Marsaxlokk put aside their injury crisis, which saw them being without eight of their regular starters, as they beat Qrendi 3-0 at the Victor Tedesco Stadium on Sunday.
With this win, Edgar Degabriele’s clan rose to third place on 11 points, one above Qrendi who were also lacking significant players such as prolific forward Alexander Nilsson.
Despite the scoreline, the match was a balanced encounter and it was the way both teams made use of their opportunities which made the difference as Marsaxlokk’s Italian duo Dennis Cartella and captain Pablo Doffo scored at both ends of half time, and Peter Xuereb closed off the game with another goal at the death.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, the southseasiders’ coach sounded his appreciation towards his players for the “sacrifices they are making” for the team.
“Qrendi are a very good team which will definitely get a lot of points and will surely be one of the challengers at the top,” Degabriele said.
“We had our three strikers – Juninho Cabral, Ryan Micallef and Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza all out. Plus, we had most of our midfield injured as well. So, I can’t thank my players enough today (Sunday) for the sacrifices they’re making.
“Today I had many players out of their usual position, but they were disciplined and because of that, we got the three points which will help us continue our fight to reach our goals.”
Degabriele also praised his side’s consistency, especially at the back which has helped them get three consecutive wins, two of which have been clean sheets.
“A win like this fills us with courage. We’ve come from consecutive wins and more importantly, we didn’t concede a goal for the second time in a row. A clean sheet always shows the strength in your defence and midfield,” he said.
With squads being put into quarantine as well as the massively congested schedules which teams are being set to follow, it is only natural that players might be more susceptible to injury.
“It affects us a lot,” Degabriele admitted.
“Because of COVID-19, we had been away from football since March, so pre-season was
completely different and it’s showing.
“We’ve got eight regular players out with different injuries and this worries me.
“It is a huge problem for our team, however, it also meant that we could introduce a player from our Under-17s which is good and that is because I trust my players and I believe in them.”
The few in attendance were made to wait the first half hour before Marsaxlokk opened proceedings as chances had been a few and far between.
Most of possession had been stuck in midfield but Doffo got his name on the scoresheet with a pinpoint free-kick on 32 minutes.
Marsaxlokk nearly made it two right after as Qrendi’s Emerson Vella was caught off balance and Ivan Paz hit a first-time volley which smashed the upright.
The second half was more or less similar, but Marsaxlokk went further in front after just five minutes this time. From a misplaced back pass towards Qrendi shotstopper Dunstan Zarb, which the latter could not clear away in time, Cartella sped into the area and hit an angled shot but even though Zarb stretched to save, this was not enough to stop the ball from going in.
Zarb did have his moment of glory right after the hour as Paz’s cross found Xuereb alert to head at goal from point-blank range but Zarb was just as ready to punch the ball away for a corner.
However, things went from bad to worse for Qrendi a few minutes later as they were forced to play the last 20 minutes with ten men after Steve Schembri was dismissed for a second booking.
Qrendi nearly found a way in on 87 minutes when from a Nicholas Pabon free-kick, goalkeeper Frederick Tabone was not able to hold onto the ball and Andrew Agius hit the ball in, but his ‘goal’ was annulled for offside.
Marsaxlokk hit the nail in Qrendi’s coffin one minute from time as they got their third goal after Gareth Barone’s shot was parried into the feet of Xuereb whose shot was too strong for Zarb to stop.
QRENDI: D. Zarb, L. Martinelli (86 J. Cachia), S. Schembri, B. Muscat (55 N. Pabon); D. Sammut, D. Bueno, E. Vella, D. Azzopardi, L. Schembri (55 A. Agius), M. Gatt (D. Vassallo), C. Camilleri.
MARSAXLOKK: F. Tabone, C. Degabriele, G. Barone, N. Ghio (81 R. Sammut), D. Cartella (86 J. Morales), P. Doffo, I. Paz, D. Sammut (81 M. Borg Bartolo), C. Brincat, P. Xuereb (90 T. Vassallo Mintoff), R. Fenech (86 Z. Mifsud).
Referee: Alex Johnson
Scorers: Doffo 32; Cartella 50; Xuereb 89
Red card: Steve Schembri (Q) 69.
Best Player: Dennis Cartella (Marsaxlokk)
MARSA: N. Vella; P. Chircop (66 J. Galea), J. Bondin, A. Monticelli, M. Micallef (75 P. Lapira), J. Lima (66 J. Galea), D. Grima, P. Teixeira (75 R. Coelho), F. Gusman, G. McKay, L. Micallef (66 L. Grech).
QORMI: J. Vella, O. Sidibe, C. Farrugia (41 I. Mizzi), D. Perassolli, L. Mallia (58 G. Sammut), A. Bonnici, I. Micallef (58 R. Caruana), J. Mizzi, N. Gauci, I. Zamit (67 D. Camilleri), L. Azzopardi.
Referee: Daniel Portelli
Scorers: Grima; Micallef 37, 57; Gusman 72; McKay 82.