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Gżira United jolt Floriana’s title charge

Floriana striker Kristian Keqi (centre) shoots at goal against Gżira United. Photo: Jonathan Bugeja

FLORIANA         0

GŻIRA UNITED 1           

Kolega 16


G. Kitanov-6, A. Magri Overend-6, O. El Hasni-6, Z, Cassar-6, R. Hovsepyan-6 (64 B. Paiber), K. Keqi-5.5 (46 K. Reid-6.5), U. Arias-6, A. Ciolacu-6.5, E. Callegari-6, J. Busuttil-6.5 (81 M. Veselji), R. Camenzuli-6.5.


D. Zarkov-7, G. Bohrer-6.5, M. Cosic-6, L. Tabone-6, N. Muscat-6, S. Pisani-6, T. Kolega-6.5, Y. Messias-6.5, A. Pavic-6, N. Portelli-6, J. Attard-6.

Referee: Philip Farrugia.

Yellow cards: Bohrer, Reid, E. Callegari, Pavic, El Hasni.

BOV Player of the Match: Darijan Zarkov (Gżira).

Floriana received another setback in the race for the championship as a goal by Toni Kolega handed Gżira United a narrow win in a match from the BOV Premier League Top Six.

The Greens, who were coming from a heavy defeat to Hibernians in the last match from the first phase, were eager to bounce back with a win. They created chances but failed to score, not only due to their erratic finishing but also thanks to a great performance by Gżira United goalkeeper Darijan Zarkov.

Floriana, therefore, remain two points behind leaders Hibernians face Ħamrun Spartans on Monday afternoon. Gżira, on the other hand, join Birkirkara on 36 points with the Stripes facing Gudja United on Monday.

The Maroons were a depleted side with coach Darren Abdilla having to deal with the absence of several players.

In fact, they had four changes from their last league outing as Maxuell Maia joined Thiago Espindola, Ricardo Correa and Jackson Mendoza on the casualty list while three players were ruled out through suspension, namely Clive Gauci, Zachary Scerri and Jefferson de Assis.

However, Yuri Messias was making his first appearance since mid-January when he left the club to seek pastures new but the transfer fell through and returned back in the past days.

Floriana, on the other hand, had three changes from the defeat to Hibernians as Emiliano Callegari, Ulises Arias and Kristian Keqi were preferred to Christian Rutjens, Brandon Paiber and Kemar Reid.

Before the game, Floriana coach Gianluca Atzori and forward Jan Busuttil were presented with the Motors Inc. Coach of the Month and BOV Player of the Month awards respectively for the month of February.

The Greens held the initiative in the early stages but without testing the Gżira goalkeeper.

On 16 minutes, against the run of play, Gżira took the lead. Nevin Portelli delivered a cross from the right and Kolega headed home from close range.

This goal was a cold shower for Floriana although a minute later, Andrei Ciolacu tested goalkeeper Zarkov with an angled shot from the right which was turned into a corner.

From the resulting corner, Jan Busuttil’s effort was parried by the Croatian goalkeeper.

The Greens maintained the pressure and on 20 minutes, Kristian Keqi sent Ciolacu through but the latter’s attempt was saved at point-blank by Zarkov.

Five minutes from the end of the first half, Keqi, served on the left by Busuttil, went close with a diagonal shot which scraped past the post.

Two minutes later, Arias released Ciolacu on the left but his diagonal shot just missed the target.  

Gżira replied with a Yuri Messias free-kick from which Bohrer headed high.

For the second half, Atzori replaced Kristian Keqi with Kemar Reid and the Jamaican forward was soon prominent, concluding a good move with a shot which was blocked into a corner by Bohrer on 51 minutes.

Two minutes later, Reid had an angled shot from the left blocked into another corner. Andrei Ciolacu also had a good attempt deflected into a corner on 54 minutes.

On the hour, the Greens were unlucky not to level matters when Rumyan Hovsepyan concluded with a great run with an assist for Ryan Camenzuli on the left but his powerful shot hit the foot of the upright.

A long-distance freekick by Bohrer was saved in two attempts by Kitanov on 72 minutes.

In the dying minutes, Floriana pushed hard for the equaliser and two minutes in added time, an overhead kick by goalkeeper Kitanov, who went to support his team mates in attack, was parried by the Gżira goalkeeper.

Three minutes later, Brandon Paiber had a shot from outside the area tipped into a corner by the goalkeeper and from the resulting corner, Ciolacu’s header was turned into another corner by Zarkov.

However the Maroons held on in the remaining minutes to keep their opponents at bay and take home three precious points.

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