ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
El Bakhtaoui 28
NAXXAR LIONS 0
M. Debono, J. Mbong, C. Mercieca, Dodo (90 S. Attard), A. Oyama, S. Borg, M. Fedele (66 P. Djordjevic), K. Micallef, C. Dielna (76 L. Gambin), E. Marcelina, F. El Bakhtaoui.
O. Borg, R. Mercieca, J. Debono, G. Xuereb (55 E. Cerqueira), A. Azzopardi, R. Cassar, J. Ellul (73’ G. Poncet Otero), D. Fenech (55 D. Bonnici), M. Fenech, D. Kassekar (87 A. Galea, L. Schembri (55 G. Carrara).
Referee Darryl Agius.
Yellow cards Dielna, Kassekar.
Ħamrun Spartans booked a spot in the Round of 16 of the Izibet FA Trophy, where they would be meeting Balzan, as they defeated Naxxar Lions 1-0.
It was a drab encounter with shots at goal being few and far in between, especially during the first half.
In fact, more was expected from the Spartans who were coming from a heavy 1-4 defeat to Gżira United in their last Premier League outing as apart from goalkeeper Matthias Debono and Christian Mercieca, the rest of the starting line-up was made up of regular starters.
Naxxar almost took the lead after just two minutes when Mark Fenech’s curling shot from outside the area hit the upright with goalkeeper Debono beaten.
However, in their first attempt at goal, the Spartans took the lead. Christian Mercieca entered the area from the left and served Faissal El Bakhtaoui who slammed the ball home from close range.
On the half hour, the hard-working El Bakhtaoui went close once again with a header from close range following a cross by Arthur Oyama from the left.
For the rest of the first half and early in the second half, play was concentrated in midfield with the two goalkeepers hardly being tested. However, in the final thirty minutes, Ħamrun did try to get a second goal to seal the issue.
On 61 minutes, Oyama delivered a corner from which Joseph Mbong’s header was parried by Omar Borg and eight minutes later, Predrag Djordjevic’s powerful drive was blocked by the Naxxar custodian. Luke Gambin then had a shot from outside the area parried by Borg.
Four minutes from time, the Spartans missed an excellent opportunity with Dodo hitting sky high from an ideal position following an inviting pass by El Bakthaoui from the right. Finally, El Bakhtaoui had a low shot from the right neutralised by the Naxxar goalkeeper.
Photo c/o Stephen Gatt.