With the 2021-22 season reaching a decisive stage, Challenge League teams, particularly in the opposite ends of the standings, will be searching for every point available in order to safeguard their status.
While for the top teams it is their promotion status, in the case of Rabat Ajax and St George’s, survival is their top priority at the moment.
The Ajax took an important step towards survival when they cruised past St George’s 3-0 at the Centenary Stadium in windy conditions.
The Magpies administered the weather conditions to their favour, using this advantage to score three second-half goals without response.
Rabat coach Vesko Petrovic believes the win will motivate his side to fight on.
“The performance today was expected for quite some time,” Petrovic told the Times of Malta.
“We made quite a bit of changes, but we had prepared for these things. As for the weather conditions today, we knew from the beginning that if in the first half we managed to play against the wind, the second half would have been much easier and we could have an extra advantage.
“The team performed really well and what we had been preparing all week, came out well today.”
Ahead of Monday’s fixture, the sides stood in the final two places of the standings, with Rabat three points below ninth-placed Vittoriosa Stars, a team that had just been thumped by second-place Naxxar Lions 9-2 on Sunday. St George’s, however, will have needed much more than a win on Monday to improve their already slim chances to stay up, having only won four points throughout the season.
Rabat have now moved level with Vittoriosa on 13 points but with a game in hand, and only four points below Mqabba.
Asked about how important such a win will be on the team, Petkovic admitted it was vital ahead of the upcoming matches.
“It is a big push forward because it changes our attitude, the mood of the players, and the atmosphere, it gives them an extra boost,” Petrovic said.
“I would say (our struggles) were a lot of unfortunate situations because we were performing really well as a team until the time we went into quarantine – when the whole team was out before the match against San Gwann,” he said.
“That was a setback for us and we found it very difficult to come back to the road that we are on right now. Then even more with the changes of the foreigners and the many issues that we are trying to overcome, but unfortunately that is part of football too and we have to accept these things. But at least, today’s win gives us an extra bit of motivation to fight until the end.”
The match took on a somewhat slow start with first-half chances few and far between. In fact, it took St George’s Lawrence Chiedozie 15 minutes to hit the game’s first shot, which went wide off the mark.
Rabat had their first chance on 36 minutes when Larens Vella skied a volley after St George’s custodian Levi Saliba mistimed an incoming cross.
However, it was St George’s just before the break who had the best chance when Nick Borg met a Chiedozie cross with a header which was just kept out by Rabat goalkeeper Jean Matthias Vella.
The second half spelt trouble for St George’s as goalkeeper Saliba was caught unprepared, only managing to parry away a long shot from the kick-off. From the ensuing corner, Rabat went ahead with a Darko Todorovski header.
It was all Rabat now and four minutes later, they went further ahead. American forward Melvin Akingboye moved past his marker, hit a low cross for Todorovski to tap in for his brace as Saliba was unable to hold onto the shot.
It was all over on 56 minutes, as a throughball was met by Rabat’s Vella on the run, who put in another low cross from the right flank for Akingboye to get a goal himself.
St George’s lacked the final touch despite creating various opportunities, and this continued to haunt them until the final whistle.
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