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Gudja United dent Hamrun Spartans’ title aspirations

Gudja United took the spoils after beating Hamrun Spartans on Sunday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

GUDJA UNITED 1

Mensah 58

HAMRUN SPARTANS 0

Gudja United G. Zammit-7, T. Nagamatsu-6, M. Muchardi-6.5, R. Soares-6, L. Cremona-6 (83 J. Friggieri), J. Arthur-7, G. Mensah-6 (83 H. Vella), J. Bolanos-6, J. Grioli-6.5 (73 F. Zuniga), M. Dias-5, N. Micallef-5.5

Hamrun Spartans H Bonello-5, J. Mbong-5, J. Soares-6, A. Oyama-5, F. Sasere-6, M. Fedele-5 (72 I. Ntow), L. Gambin-5 (85 S. Attard), J. Corbalan-4 (72 C. Dielna), K. Micallef-5,E. Marcelina-6, F. El Bakhtaoui-4.

Referee Alex Johnson.

Yellow card Karl Micallef, Mensah, Sasere, El Bakhtaoui, Zuniga, Vella, Anthony Micallef, Zammit

BOV player of the match Justin Grioli (Gudja United)

Gabriel Mensah gave Gudja their first victory in the Top-Six and dented Hamrun Spartans’ title ambitions.

The Ghanaian’s 58th-minute winner came after an abysmal mistake by Juan Corbalan and Henry Bonello in the Hamrun goal.

Yet, Frank Sasere thought he had equalised for the reigning champions when he ‘scored’ in stoppage time, but the referee’s whistle had already sounded for an earlier foul on Hamrun’s Joseph Mbong.

Forced to field a makeshift defence due to the absence of their regular centre-backs, Steve Borg and Darko Gojkovic, Marcelina dropped back to partner Karl Micallef. The Brazilian’s place in the centre of midfield went to Luke Gambin as his technical ability and vision allowed him to play in a withdrawn position in midfield.

On the back of their win against leaders Hibernians, the Spartans were expected to start the game at full throttle but it was Gudja who were the brighter side early on, causing some anxious moments to the Hamrun’s defence.

It took Hamrun 15 minutes to record their first attempt at goal when Frank Sesere’s header finished over the bar.

Goalmouth action was hard to come by in the opening half-hour but when the lull was finally broken, it was Gudja who threatened to score. A fierce Tatsuro Nagamatsu shot was touched away by Hamrun’s goalkeeper. Minutes before, Llywelyn Cremona shot flashed just wide of the post.

After the break, Gudja continued to make life difficult for the Spartans although they would not have expected to be handed the lead by their opponents.

Juan Corbalan was caught out by the flight of a Justin Grioli cross and was only able to head the ball backward. Gabriel Mensah pounced on the defender’s mistake, beating Henry Bonello with a clipped volley.

The Spartans found themselves chasing the game but on 70 minutes, they looked to have regained their composure. Joseph Mbong was played in by a ball from Jorge Soares that flicked off Rodolfo Soares’ heel but Glenn Zammit kept out the midfielder’s drive with a stunning diving save.

Yet, Hamrun’s predicament prompted Branko Nisevic to make two changes on 72 minutes, bringing on Claude Dielna and Isaac Ntow for Corbalan and Gambin – Marcelina was finally pushed in midfield.

Hamrun gained a foothold on possession in midfield but Soares fired when poised to finish a good move on the right flank.

But the Spartans gained proof that their luck was out when they thought they had scored a last-gasp equaliser after Sasere netted in the 93rd minute. However, the referee Alex Johnson blew his whistle for a foul on Sasere’s teammate Mbong in the build-up.

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