Tarxien Rainbows 1
Bueno 71
Ħamrun Spartans 1
Cucciardi 82

One goal down and with only a few minutes left before the end of their needle match against fellow strugglers Tarxien Rainbows, the embattled Ħamrun Spartans were teetering on the brink of another humiliating defeat.

The Spartans had controlled play but lacked the spark to make supremacy count against a battling Rainbows side that had surged ahead against the run of play 19 minutes from time.

A fourth defeat in five matches would surely have thrust the Spartans into crisis but Diego Armando Cucciardi came off the bench to rescue a point for Ħamrun, who, nevertheless remain rooted to the bottom of the table along with Tarxien who also have two points from five games.

Ivan Carapic returned to Tarxien's starting formation after suspension. The Serbian defender was preferred to Pio Sciriha.

Ħamrun coach Marco Gerada showed his dissatisfaction at his team's meek surrender to Hibs by making no fewer than four changes.

Captain Ryan Fenech, his younger brother Roderick, Aaron Attard and Dylan Kokavessis replaced Mark Anthony Bonnici, Cucciardi, Steve Meilak and Neville Galea.

Despite being the brighter side for much of the opening stages, the Spartans had to wait until the 15th minute to fashion their first genuine scoring chance.

Brazilian Ronaldo Ortega, yesterday deployed on the right wing, cut the ball back from Gaetan Spiteri whose drive from inside the penalty area was charged down by two Tarxien defenders. Gerada's men maintained the upperhand but struggled to translate their superior possession into clear openings.

Gradually, the Rainbows began to venture out of their half and threatened to break the deadlock 12 minutes from half-time when Daniel Mariano Bueno ran across Ħamrun's defensive line before serving Kevin Borg whose shot was headed away by Alex Noronha. The loose ball came back to Bueno whose grounder was saved by goalkeeper Sean Sullivan.

Tarxien no.1 Anthony Curmi was prominent when he pushed out a fierce drive from Ryan Fenech as the Spartans finished the first half in attacking mode.

After the change of ends, Ħamrun continued where they had left off at the end of the first half but they seldom threatened to open the scoring.

As rain lashed down on Ta' Qali, passes from both teams grew more erratic. Spiteri should have done better when Kokavessis's measured pass from the right found him in a good position but his tame flick was deflected by Schembri and into the grateful hands of Curmi.

The Spartans should have gone ahead 21 minutes from time when Spiteri's pass from midfield sieved through a clutch of players and into the path of Kokavessis who advanced unimpeded towards goal before rifling a low shot which Curmi just managed to deflect onto the outside of his right-hand post.

From the distinct possibility of taking the lead, the Spartans found themselves a goal behind barely a minute later.

Set up by Lino Galea, Warren Chircop ran into the box and took the ball past the on-rushing Sullivan before shooting from an angled position. Roderick Fenech tried in vain to stop Galea's goalbound strike as Bueno nipped in at the far post to apply the final touch.

Chircop might have deepened the Spartans' misery moments later but his dipping free-kick was tipped over the bar by Sullivan.

After an interlude of scrappy play by the rattled Spartans, Cucciardi raised their flagging spirits when, with eight minutes remaining, he volleyed Ryan Fenech's left-wing cross into the net.

Late on, Bueno bombed forward down the right but his cross was kept out by Alex Noronha and Sciriha's subsequent pass was deflected away for a corner.

A. Curmi-7, S. Sadowski-6 ('85 P. Sciriha), L. Galea-5.5, M. Caruana-6, I. Carapic-6.5, W. Chircop-6.5, R. Schembri-6.5, D.M. Bueno-6.5, L. Vella Critien-6, K. Borg-5 ('58 M. Tanti-6), M.R. Cariaga-5.

S. Sullivan-6, Z. Levnaic-6.5, A. Attard-6, R. Ortega-5.5 ('63 D.A. Cucciardi-6.5), Rod. Fenech-5 ('90 S. Sultana), Ryan Fenech-6, R. Mangion-6, A. Noronha-6, G. Spiteri-6 ('80 S. Meilak), D. Kokavessis-6.5, M. Micallef-5.

Referee: Kevin Azzopardi.

Yellow cards: Levnaic; Carapic; Chircop.

BoV Player of the match: Warren Chircop (Tarxien Rainbows).

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