LIJA ATHLETIC 0
Wellington 83, Mifsud 85
L. Bonniċi-6.5, C. Cassar-6 (86 R. Darmanin), P. Soares-6, D. Scerri-6 (84 G. Zammit), E. Beu-6, F. Brandan-5, M. Jimenez-6, J. Cruz Gill-6, C. Giordimaina-6, N. Virano-5.5, V. Alhinho-6.
D. Cassar-6, J. Pearson-6.5 (55 A. Borg-6), Wellington-7, Raphael-6, Maxuell-4, W. Domoraud-5.5, R. Scicluna-5 (75 M. Mifsud), T. Agius-6, R. Romeu-6, R. Menezes-5 (46 R. Grech-6), T. Espindola-5.
Referee: Andrea Sciriha.
Yellow cards: Scerri, Agius, Maxuell.
Red card: Mifsud (S) 90.
BOV player of the match: Luke Bonniċi (Lija).
Sirens rode their luck to snatch the first victory of the season when they scored twice in the last minutes to claim a 2-0 win over Lija.
The deadlock was broken when an angled Michael Mifsud drive struck Lija goalkeeper Luke Bonniċi to find Wellington at the far post to slot home.
The goal deflated a valiant Lija side and they conceded a second four minutes later when Mifsud slotted home.
The defeat was harsh on them against a Sirens side who stung pride and never looked happy to settle for a point as Lija appeared the happiest soaking up the pressure.
So Sirens’ success owed much to the tactical nous and courage of their coach Stephen D’Amato whose decision to bring in Mifsud had a decisive effect on the game.
This match had been pushed back from last month after Sirens were hit by the outbreak four weeks ago. At one stage, Lija also had six players who tested positive.
Mifsud was presented with a memento from Sirens president Mark Borg Hadley in recognition of his contribution to the national team in a career spanning 20 years.
Lija dominated the first-half, far more mobile and imaginative in midfield and attack than Sirens who defended in depth and hoofed the ball clear when necessary.
Erjon Beu was within inches of putting Lija ahead after 12 minutes, sending a swerving free-kick narrowly wide.
Sirens escaped again on 23 minutes when Beu forced a save from David Cassar.
On the half hour mark, Juan Cruz Gill powered a downward header past Cassar, only to find Jonathan Pearson at the far post to block the ball.
Sirens then threatened a smash-and-grab when Luke Bonniċi needed to scoop away a free-kick from Romao Romeu.
On 39 minutes, Pedro Soares Gusso fired in a cross from the left, finding Miguel Jimenez at the centre. But Pearson made a vital block with his leg on the Lija striker to clear the danger.
At half-time, D’Amato replaced an ineffective Lucas Menezes with Ryan Grech to shore up the midfield.
But ten minutes into the second half, Sirens suffered a blow when Pearson limped off injured.
But against the odds, it was Sirens who carved out an opening chance minutes later when Wilfried Domoraud released Wellington but Bonniċi was alert to deny the striker.
In the second half, Lija had trouble coming up with fresh ideas in attack. It was the cue for D’Amato to throw caution to the wind, adding a third striker with the introduction of Mifsud.
Lija had the ball into the net only for the referee to annul the goal as Fernando Brandan was deemed to be in an offside positon when pouncing on a loose ball in the Sirens box.
And just as the match looked heading for a goalless draw, Wellington picked up the ball near the halfway line to exchange possession with Mifsud. The Brazilian pinged the ball in the space into which the Maltese striker intelligently run before seeing his shot deflected by Bonniċi into the path of Wellington for his first goal of the season.
The Maltese striker’s impact on the match was devastating. The only thing still missing was a goal and he duly netted two minutes later when he connected with Wellington’s ball to fire home.
It looked to be all over but more drama was in store when Mifsud spoiled his performance when he was dismissed, apparently for passing disparaging remarks.