs and that will bring a real challenge for the league title.
Both teams are expected to be in full strength with the match scheduled to kick off at 20.00 hrs.

A Closer Look at…Chris Azzopardi (Coach – Zebbug Rangers)

Name: Chris Azzopardi
Born on May 24th 1977 in Pieta’.
Date: 24th May, 1977.
Favourite football player: Diego Armando Maradona.
Favourite Artist: Nicholas Cage.
Favourite Dish: Fish
Personal Motto: Determination and Hard Work will turn in success.

How long have you been playing futsal?
I have been playing futsal for the last 14 years now. I started this beautiful game from the season 2001-2002 with Casablanca. Consequently, I played with El Mundos, RDJ Roadstar, Aluserv Futsal, Headhunters, Los Street Boyz, Luxol Futsal, Melita, Vittoriosa Futsal and Żebbuġ Futsal.

Chris Azzopardi with Aluserv.
Chris Azzopardi with Aluserv.

Tell us something about the beginning of this game in Malta.

In the beginning this game was more like a 5 a-side league. In fact you could see that the squads were made up of some former 11-a- side players. For instance I can still remember when I played with El Mundos alongside Raymond Vella and Alex Azzopardi.

Chris Azzopardi with Melita FC
Chris Azzopardi with Melita FC

Why did you choose this sport?

I chose this sport because at that time I used to work long hours so I couldn’t find time to train with an 11-a-side squad. Therefore I used to go and play every Friday at Luxol’s 5 a side pitch and a friend of mine, Louis Briffa told me to join Casablanca.

The memorable season in futsal that you remember most.
Actually I had a lot of memorable seasons in futsal. I can still remember my first league with Aluserv when we won the first division league without losing a game. I also recall the championship with Headhunters, where we finished third in the Premier League and the trophies won with Los Street Boyz and Vittoriosa.
Every team that I joined had a unique characteristic but most of all I can mention the values of unity and family atmosphere that are essential to achieve success..
On a personal note, my memorable year was in 2012, when I was chosen as the fifth best player in the league.

Describe your current team…Zebbug Rangers.
Żebbuġ Rangers is a family under the guidance of our great president and dedicated Stephen Mifsud. Our objective at the beginning of the season was to play without any pressure and to enjoy every moment as a squad and a family.
Now we found ourselves in contention for the First Division title and we’re going to try and achieve this objective.

Your personal objectives.
One of my personal objectives is to continue doing my utmost as a coach. In the future I would like to coach kids and also win the domentic league with a club, maybe Zebbug, who knows.
I would also like to coach the Maltese National squad.


Mqabba a step from play-offs, Marsascala win basement clash

Mqabba moved a step closer for a play-off spot after seeing off Zebbug Rangers 6-2 in the Gatorade First Division.
It was yet another disappointing night for the Rangers who lost their second consecutive match and failed to take advantage of their nearest rivals’ slip in the previous day.
On the other hand, Mqabba were exceptional as they created the better chances during the match.
Josh Farrugia netted a brace while Darren Aitchinson, Borja Lopez Fernandez, Kevin Loughborough and Leandros Calleja added more goals for Mqabba.
Zebbug, who are sure of a play-off spot, scored their goals through Anton Novoa Perez and Claudio Venuto.
Marsascala earned three precious points following a 6-5 win in a basement clash against Gozo.
Marsascala ventured forward more often than their opponents but the Gozitans were solid at the back to create some good counter attacks that were masterminded by their hard-working player, Warren Zerafa.

After leading 2-1 before the break, Marsascala scored four more goals in the second half.

When everything seemed plain sailing for the Southseasiders, Gozo made a great reaction and scored three sudden goals that produced a thrilling finale.

Despite all this, Marsascala held tight to gain this precious win and get to the 13 point mark.

Sliema held by Mdina, Sirens slip up

The Gatorade First Division leaders Sliema dropped their first points after four matches when they were held to a 4-4 draw by Mdina Knights at the Corradino Pavillion.

The Wanderers entered the match in high spirits after winning their opening four matches of the second round and wanted to assert their dominance.

