Sixth-place side Fgura United will be hoping to turn around their shaky start to the second round after last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Luqa St Andrews.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Fgura coach Kevin Vella believes his side deserves to be higher in the standings. However, Fgura have not yet satisfied expectations so far and Vella said the win over Luqa was crucial for them.
“This game was very important for our team, after two straight losses,” Vella said, “It was crucial to return to winning ways.
“Luqa, despite being in last place, always make every team work hard. Wind made a lot of difference today. We scored two goals in the first half and controlled the game. They (Luqa) went into the second half fired up and scored.
“In the second half, we risked conceding another goal and finishing 2-2, but we were also close to making it 3-1. In football, matches are episodic and this time, the episodes were in our favour.”
Asked about his expectations for the second round, Vella admitted he had expected better.
With a draw against Swieqi United as well as losses to Zebbug Rangers and St. Andrews, the Fgura coach said his target is to win the matches that are direct encounters.
“In the first round, we got six points in the first three matches but when we faced Luqa, Mġarr and Qrendi, we dropped five points and so these are our target,” he said.
“I believe that our team deserves to be higher in the standings but the table is how it is. We need to now concentrate on Mġarr as it is important for us as it is for them – the table is very tight this year.”
Challenge League newcomers Luqa have struggled in their debut season, unable to match the strength of the more-experienced sides.
However, after Saturday’s match, coach Edmond Lufi showed praise towards his players for the fight that they showed on the pitch.
“I’m very happy with the performance of my players. They gave everything, considering that the situation isn’t one which really motivates you. However, they gave everything and the two goals came from mistakes which have unfortunately been the story of this season, probably due to the lack of experience in this league,” Lufi admitted.
“This year, things have been tough but I’m happy with my players and we’re going to try and take the most out of every game in terms of experience.”
Speaking about the decline throughout the season, Lufi said that because the squad’s depth isn’t enough, the players have struggled more.
“In the beginning, we had a pretty good start – we won against Pietà, drew against Marsa and Swieqi. But as the season went along, injuries and reduced number of players – we have a short squad list – put us under pressure and the thing I asked the committee was to bring in more players because we were struggling,” Lufi said.
“However, this is an experience for us, and the players are trying their best. It’s not easy for anyone, especially for us in our first season in the division.”
Luqa were the first team to register a shot after just three minutes, when Mario Dominicius fired wide with a low shot. The ensuing minutes showed a balanced encounter, until just past the half-hour mark, when Fgura opened proceedings.
With Luqa appearing shaky in defence, Fgura’s Rafael Conrado Prudente pounced on a misplaced pass, finding space inside the area and hitting a low angled shot past goalkeeper Pablo Villar Flores.
Adrenaline was high among the Fgura players as they were close to a second after two minutes when from another counter, Jeremy Micallef shot the ball well over.
But this was not a problem as from yet another misplaced pass in defence for Luqa on 33 minutes, Donys Quintero put in a low cross for Prudente to grab his brace with a tap-in.
Luqa coach Lufi made a tactical substitution, roping in Andy Camilleri for Julian Camilleri to change the dynamic.
This worked in their favour just past the break when on 48 minutes, Luqa got a goal back.
After a foul way out in the Fgura half, Larson Mallia fired in a long freekick which floated straight into the net past the crowded area and the stunned Fgura goalkeeper Lydon Moore.
They had a chance to equalise around ten minutes later when from a run on the right, beating his marker with speed, Lucky Nwaogu Chibuzor cut into the box and had no less than two shots blocked, the latter sent to a corner.
However, Luqa had Villar Flores to thank after he dived to save a perfectly taken free-kick from flying into the top corner. This was to be his final contribution to the game as he was taken off to make way for Xavier Portelli, with the side already at the foreign players’ limit.
Portelli was close to having a nightmare in his 10 minutes on the pitch as from an interception on the halfway line, three Fgura players chased forward with Prudente holding possession before laying it off to substitute Gabriel Borg whose shot smashed the crossbar.
Naxxar L. vs San Ġwann 0-3
Melita vs St George’s 3-0
Vittoriosa S. vs Lija A. 1-5
Pembroke vs Rabat 3-0
Żejtun C. vs Marsaxlokk 1-2
Żebbuġ vs Swieqi 3-1
Senglea vs Qrendi 2-3
St Andrews vs Tarxien 1-3
Marsa vs Mġarr Utd 1-0