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BOV Division One

‘Teams are forced to play too many games,’ says Rabat coach

RABAT AJAX     3

VITTORIOSA STARS      0

Rabat Ajax coach Vesko Petrovic insisted Rabat Ajax are alive and kicking in their battle against relegation after claiming a priceless victory over fellow strugglers Vittoriosa Stars.

“After the heavy defeat against San Ġwann, we had to hit the reset button and pick the players up. It was a psychological issue not a football one. Today, the players executed the plan to perfection. We deserved this win,” Petrovic told the Times of Malta.

Rabat Ajax hit the headlines in the past few weeks after the team was forced to enter quarantine after an increasing number of COVID-19 cases and the club was handed a very hectic schedule before heading to the international break.

Petrovic lamented his squad are being forced to play too many games in this period.

“We have six matches in the space of 22 days. Our team is not shaped to play every three days. We are not professionals,” said Petrovic.

“With COVID-19 (rising cases), other teams will face a similar situation in the near future. The Malta FA must look into these issues,” the former Rabat and Valletta player added.

Petrovic explained that he had only a day to prepare for the 7-2 defeat against San Ġwann after the team was in self-isolation for nine days due to a small coronavirus outbreak at the club.

Three days later, they suffered a narrow defeat to Naxxar Lions.

The Malta FA then moved quickly to shoehorn the match against Lija Athletic into a ‘vacant slot’ three days before Christmas after the original fixture had to be postponed.

Before the Lija match, Rabat need to play against Pietá Hotspurs in the FA Trophy and Melita FC in the championship.

On his part, Vincent Carbonaro, the Vittoriosa coach, was left disappointed with his side’s start to the game and said that it had cost them the points.

“Credit to Rabat they started better. We got a reaction after their goal and forced a number of flag-kicks.

“In the second half, after their second half, we tried to score goals, but we did not manage to put some of those chances away as their goalkeeper blocked at least three goal-scoring efforts,” he explained.

“Three points today, we would have provided us with a huge boost. When you look at the table, we would have climbed the ladder,” he added.

Carbonaro also complained about the congested fixtures in December.

“We also had our own COVID-19 cases, had to play twice this month already and we have two other fixtures before Christmas. We have a very limited squad, everyone at the club is trying their best to improve the team. We will not throw in the towel, but today’s result was a setback for us,” he concluded.

As expected with so much at stake, it was a tense opening. Rabat appeared to settle the quicker of the two teams, not that there was much flowing football on display.

After seven minutes, Nicolai Attard broke into the area and hit a shot that crashed against the crossbar.

Vittoriosa failed to heed the early warning as the Ajax proceeded to play the better football in what was an entertaining opening period.

Five minutes later, Gaston Otero showed the touches of class that have so endeared him to the Rabat fans when he took two steps forward and lashed a shot beyond Edward Gatt from 30 metres.

But the Stars refused to let their heads drop, and Jean Matthias Vella blocked a point-blank shot from Alessio Cassar.

Rabat came out of the blocks faster again after the break. Elmir Lekaj’s curling free-kick forced a brilliant save from Gatt.

But soon after, Vittoriosa defence crumbled once more as Adam Smeir wriggled his way on the left flank and laid on the perfect pass for Zachary Tanti who headed the ball into the top corner.

In the 78th minute, Smeir set Larens Vella clear down the right, but his low shot was blocked by the onrushing Gatt as the striker wasted a glorious chance to wrap up the proceedings for Rabat.

Rabat were keen to sign off in style, Smeir squared the ball for Otero who hit a low shot behind Gatt.

RABAT AJAX: J. Vella, E. Lekaj, J. Caruana (32 M. Cassar), N. Attard, B. Micallef, L.Vella (90 M. Aquilina), G. Poncet Otero (90 L. Farrugia), A. Bustos, A. Smeir (90 B. Farrugia), S. Abela, Z. Tanti.

VITTORIOSA STARS: E.Gatt, C. Spiteri (83 A. Galea), A. Cassar ( 83 J. Iwueke), K. Mercieca ( 72 A. Micallef), E. Grech, E. Tejumola, J. Farrugia, H. Cruz, D. Sowatey (56 A. Oularbi), Q. Bregman, I. Galea.

Referee Slawomir Olucha.

OTHER RESULTS

St George’s vs Żejtun C.            3-5

Pembroke vs San Ġwann          1-1

Mqabba vs Lija Athletic             1-1

Marsaxlokk vs Naxxar L.            3-0

Qrendi vs Żebbuġ R.    2-0

Marsa vs Swieqi United            2-2

Pietà H. vs Tarxien R.  1-3

Fgura Utd vs Senglea A.            2-2

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