Naxxar Lions coach Charles Muscat hailed 17-year-old Gabriel Xuereb’s impressive debut on Monday as he won the game for the Reds against St Andrews at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.

Xuereb scored a goal in each half to beat fellow teenager Mattia Veselji’s equaliser for the Saints. “No one knew who (Xuereb) was before today but it didn’t stop me from risking him and he ended up offering the team something it needed,” Muscat explained.

“I saw this as an opportunity because I believe in him. We prepared him well and, in my opinion, he had a very good performance.”

Even though he admitted that this was a gamble taken because of the number of injuries and suspensions within the team, where he had to resort to the club’s Under-17 squad for players, Muscat believes it worked out well.

The win has lifted Naxxar Lions to fourth place on 28 points, just five points adrift of leaders Lija with second-placed Żejtun a further point behind.

On the other hand, St Andrews have now fallen to sixth place on 26 points, but just three points adrift of third-placed Qrendi who beat Żejtun this weekend. 

The Naxxar mentor remarked that he was happy his side managed to counter the Saints’ offensive approach and that they made up for two losses in their last three games by getting this positive result.

“Our target is to obviously win as many games as possible and set ourselves up with the top teams because the standings are very tight. I believe the top four or five teams will end up separating from the rest by the end of the season so we want to be as close as we can to that,” Muscat said.

“With the results we achieved against the top teams, I think we’re there and I truly believe in the team, and in my players. I think what we have is the result of unity and hard work.”

The match had a particularly entertaining opening half as both sides took their fighting chance to climb towards the upper echelons of the standings. 

St Andrews looked dominant as most of the play took place in the Naxxar half, even though they hardly troubled custodian Omar Borg. 

This lack of accuracy in the Saints’ offence proved to be costly as it was the youthful Naxxar side who, despite clearly showing inexperience in their play in contrast to a surprisingly much older St Andrews side, went ahead on 21 minutes.

From a pinpoint Edson Farias cross on the right, an unmarked Xuereb headed the ball past Nicholas Grima who had had nothing to do before that.

But St Andrews got a deserved equaliser on the half-hour mark as Borg’s heroics between the sticks were not enough to stop the ball from going in. 

Borg had managed to stop a shot at the feet of an onrushing Attah Chibueze, only for it to ricochet to Matthew Bartolo on the other side. His shot was parried yet again by Borg but when the ball fell to Veselji, his strike was too much to handle and the sides were all square heading into the break. 

St Andrews continued their dominant display after the change of ends and were close to taking back the lead just before the hour from a Chibueze shot which flew just wide. From then on, it became a Saints charge towards the Naxxar goal but no one came close to get a goal. Instead, it was Naxxar’s Xuereb who once again put the Reds ahead against the run of play. Just like his first goal, Farias found him unmarked inside the area, hit an accurate ball inside for Xuereb to shoot first-time into the net on the hour.

Naxxar tried their luck for a third goal late in the game, winning a penalty after Ian Azzopardi was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area in the 87th minute. From the spot, however, Daren Falzon’s penalty was saved by Grima. 

NAXXAR: O. Borg, J. Sciberras, M. Fenech, M. Mifsud, E. Farias, D. Falzon, A. Azzopardi, G. Xuereb (90 P. Ellul), J. Ellul, B. Essel, A. Osagie (81 G. Carrara).

ST ANDREWS: N. Grima, I. Azzopardi, M. Veselji, N. Bradshaw (75 L. Borg), J. Farrugia, M. Bartolo, M. Potezica (85 M. Vella Vidal), A. Borg Olivier, J. Sixsmith, A. Chibueze, D. Jackson.

Referee: Massimo Axisa
Scorers: Xuereb (N) 21, 67; Veselji (S) 32.
Missed penalty: D. Falzon (N) 87.
Best Player: Gabriel Xuereb (Naxxar Lions).



SWIEQI: C. Abdilla, J. Azzopardi, M. Attard, M. Farrugia, K. Muscat, S. Gatt Baldacchino (46 J. Willy), A. Schembri Wismayer, L. Grech, C. Matombo (46 M. Ivanovic), I. Salis, T. Ayorinde.

