Mġarr United, Luqa get first Challenge League points
Matchday Two of this season’s BOV Challenge League saw Group A leaders Pembroke Athleta replicate the 4-1 score from their first game of the season as newcomers Mġarr United and Luqa St Andrews registered their first positive results since their promotion from the National Amateur League. The Times of Malta looks at the weekend’s matches across the Division’s two groups…
Pembroke could not have had a better start to the season so far as last season’s ‘runners up’ – before the premature halt to the season – have managed two consecutive 4-1 victories, against Vittoriosa Stars in their opening fixture and on Sunday against newcomers Melita.
Pembroke took immediate control of the game, going three goals ahead before the break, through former Żejtun Corinthians player Jurgen Suda, Stefan Jankovic, and James Brincat. Camilo Andres Babilonia scored his team’s consolation goal before Weverton Gomes made it four in favour of Pembroke.
Fellow unbeaten sides Naxxar Lions and Żejtun also registered wins albeit with finer margins across the weekend as Naxxar edged St George’s 1-0 on Friday, while the Corinthians hit Rabat Ajax for two the next day.
Naxxar had to wait until the second half to grab the winner from an Edson Farias strike. Żejtun however, made sure of their victory against Rabat in the first 45 minutes with goals from Christian Degabriele just before the half-hour and Jean Carlos Goncalves right before the break.
Lija Athletic, who have been one of the most active clubs in terms of transfers over the summer, will be looking to find more chemistry within the side after scoring only their first point in two games on Saturday with a 2-2 draw against San Ġwann at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
It was Lija who opened the scoring through Roberio Santos after the change of ends. But San Ġwann rallied to what looked like a comeback with goals from Sjaak Kuyper and Dale Mifsud. However, Santos came to Lija’s rescue with a second goal at the death to ensure parity.
On Sunday, Mqabba made up for their 5-0 loss to Naxxar on day one with a 2-1 win over neighbours Vittoriosa Stars, who are still looking for their first points this season.
Leonard Farrugia opened proceedings for Mqabba right before the half-time whistle. Excitement brewed as Vittoriosa equalized with 15 minutes to go through Hugo Santa Rosa Cruz. However, this parity lasted only a minute as Ryan Spiteri brought the lead back to Mqabba.
Mġarr United and Luqa St Andrews earned the first points of their Challenge League experience over the weekend as Mġarr beat Senglea Athletic 1-0, the latter in a sticky situation after two matchdays with no points to show despite being one of the related teams from the Premier League. Luqa managed a 1-1 draw against largely quoted Marsa.
Mġarr, in their first-ever appearance in the Challenge League after having been a ‘bye’ on Matchday One, secured their first three points with a shot from the spot at the death in a game which could have been high-scoring were it not a day for defences.
The Greens were the more dominant side on Saturday but could not find the net before substitute James Oghenekewaro was tripped right inside the area in the dying minutes of the game. Fellow substitute Gordon Saliba will have the honour of being the side’s first goalscorer in this division as he made no mistake to send the ball home from the spot-kick.
Last season’s leaders Marsa could not contain Amateur League winners Luqa on Sunday and will be aiming to turn things around after only securing two draws in their opening two matches.
Luqa held their own against Enzo Potenza’s men and opened the score after the half-hour with a Lucky Nwaogu strike. But Amadou Samb spared his side of the embarrassment with a goal on the hour to earn a point.
Fgura United were the weekend’s opening delight after beating Żebbug Rangers 3-0 on Friday. In their first win of the season, Fgura sparked into action on the half-hour with a goal from Kenny Gandini and went further ahead nine minutes later through Dylan Caruana. The match was well over by the hour as Rafael Prudente got his side’s third without reply.
Similarly, the weekend’s final group B game saw leaders Pieta’ Hotspurs cruise past St. Andrews 3-1 on Sunday. The Hotspurs went ahead almost immediately as Yuto Morita opened the score after just three minutes. James Scicluna made it two before Joseph Farrugia got one back for St. Andrews. But there was no way back as Brooklyn Borg score the side’s third on 73 minutes.
Tarxien Rainbows could not emulate their Matchday One performance as they were held by Swieqi United to a goalless draw.