LIJA ATHLETIC 0
A battling Lija Athletic managed to snatch a point from a Birkirkara side that was in desperate search of their first league points after the 0-0 draw at the Centenary Stadium.
It was an intriguing encounter where despite chances were not the norm, the teams’ agonism and work rate helped to set up an exciting battle.
At the end, both teams got what they deserve as while Birkirkara may rue a couple of clear chances, the Stripes are still looking to regain their best form.
On the other hand, Lija staged another discipline performance with Fernando Brandan and Valdo dominating the midfield – the former with his creativity and the latter in soaking Birkirkara’s pressure.
Both teams gave life to a nervy start with lot of contrasts in the middle of the park with both teams struggling to settle in comfortably.
The ‘English approach’ to the game applied by match official Alex Johnson has definitely also contributed to the sparks in the early stages of the game.
Neither side really threatened in the first 25 minutes, with Birkirkara having a handful of set-pieces in vain whereas Lija were looking to catch their opponents on the break.
Federico Falcone’s long-range effort on the half-hour mark was the first chance of the game, even though the Argentine forward failed to hit the target.
Yannick Yankam’s header sailed over the bar as the Stripes were now inching their way up on the field in search of the leading goal.
Lija’s first chance of the game dropped on Argentine creative midfielder Fernando Brandan who attempted a thumping volley but his lack of conviction in his effort denied him the target.
At the restart, Paul Mbong sent a shooting effort over the bar after chopping inside the box.
Both Lija and Birkirkara picked off where they had left in the first 45 minutes, applying a physical approach to the tie with chances a rarity.
On the 56th minute, Birkirkara squandered a golden chance to forge ahead when midfielder Yankam inserted himself perfectly inside the eighteen but failed to capitalise on Luke Montebello’s delivery from close-range.
Montebello and Yankam were once again in action moments later when the former beat two opponents before whipping a low ball into the box on which the latter failed to connect perfectly once again.
Twenty minutes from time, Jimenez hooked a volley over the bar, missing the chance to put Lija one up.
Moments later, Virano let fly a an ambitious effort from the edge of the area but did not cause any trouble to Andrew Hogg.
Cruz Gill came agonisingly close to open the score for Lija just to see his header inches wide following a corner.
Five minutes from time, Virano tried his luck from a set piece but once again failed to hit the target.
Substitute Alex Alves replied for Birkirkara with a solo effort but Luke Bonnici was alert to avert the danger.
In the closing stages of the game, Lija’s Neil Micallef came close to score a wonder goal when he hit a first timer following a corner just to be denied by inches as both teams ended the tie in a goalless stalemate.