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Stripes keep winning touch

Birkirkara's Caio (right) moves the ball ahead of Tarxien's Vanger. Photo: Stephen Gatt

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Montebello 56, 78


Birkirkara: A. Guarnone -6, L. Montebello-7.5, R. Briffa-6.5 (89 N. Friggieri), K. Zammit-6, Y. Yankam-6, F. Falcone-6 (83 F. Verde), C. Attard-5.5, C. Bonanni-7, Caio-6, O. Carniello-6, A. Alves-7 (74 P. Mbong).

Tarxien Rainbows: D. Marcio Fernandes-6, A. Carneiro-6, B. Muscat-6, D. Falzon-4, M. Spiteri-5 (83 K. Pulo), V. Plut-4, J. Debono-5 (59 M. Miranda-), Vanger-5 (89 D. Tabone), E. Rosando-5, K. Gatt-5 (83 K. Attard), M. Tabone-4.

Referee: Emanuel Grech

BOV player of the match: Luke Montebello (Birkirkara).

After a series of very unsettled league outings, Birkirkara reminded all and sundry that they have the qualities to join the hot aspirants for the title, by keeping up the recent momentum and disposing of Tarxien Rainbows by three clear goals.

Although Tarxien sprang a surprise when they beat Valletta 3-1 last weekend, it was too much to expect another shock result from them at the expense of the high-flying Birkirkara.

The Stripes, back on the winning trail against Gudja United, were in no mood for mercy and their convincing victory over the Rainbows testified their intentions to embark on the road of redemption.

That resoluteness was backed up by a solid performance and a fine cutting edge when their forwards were within shooting range.

Luke Montebello was a forceful central striker, Alex Alves showed scoring precision, and Roderick Briffa and Caio supplied the playmaking skills. All the others pulled their weight manfully.

In particular, Briffa was again dropped deeper to centre-back, thus linking the defence with midfield.

Anderson Carneiro filled the void left by the absence of Daniel Zerafa – who is out injured – in the only change made by Tarxien from the team that won 3-1 against Valletta.

The same players in the same formation will deliver the same goods against Tarxien, André Paus must have thought as he put the same starting XI for the second game in a row.

The Stripes needed less than eight minutes to vindicate their coach’s decision when Luke Montebello squared the ball for Federico Falcone who hit the ball past the wrong-footed Daniel Fernandes.

The goal knocked Tarxien out of their stride – they had until then just about held their own in terms of possession.

Tarxien’s 5-3-2 formation was designed to combat Alves’ marauding runs on the flanks. His striking partner, Montebello, also caused the Tarxien defence problems. The Brazilian forward sprung the offside trap and took the ball into the area before cutting it back to Montebello who saw Fernandes block his effort.

It took an outstanding save from the Portuguese goalkeeper to prevent Alex Alves from doubling the score, past the half hour mark.

The Rainbows created little until a lightning-quick break almost caught Birkirkara cold when Vanger slashed a shot across goal.

Fernandes rescued his defenders with another fine save after Alves played a neat one-two with Kurt Zammit before the former’s stinging 20-metre drive was superbly repelled by the goalkeeper. From the ensuing corner, the Brazilian propelled an inswinger that was tipped over the bar by the goalkeeper.

Tarxien, though failed to heed the warning. Some woeful defending saw Rainbows fail to clear a ball, and Kylie Gatt’s hacked clearance fell to Montebello who gleefully swept home from no more than nine metres, to score for the second consecutive match.

With the shackles released, Montebello produced a piece of superb finishing on 78 minutes. Claudio Bonanni was the creator with a glorious pass from the backline, before the striker forced the ball through the legs of Matthew Tabone and thenpast Fernandes at the far post.

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