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Birkirkara punish sloppy Gżira United

Birkirkara midfielder Yannik Yankam avoids a challenge from Gabriel Bohrer. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

BIRKIRKARA 1

Montebello 10

GŻIRA UNITED 0

BIRKIRKARA

A.Sylla-7, E. Pepe-6.5, Y. Yankam-7 (89 E. Ruiz), L.Montebello-6, C. Bonanni6-, J. Nsumoh-5 (64 P. Mbong-), R. Scicluna-6, B. Ngissah-5 (64 F. Falcone), O. Carniello-7, L. Aguirre-5, D. Venacio-6.

GŻIRA UNITED

D. Zarkov-6, G. Bohrer-7, M. Cosic-5.5, N. Muscat-6, S. Pisani-6.5, Z. Scerri-5 (90 L. Tabone), A. Pavic-7, N. Portelli-5 (46 C. Gauci-5), M. Maxuell-5, Jefferson-4, J. Mendoza-6 (46 T. Kolega-5.5),

Referee: Glen Tonna.

Yellow card: Jefferson, Bonanni, Yankam, Muscat, Sylla

BOV player of the match: Amara Sylla (Birkirkara).

Birkirkara edged past a careless Gżira United side to climb third in the standings, level with Ħamrun Spartans and seven points adrift of runaway leaders Hibernians.

It was an early Luke Montebello strike that sealed this victory for Birkirkara on an afternoon when little went right for Gżira United.

The Maroons dominated possession, pinning Birkirkara back for long periods in the second half, but a defensive error early in the match cost them the points.

Montebello capitalised on a mistake by Zach Scerri to put Birkirkara in the lead before the interval.

Gżira dominated the second-half, far more mobile and imaginative in midfield and attack compared to Birkirkara who defended in-depth and hoofed clear when necessary.

But the Stripes, visibly tired after their fourth game in 11 days, held on to record an important victory.

André Paus deployed Diego Venancio in front of defence in a 4-1-2-3 formation with Johnson Nsumoh, Bismark Ngissah and Luke Montebello leading the attacking charge.

On his part, Darren Abdilla picked a 4-3-3 formation with no recognised striker as Steven Pisani, Maxuell Maia and Jefferson were given the freedom to roam and interchange up front.

But the Maroons were their own worst enemies yesterday. In the 10th minute, following a cross by Ryan Scicluna, Scerri totally missed the ball on the bounce allowing Montebello to pounce and slot the ball behind Darijan Zarkov.

Gżira looked disjointed and surrendered possession too cheaply in midfield while they continued to be sloppy at the back early on.

On 22 minutes, Ngissah darted into the box squared for Nsumoh but Gabriel Bohrer admirably kept his composure, got behind Zarkov to clear off the line.

The Maroons refused to let their defensive errors to change the way they played in an open game.

In 25th minute, only an inch-perfect sliding tackle from Diego Venancio denied Jefferson the opportunity to come one-on-one with the young Birkirkara goalkeeper.

Amara Sylla was pressed into action on the half-hour stroke when he had to stick out an arm to tip Pisani’s free-kick over the bar.

Eight minutes later, Sylla made a fine save racing off his line, thwarting Jefferson from the edge of the box and clearing the ball his leg.

Darren Abdilla knew he needed to shift the momentum away from Birkirkara and he chose to try to do it with a double substitution after the break, replacing Nevin Portelli and Jackson Mendoza with Toni Kolega and Clive Gauci.

Both were involved on 56 minutes as Gżira tried to unsettle Birkirkara, only for Gauci’s close-range effort to finish just wide off the near post.

The Birkirkara coach introduced the attacking duo Federico Falcone and Paul Mbong in an attempt to punish the Maroons’ flat-out approach.

On 69 minutes, Steve Pisani drifted a free-kick into the heart of the Birkirkara area but his inviting ball found no takers.

Then, Nikolai Muscat crossed for the dangerous Antonio Pavic who forced Sylla into a save from a low effort.

In the dying minutes, the game petered out as Gżira kept possession but rarely threatened as Birkirkara held on for the win.

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