SANTA LUCIA 0
C. Farrugia-6, T. Desira Tabone-6.5, A. Prates-7, K. Correia-7, A. Magri Overand-5.5, L. Motta-6 (63 G. De Araujo), K. Ante Rosero-6.5, V. Filho-6, J. Zerafa-6, R. Tachikawa-7, K. Xuereb-6.
S. Guarnone-6, E. Pepe-6, Y. Yankam-6, L. Montebello-5 (73 Caio), P. Mbong-6, R. Briffa-5.5, F. Falcone-5 (82 K. Zammit), C. Attard-6.5, C. Bonanni-5.5, O. Carniello-5, A. Alves-5.
Referee: Malcolm Spiteri.
Yellow card: Filho.
BOV player of match: Alex Alves (Birkirkara).
Sta Lucia were able to shake off any possible inhibitions against a Birkirkara side who had shown a marked improvement lately.
Oliver Spiteri’s side stood their ground against opponents whose high aspirations are understandably bringing more pressure to bear for their players, now that they had won six out of their last nine matches.
In fact, the Stripes were after nothing less than a victory against opponents whose aspirations are not so lofty.
After a timid opening to the match, Sta Lucia were never outplayed as their massed midfield formation behind a steady Kevin Ante Rosero posed problems to their opponents.
Their central defensive partnership made of Kevin Correia and André Prates yielded nothing as Rei Tachikawa’s intelligence and Kieren Xuereb’s non-stop running created problems for Birkirkara.
André Paus played Roderick Briffa as a makeshift left back. Up front Luke Montebello and Alex Alves played either side of Federico Falcone with Paul Mbong probing for openings from central midfield.
The first fire-cracker was provided by Birkirkara after just 21 seconds. Mbong, set free by Montebello, hit fiercely towards goal only for Christopher Farrugia to block his attempt.
Montebello had a great opportunity to score but his first-time shot was high from Cain Attard’s cross.
Gradually Birkirkara’s early promise fizzled out.
Sta Lucia were prudent in the initial exchanges but having weathered Birkirkara’s early burst, they gradually began to gain ground. On 35 minutes, Leandro Motta squared to Kieren Xuereb whose effort grazed the side-netting.
Victor Filho, constantly lurking on the left-flank, kept pulling back Attard. Two minutes into the second half, the Brazilian sprinted down the left before floating a dangerous ball into the box. Motta ran to meet the cross. but his effort was saved by Sandro Guarnone.
The Stripes needed their creative elements to produce a moment of magic and this was provided by Mbong on 53 minutes.
The striker outsmarted his marker on the edge of the box before scooping a swerving shot which smacked against the crossbar.
Sensing his team’s difficulties to penetrate the Sta Lucia rearguard, Enrico Pepe collected possession deep in his own half, surged forward, outsprinted two defenders before hitting a rising shot which was blocked into a corner by Farrugia.
At this point, Paus made an attacking change bringing on Caio for Montebello.
The nippy Brazilian was soon in the thick of things, as he served Yankam, who looped the ball over to Timothy Tabone Desira before hitting it feebly straight at Farrugia.
But in the end the stalemate prevailed.