QORMI: J. Azzopardi, A. Abela, A. Cassar, R. Mandic, N. Ghio (35 L. Farrugia), M. Bustos, I. Zammit, M. Borg, N. Borg, F. Gnindokponou, B. Schembri (72 Z. Gatt).

Referee: Slobodan Petrovic
Scorers: Muscat (S) 29; Schembri (Q) 39 pen.
Red card: Ayorinde (S) 40.


FGURA: B. Bartolo, J. Cassar, P. Chircop, J. Vella, J. Barbara, S. Abela, A. Toncheff (86 G. Ferreira), G. Martin, G. Galea (64 T. Grech), A. Berthe (37 D. Quintero), D. Cartella.

PEMBROKE: P. Schranz, G. Azzopardi, M. Borg, D. Isakovic (81 D. Camilleri), Z. Grech, T. Fenech, K. Frendo, N. Frendo, JP Mifsud Triganza (88 D. Todorovski), L. Mijic, P. Santos (Y. Shaba).

Referee: Slawomir Olucha
Scorers: Mifsud Triganza (P) 23; Frendo (P) 31; Azzopardi (P) 35; Santos (P) 39; Cartella (F) 50.


ŻEJTUN: C. Cassar, K. Farrugia, L. Cassar Jackson, C. Grech, G. Azzopardi, D. Agius, R. Mariaga, M. Pereira, J. Suda (86 B. Farrugia), M. Jallow (58 J. Ogunuppe), A. Carabott (78 J. Iwueke).

QRENDI: D. Zarb, Steve Schembri, R. Mercieca, L. Martinelli, A. Agius, D. azzopardi, C. Camilleri (72 E. Vella), D. Sammut (54 L. Schembri), S. Perdomo, J. Silveira, A. Nilsson (71 J. Pereira).

Referee: Aleksandar Jovanovic
Scorer: Sammut (Q) 44.


PIETÀ: J. Chircop St John, T. Bartolo, N. Pace Cocks, J. Ghio (71 C. Gauci), D. Vukovic, C. Sammut, C. Ze Lucas, S. Mizzi, J. Irimiya, J. Scicluna (73 N. Pisani), K. Amehi.

ŻEBBUG: M. Grech, D. Fava, R. Vella, M. Del Negro, R. Zammit, S. Darmanin (46 G. Gesualdi), M. Fagbeja (57 S. Nanapere), C. Brincat, W. Borg (55 A. Azzopardi), N. Ojuola, L. Chiedozie.

Referee: Sandro Spiteri
Scorers: Fagbeja (Ż) 5; Scicluna (P) 27; Pace Cocks (P) 40; Nanapere (Ż) 64 pen.


VITTORIOSA: D. Bugeja, C. Spiteri, J. Briffa, I. Abela (46 J. Pace), 
D. Grima (46 N. McLaren), D. Tabone, A. Galea, O. Sidibe, R. Farias, L. Casha (67 J. Attard), H. Shodiya.

LIJA: L. Bonnici (83 D. Galea), C. Cassar, G. Bugeja, L. Muscat, D. Scerri (74 R. Dalli), E. Beu, M. Clinch, K. Seakanyeng, C. Giordimaina, C. Gauci (46 A. Galea), F. Temile.

Referee: Slobodan Petrovic.
Scorers: Beu 10, 90; Seakanyeng 22; Temile 32; Bugeja 58.


ST GEORGE’S: L. Mifsud, A. Gili (65 G. Carabott), A. Hili, L. Bonett (89 A. Mallia), D. Caruana, B. Dias (80 M. Uritani), G. D’Amato, R. Villada, J. Grech, A. Marshall, K. Camilleri.

MQABBA: F. Tabone, B. Grech, D. Micallef, A. Ferreira, K. Magro, E. Sala, P. Chimezie, A. Spiter (68 F. Zammit), K. Xuereb, M. Caruana, G. Micallef.

Referee: Daniel Portelli
Scorers: Xuereb (M) 76; Grech (S) 78.

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