After enduring five minutes of scoreless opportunities, the Knights took the lead on 6 minutes when Gaetano Gesualdi scored with the outside of his foot.

Sliema Wanderers regained composure and equalized through Paul Bugeja to make it 1-1 before the interval.

On the restart, Mdina continued to attack with striker Cleavon Portelli resulting a menace to the Sliema rearguard. In fact it was on 23 minutes that the nippy striker slotted in his team’s second goal of the match.

Sliema reacted fiercely and scored three times to turn the result into their favour thanks to a Paul Bugeja’s brace and another one from Dexter O’Brien.

Despite this blow, the Knights drew courage and managed to draw level in three minutes as Roberto Sarcia came to the fore when he scored a quickfire brace to ensure a precious point for his team.
Meanwhile, second placed Sirens failed to take advantage of Sliema’s slip after going down 8-5 to Qrendi.
The St Paul’s Bay side had some influential players missing for this encounter but certainly they missed their prolific striker Ryan Gilmour Cassar who was also unavailable.
Qrendi started in determined fashion as they were ahead after a few minutes. Sirens managed to equalize at the restart but were always trailing behind their opponents.
A three minute span gave Qrendi the upperhand as they scored crucial goals that gave them the most precious three points.
Craig Pickard resulted as Qrendi’s inspirational player as he netted a poker. Their captain Antonello Brincat hit a brace while Alan Spiteri and an own goal added the tally for the winners.
Andy Portelli, Etienne Bonnici, George Chircop, Antoine Galea and Sam Vella were on target for Sirens.
Two more matches are being played tonight at the Corradino Pavillion as Marsascala hope to return to winning ways as they face Gozo while in the late kick-off, third placed Zebbug have the chance to leapfrog Sirens when they cross swords with Mqabba.

Luxol consolidate top spot, Hamrun confirm

Luxol gained revenge for the only defeat they had conceded so far in the championship after beating Valletta 4-1 in a top-of-the-table clash.

The Citizens were not inferior to their opponents and were unlucky in some circumstances of the game. On the other hand, Luxol took their chances well to seal the three points and strengthen their top position, five points clear of their nearest rivals.

The St Andrews side opened the score through Celino Alves and managed to double the lead when Zvezdan Vukovic found the net from close range. Luxol continued to press forward and it was no surprise when they scored their third one, courtesy of Clint Cope.
Minutes before the break, Daniel Brincat reduced the arrears for Valletta.
Luxol took to the second half in determined fashion and Glenn Bonello added his team’s fourth goal after a quick counter attack.
The Citizens didn’t surrender and pushed more men forward to get more goals but Luxol held firm till the end.

On the other hand, Hamrun Spartans consolidated their second position in the table after seeing off Lija Athletic 5-3.

Lija played good football in the first minutes of the game but lost their plot after Hamrun managed to find the equalizer.
However in the final minutes of the game, Lija gave a hard time to the Hamrun rearguard, scoring two more goals in the process.
They could have even scored the fourth, but Spanish playmaker, Chavi Montes Burgos missed a penalty 50 seconds from the end.
Once again, Raphinha, the league top scorer, hit the headlines as he notched a hat-trick while his Brazilian counterpart Michel Melo Jose and Marwan Terlisi added more goals for the Spartans.
A brace from Javi Montes Burgos and a goal from Stefan Vella were on the mark for Lija.


Sirens keep pace with Sliema, Mdina stun Zebbug

Sirens returned to winning ways to keep alive their hopes of clinching the title and are now trailing behind leaders Sliema by two points after routing Gozo 8-1.

The Seasiders produced a lively display with their striker Ryan Gilmour Cassar marking his presence as he netted a poker.

The Gozitans failed to produce a reaction as Sirens stormed into a goal-scoring spree.

Antoine Galea hit the target twice while Sam Vella and an own goal added more goals for the St Paul’s Bay outfit.

Gozo’s only goal came through Justin John Camilleri.

The winless Gozo side remained bottom of the standings with one point.

