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Lija show fighting spirit to beat Tarxien

Lija Athletic put up a fighting display to beat Tarxien Rainbows. Photo: Malta FA

LIJA ATHLETIC 2

Jimenez 18, Brandan 66pen

TARXIEN RAINBOWS 0

Lija A: L. Bonniċi-6, L. Muscat-6, I. Borg-6, N. Micallef-7, F. Brandan-7, W. Serrano-6, M. Jimenez-7, J. Cruz Gill-6 (78 H. Wood), C. Giordimaina-6, C. Flores-6, V. Alhinho-6 (73 D. Scerri).

Tarxien R: J. Borg-5, C. Conceicao-5, E. Zarate Bilbao-6, D. Falzon-4, V. Plut-4, E. Rosado-6, L. Sciberras-5 (60 J. Debono), I. Paz-6, K. Gatt-5, R. Kooh Sohna-4, C. Escobar-4.

Referee: Slobodan Petrovic.

Yellow cards: Alhinho, Giordimaina, Paz, Conceicao, Escobar, Kooh Sohna

BOV player of the match: Fernando Javier Brandan (Lija A)

Lija Athletic produced some bright and positive football to surprise their nearest rivals and reach them on a 12-point mark with a game in hand.

Joseph Galea’s troops made a nonsense of suggestions that they have already thrown in the towel and demonstrated that there may still be life left for sides lingering at the wrong end of the table with a brilliant match.

Tarxien coach Winston Muscat picked his team with defence in mind, stringing five players across the back. Darren Falzon played as a makeshift right back in a reshaped defence with Luke Sciberras, Ivan Paz and Edison Bilbao Zarate providing a midfield supply base for front-runners Raphael Kooh Sohna and Vito Plut.

This was an open invitation for Lija to exploit open spaces in midfield and they accepted it with relish.

Miguel Jimenez had them in front after 18 minutes. Fernado Brandan chested the ball in the penalty box before arching backwards to produce an overhead kick that was blocked by the Tarxien defence, Jimenez poked in the rebound from close-range.

Within two minutes of their breakthrough, Lija could have doubled their lead as Jiminez was left unchallenged in the box as he rose to head a corner from the left but Jurgen Borg produced a smart save to deny him.

Falzon’s deadball expertise gave Tarxien some hope when he bent a delightful strike from free-kick which finished just wide off the far post.

Muscat tweaked his formation at half-time, allowing Falzon to push on extremely high up the flank. Lija almost inevitably, could not keep up the pace of the first half but Jimenez came close again on 55 minutes when his angled drive was blocked by Borg on the goal line.

Ten minutes later, Lija were awarded a penalty when Camilo Escobar, down on the ground, hit the ball with his arm in an attempt to block Neil Micallef’s corner. From the spot, Brandan sent Borg the wrong way.

On 86 minutes, a superb pass from the halfway line by Brandan set up Carlos Flores for an exquisite shot from just outsude the box which crashed against the upright.

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