SANTA LUCIA 1
Vieira 10, Effiong 59, Reid 90
J. Archibald-5, R. Prates-6, J. Pisani-5, G. Conti-6.5 (82 N. Pulis), P. Silva-6, V. Plut-5.5 (60 F. Farias-5), A. Souza da Silva-7, J.Tanti-4 (60 J. Carbone-4), V. Filho-5.5, J. Zerafa-5 (72 K. Xuereb), D. Xuereb-4.
J. Debono-6, J. Blanco-6, R. Tachikawa-6, V. Vieira-7 (81 D. Jackson), A. Effiong-6.5 (66 C. Zammit Lonardelli-4), A. Borg-6, J. Walker-5, F. Brandan-7, C. Riascos-6, K. Reid-7.
Referee: Etienne Mangion.
Yellow cards: Prates, Albanese, Zerafa.
BOV Player of the match: Fernando Brandan (Sirens).
Former Malta striker Alfred Effiong returned to goalscoring form in Sirens’ 3-1 victory over Santa Lucia that lifted the Northenders to third in the Premier League standings.
Effiong, without a goal since February, struck early in the second half to double Sirens’ advantage after Victor Vieira’s opener before Kemar Reid lashed home a third as Sirens, one of this season’s surprise packages, registered their second win of the season.
Patience was a virtue for Sirens as Winston Muscat’s high-fliers prodded and probed against Santa Lucia before Vieira made the breakthrough.
Sirens played a disciplined game against an adventurous Sta Lucia side, designed to put an end to their winless campaign.
However, the Saints failed to conjure clear-cut chances. Their late goal only served only as a wake-up call. Sirens had a stranglehold of the game which Oliver Spiteri’s troops were trying to shake off but to little avail.
Spiteri knew Sirens would be a tough team to break down and so it proved from the start.
Victor Filho’s low cross in the sixth minute found Vito Plut prowling at the far post, but his shot went over the bar.
On the other side, Effiong’s through-ball in his first telling touch almost helped Sirens into the lead only for the outstretched leg of Julani Archibald to block Kemar Reid’s effort. Archibald stood tall again to snuff Rei Tachikawa’s threat on the rebound.
Nevertheless, it was Sirens who had the ball in the net. Fernando Brandan hit a cross from the left, Vitor Vieira was in the box to head the Argentine’s ball low into the far corner.
Spiteri’s side refused to concede to Sirens’ hustling despite going behind, maintaining a patient passing approach in a bid to wear their opponents down.
On 38 minutes, Sirens were firmly on the back-foot when Jonathan Debono saved a Jamie Zerafa shot when they were left exposed by Alan da Silva Souza’s slick move on the left.
Alan’s trickery immediately after the break signalled their intentions of forcing their way back into the match. The Brazilian’s failed to capitalise on his good movement, fluffing a shot while off-balance into the arms of grateful goalkeeper Debono.
His miss was a let-off for the Northenders, who then went on to double their lead courtesy of Effiong.
Diego Albanese provided the telling cross to the onrushing Effiong who left himself almost no margin of error in sliding the ball in between the near post and the goalkeeper on 59 minutes.
Just when it seemed Sirens would stroll to victory, Andre Prates set pulses racing on the Sirens bench by heading home Alan’s free-kick five minutes from time.
In the second minute of added time, Jacob Walker got in a vital block on substitute Francisco Farias when Santa Lucia felt he had been fouled by the Sirens defender.
It mattered little, though, as Reid headed home a Degran Jackson for Sirens’ crucial killer goal.
The third goal was no less than Sirens deserved and ensured their fairytale start continued as they moved third behind Hibernians and Birkirkara.