A perky Mdina side again provided a major upset as they beat Zebbug Rangers 6-4 to get into contention for a play-off spot.
The Rangers failed again to raise their game with Mdina taking advantage of some fast incursions that proved lethal on goal.
Their prolific scorer Cleavon Portelli was in inspirational mood as he notched a hat-trick while Roberto Sarcia, John Micallef and Ryan Micallef scored the other goals that mattered for the University students.
Inigo Dolara, Alejandro Rubia Morenas, Anton Novoa Perez and Jamie Portelli were on target for the Rangers.


Sliema maintain pace, Qrendi fight back to level Mqabba

In form Sliema strengthened their position at the top of the standings in the Gatorade First Division after seeing off a mighty Marsascala side 7-1.

Despite suffering their 13th defeat of the season, the Seasouthsiders gave good account of themselves by defending boldly especially during the first half while at the same time trying to operate with some counter attacks.

Sliema had to wait until the 18th minute to surge ahead as they enjoyed most of the possession but found Marsascala’s defence a hard nut to crack.

After breaking the deadlock, Sliema opened their goal scoring spree with Marsascala trying to contain their opponents.

Substitute Josh Parry was Sliema’s inspirational player as he netted a brace while Paul Bugeja, Kevin Vella, Dexter O’Brien, Darren Agius and Eslam Khalifa were also on the score sheet.

Marsascala reduced the arrears through Reuben Degabriele.

Mqabba and Qrendi shared the spoils in an exciting 5-5 scoreline.
Mqabba managed to open the score after 5 minutes and extended their advantage to 4-1 on 23 minutes.
But Kevin Loughborough’s side failed to preserve this lead as they had to endure a Qrendi fightback who had their captain Antonello Brincat in great mood when he hit the target twice besides providing some assists to his team mates.
Alan Spiteri and a double Craig Pickard got the other goals for Qrendi.
Mqabba’s goals came from a Ryan Mifsud’s brace, Darren Aitchinson, Clayton Borg and an own goal.
Two more matches are being played today at the Corradino Pavillion when Sirens take on Gozo while in the late kick-off, Mdina entertain Zebbug.

A Closer Look at…Daniel Sant (Swieqi United FC)

Name: Daniel Sant
Born on August 6th 1994 in Pieta’
Favourite food: Pasta.
Motto – Whether you win or lose, each game has an outcome with a lesson, thus it is enhanced by experience.

You have recently begun to play futsal. What do you think about this game?
The game of Futsal, in my opinion is a very energetic and quick game. As I am coming from an 11 a-side background, you still need time to adapt to different rules, playing time and court. The best thing in futsal is that you are always involved, whether you are attacking or defending. You need to be good in both.

Describe yourself in three words.
Kind-hearted, Committed, Hard-worker

But exactly how did you begin to play futsal?
Last August, Timmy Gingell contacted me in order to join Swieqi FC. He gave me an overview about the club’s ambitions and objectives. After considering my options for the coming season, I contacted him back to start this new adventure, and honestly I can say that it has been a good decision joining Swieqi United.

Swieqi succeeded to place among the top 6 of the league. What is your objective now?
Now that we reached the Elite group, the objective is that we take experience from the following games. We learn from our mistakes as each game is against a very strong opponent, and we look forward to it.

Your personal ambitions in this sport.
My personal ambitions in Futsal are to keep training hard and learn from my coaches to reach higher targets.

Second half rally not enough for Lija

(H.T 0-3)

Luxol maintained their good form of late in the Gatorade Elite Round after beating Lija Athletic 5-3 in an eight-goal thriller at the Corradino Pavillion.
In the first part of the match, Lija were outplayed by the Saints. Later on, they stepped up a gear and scored three times in the space of seven minutes but Luxol held tight for victory.
The St Andrews outfit established a two goal advantage before the break, thanks to Carl Azzopardi who took advantage of some quickfire counter attacks.
Clint Cope added another one on 27 minutes but the relentless Lija managed to reduce the gap through Endrit Kaca.
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Celino Alves restored Luxol’s advantage to 4-1 but Lija continued to exert pressure on their opponents as Nicola del Re played as the flying keeper.
In doing so, Kevin Mifsud’s boys scored two more times through Javier Montes Burgos and Kurt Bartolo.
These goals gave Lija some hope as they ventured forward for the equalizer.
However in the dying seconds of the game, it was Glenn Bonello who rubberstamped Luxol’s final victory when he beat Matthew Xerxen from close range.

