Sliema Wanderers 1
Woods 90;
Qormi 0

Ivan Woods may be in the twilight his career but he has clearly not lost his knack of scoring vital goals.

Thrown in the mix at the start of the second half to add bite to a blunt Sliema attack, Woods struggled to make an impact as Qormi, inspired by the direct running of Jorginho and Alfred Effiong, had mustered the better chances.

Yet, it was veteran Woods who hogged the limelight, hitting a stoppage-time goal – reminiscent of his famous winner that gave Floriana a 1-0 win over Valletta in the 2011 final – to send the Sliema fans in delirium as the Blues set up a final showdown with the Whites on May 4.

As the ball rolled into the net with extra-time looming, Qormi’s hearts sunk.

It was hard not to feel for Qormi not only because they had been the more enterprising side but, moreso as only eight minutes before Woods’s clincher, Jorginho’s free-kick came off the upright.

Goals are the hard currency in football, though, and Sliema, for whom Stefano Bianciardi was a colossus at the back, made the most of their luck.

Qormi coach Karel Zeman had unleashed his attacking weapons with Jorginho leading the line in front of the marauding trio of Effiong, Gabriel and Leighton Grech.

Alfonso Greco, the Wanderers mentor, responded with 4-3-3, Trevor Cilia and Admir Vladavic supporting Stanley Ohawuchi in attack, although the Bosnian was detailed to interchange with Matias Muchardi.

The first chance of the game fell at the feet of Cilia who turned past Triston Caruana before hitting a low shot that was blocked by Matthew Farrugia.

Qormi had a good chance when Jorginho released Effiong inside the box but the latter’s effort was stopped by keeper Glenn Zammit.

The game remained finely-poised with Qormi showing more menace each time they ventured forward.

The lack of excitement was certainly not in keeping with expectations of an absorbing clash between two Premier League clubs.

In the stands, the atmosphere was like that of a village festa, what with the non-stop playing of traditional anthems by the brass bands hired by the two sets of fans.

Four minutes from half-time, Jorginho’s free-kick was stopped by Zammit.

Jorginhothen dragged in a low cross-shot from the left but the ball just eluded Effiong.

Bar another Cilia shot and a poor attempt by Ohawuchi, Sliema hardly fashioned a decent chance as the supply from midfield to attack was scant.

Greco tweaked his formation at half-time, sending on Woods for the out-of-form Muchardi and switching Vladavic to an advanced midfield position and Ohawuchi to the left wing.

Seven minutes into the second half, Effiong, latching on to Emerson Vella’s pass, accelerated into the box from the left but his cross found no takers.

Effiong was then booked for a late challenge on Zammit after the goalkeeper had blocked the Nigerian’s run.

The Blues were linking up better in attack. Cilia and Vladavic combined well but the latter’s cross was headed clear.

Further proof of Sliema’s improvement came on the hour when Alex Muscat’s feint and subsequent sprint threw the Qormi defence off balance but the wing-back’s shot was repelled by Farrugia.

At last, the game sprung to life.

Qormi ought to have scored when Gabriel’s pass released Jorginho but he was thwarted by Zammit. Effiong, using his speed to unsettle the Sliema defence, veered infield from the left before releasing Grech whose attempt was warded off by Muscat.

A header by Effiong, from Gabriel’s free-kick, sailed straight into Zammit’s hands. Qormi were now the brighter side.

Only the woodwork denied them a goal as Jorginho’s delightful free-kick smacked against the far post after Grech had been shoved off the ball by John Mintoff.

Then, just when the game looked headed for extra-time, Sliema scored.

Jacob Borg, on for Cilia, delivered a low cross into the goalmouth where Woods’s initial effort was nudged away by Farrugia but the loose ball glanced off the Sliema striker and into the net.

The FA Trophy final in May could be the last match for 37-year-old Woods. He is said to be mulling retirement.

Sliema Wanderers
G. Zammit, A. Muscat, J. Mintoff, M. Scerri, S. Ohawuchi, C. Gatt Baldacchino, T. Cilia (66 J. Borg), P. Barbetti, M. Muchardi (46 I. Woods), S. Bianciardi, A. Vladavic.

Qormi
M. Farrugia, J. Bondin, E. Vella, G. Gia-nola, S. Quintieri, T. Caruana, Gabriel, L. Grech, A. Effiong, D. Pisani, Jorginho.

Referee: Philip Farrugia.

Yellow cards: Barbetti; Effiong; Scerri.

Attendance: 1,997.

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