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BOV Division One

‘Staying humble is the only secret’ for unbeaten Pembroke Athleta

Pembroke Athleta and Marsaxlokk took a point each following a 2-2 draw. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Challenge League Group A leaders Pembroke Athleta are the only still-unbeaten side across both groups, however, their 2-2 draw against fifth-placed Marsaxlokk showed they might have a fight on their hands if they are to keep this streak alive.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Pembroke coach Jacques Scerri said that despite his side wanting all three points, a draw was a reasonable finish.

“The result is not bad, even though we always wanted to go for the three points, especially with the way the game panned out,” Scerri said.

“When we were two goals ahead, I think we could have administered the game better as ironically, we conceded in the second half which was our best spell.

“We were much better in the second half but with all things considered, Marsaxlokk deserved something as they also played well and the result is a reasonable one.

“I think the draw was more meaningful for us than for them (Marsaxlokk) because the gap is still a substantial one of 11 points.”

Both coaches were in agreement about whether the result was fair, with Marsaxlokk coach Pablo Doffo saying his team deserved the point.

“Especially in the first half, we were creating a lot of chances. After their first opportunity, they scored and we conceded another goal immediately,” Doffo explained.

“I told my players to stay calm, ‘If we manage to score a goal, for sure we will get something from this game’, and I think that we deserved this draw.”

Pembroke lead the group with 10 wins and four draws. Scerri believes it is credit to the humble nature of the team.

“As we have been since the beginning of the season, we have always had the same objective – looking at every game as a final,” Scerri said.

“We go onto the pitch and we fight for the three points every game. Even though we are still unbeaten, and we are having a very good season, we must remain humble and keep on working – that is the secret to success here.

“We’ve got six games left and all of them are finals for us.”

Unlike the leaders, the focus of the Marsaxlokk squad is to become a better group of players.

“We knew from the beginning that we were forming a new squad this season,” Doffo said.

“We got around 20 new players and it took time to amalgamate the team. I think now we are performing, and we are taking it game by game.”

Asked about what he wants for the final few matches of the season, the Marsaxlokk coach said the team’s goal is to overcome Mqabba in their next fixture.

“The aim is to try and win the next game against Mqabba – another difficult game. Then we will see if other teams give us the chance by losing some points because this is not in our hands unfortunately. If we have the chance, we will give our 100 per cent.”

Slow start

The match on Saturday took a slow start and it was after 17 minutes that Marsaxlokk hit the first shot of the game but Rene Caseres’s shot from a counter-attack was tipped away by Pembroke goalkeeper Matthew Grech.

Pembroke responded with an easily saved free-kick on 21 minutes but eight minutes later, the leaders opened the scoring when Stefan Jankovic tapped in after a fantastic solo play by Connor Zammit, beating his marker on the flank with a dribble.

Jankovic got his brace before the break when the Serbian curled in a low shot from right inside the area which drifted into the net.

The second half saw Marsaxlokk push to get back into the game, and they did this on the hour mark.

Substitute Ryan Tonna made a near-instant impact when his angled shot from the left flew into the bottom corner.

Within five minutes, the sides were level again as Marsaxlokk made a comeback when Xuan Cappellino met a cross put in by Terrence Vella, heading the ball into the net.

Marsaxlokk also went close to taking the game late on when Vella put in another cross from the right, but this time, Cappellino’s well-timed header was parried away perfectly by Grech on the line to keep the score at par.

OTHER RESULTS

GROUP A

Lija Athletic vs Melita  1-2

Rabat Ajax vs Mqabba 2-2

Naxxar Lions vs Żejtun C.          1-2

San Gwann vs Vittoriosa           3-2

GROUP B

Żebbuġ vs Senglea Athletic      4-1

Qrendi vs Marsa          0-4

Swieqi United vs St Andrews   1-4

Mġarr United vs Pieta`              0-2

Tarxien vs Luqa SA       3-0

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