Lija A: Stefan Vella, Nikolay Filipov, Andre Henrique de Souza, Redeemer Borg, Endrit Kaca, Kurt Bartolo, Jason Gauci, Matthew Xerxen, Claude Debono, Carmelo Farrugia, Nicola del Re, Javier Montes Burgos.
Luxol: Nicholas Farrugia, Celino Alves, Frane Despotovic, William Barbosa, Matthew Attard, Glenn Bonello, Florin Anton, Karl Lepre, Clint Cope, Carlo Scicluna, Carl Azzopardi.

Spartans prevail on Citizens

Hamrun …….7
Valletta …..2
(H.T 4-2)

Hamrun Spartans took the honours in the match of the week as they overcame the challenge of Valletta 7-2.

Brazilian forward Raphinha and their keeper Clint Mifsud were the catalysts behind Hamrun’s thirteenth victory of the campaign.

Both players helped the Spartans put on a spirited performance as they outplayed the Citizens for much of the match.

A sizeable crowd gathered at the Corradino Pavillion to watch this hotly-anticipated derby.

Valletta enjoyed the better start but it was Hamrun who broke the deadlock on 5 minutes through Andy Mangion.

From there on the Spartans were enjoying most of the possession as Raphinha was unlucky to hit the post six minutes later.

However Valletta were operating some swift counter attacks and in one of them they equalized when Daniel Brincat released Mohammed Elamari who hadn’t any difficulty to slot home.

The Citizens’ joy was shortlived as Hamrun once again re-established the advantage when they were awarded a foul outside the Valletta area.

The ball fell into Raphinha who stabbed the ball home from close range.

Valletta were clearly toiling to find their rhythm in the face of Hamrun’s tight pressing.

Eventually, Hamrun managed to score their third as Rodrigo managed to meet Raphinha pass to score without difficulty.

Despite this double blow, Valletta refused to surrender as substitute Dylan Musu netted his team’s second goal.

Clint Mifsud was called in to make back-to-back saves from efforts by Musu and Di Maio.

Just before half-time Hamrun added another one when their inspirational player Raphinha found Jason Mifsud who rapidly put the ball into the net to establish a 4-2 advantage.

Andy Mangion brokes the deadlock for Hamrun
Andy Mangion brokes the deadlock for Hamrun

In the second half, Valletta could not improve the rhythm of their game and Hamrun managed to add three more goals in the process.

Andy Mangion completed a personal brace as he rushed on the flank before unleashing a low shot that gave Cuschieri no chance.

Seconds later, Dylan Musu was unlucky to hit the post.

Consequently Clayton Felice, the Valletta coach, called a time-out and opted for Xavier Saliba as their flying keeper.

In doing so, they left their net unattended and Michel Melo Jose scored Hamrun’s sixth goal.

In the dying minutes of the game, Rodrigo secured his team’s victory with his second personal goal.

Hamrun: Clint Mifsud, Michel Melo Jose, Kevin Cassar, Michael Spiteri, Peter Pullicino, Andy Mangion, Rodrigo Ticz Patricio, Jason Mifsud, Madson Caetano de Abreu, Robert Fenech, Brian Baldacchino, Raphael Felipe Ortiz de Oliveira.

Valletta: Neil Cuschieri, Gaetano Mallia, Cristian Cuadros Silva, Dylan Musu, Denis di Maio. Xavier Saliba, Melvin Borg, Jurgen Pace, Dejan Bizjak, Josef Borg, Mohammed Abdusalem Elamari, Daniel Brincat.

Referee 1: Franco Cachia

Referee 2: Jude Amin Utulu

Third Official: Pierre Bonnici

Time-Keeper: Mark O’Neill.