Danilo Doncic was yesterday named coach of Sliema Wanderers after the Premier League club decided to relieve Mark Marlow of his duties.

The members of Sliema’s committee met yesterday evening to discuss the coach’s position after their 4-1 defeat to Valletta last Saturday severely dented the Blues’ flickering chances of forcing their way into the Championship Pool.

It is understood that the Sliema officials, headed by president Steve Abela, resolved to change their coach in the hope of reviving their team’s fortunes.

Doncic, himself a former Sliema Wanderers striker, is believed to have been the only candidate for the job. The Serbian is known to have been willing to take charge of a Premier League club after terminating his contract with Greek Super League club Kavala in December.

After working as assistant coach with Lokomotiv Sofia and Kavala as first-team assistant coach, Doncic was adamant that his next job would be as head coach.

Marlow, who took charge of training yesterday evening, was informed of Sliema’s decision at the end of the committee meeting.

Having reached a verbal agreement with club president Abela last night, Doncic is expected to sign an 18-month contract with Sliema in the coming days. Before joining Dragomir Okuka’s backroom staff at Lokomotiv Sofia in 2008, Doncic was in charge of Floriana for one season.

Last year, Sliema had also opted to appoint a new coach in mid-season with Marlow, who had previously guided Msida St Joseph, replacing Stephen Azzopardi, now at Qormi, in January.

Doncic’s first task is to lift the players’ morale ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm derby with Floriana as a win in that match could revive the Blues’ Championship Pool bid.

Sliema received a boost late yesterday evening after being informed by the Malta FA registrations department that the international transfer certificate of Etienne Barbara had arrived.

The 28-year-old Barbara agreed a short-term contract to rejoin Sliema last Friday but the late completion of the deal triggered fears that American club Carolina Railhawks may not manage to send the striker’s ITC before yesterday’s transfer deadline.

Barbara is now set to make his debut for Sliema Wanderers in Sunday’s clash with Floriana, the team he had intended to join after returning from the United States late last year.

It also emerged yesterday that Sliema turned down an offer from Hibs to sign their former wing-back Clayton Failla.

Mifsud saga continues

Meanwhile, another round of talks between Floriana and Michael Mifsud yesterday failed to lead to an agreement. Mifsud was reported to be on the verge of agreeing a short-term move to Floriana after the two parties resumed discussions last weekend but expectations that the Malta captain was to put pen to paper yesterday failed to materialise after negotiations hit another stumbling block.

Valletta yesterday finalised the paperwork of Brazilian forward Anderson Andrade Antunes. The 29-year-old, who last played for Costa Rican club Brujas, reported for his first training session with Valletta yesterday and is set to be included in the squad for Saturday’s match against Ħamrun Spartans.

Ħamrun yesterday completed the signing of defensive midfielder Nikolai Chipev.

The former Bulgaria U-21 international, who came through the youth ranks of CSKA Sofia, was on the books of Lokomotiv Plovdiv.

Former Malta midfielder Jonathan Holland has joined Mosta after parting ways with Ħamrun last month.

On a weekend when several teams paraded a host of new signings, Malta players Ryan Fenech and Andrei Agius enjoyed a dream debut for Valletta and Birkirkara respectively.

Fenech, who completed his switch from Ħamrun Spartans to Valletta in midweek, crowned a man-of-the-match performance with an excellent brace as the Citizens maintained their relentless march at the top with a 4-1 mauling of Sliema Wanderers.

Striker Terrence Scerri, Valletta’s stand-in captain, also scored two goals in another commanding performance by the leaders who were streets ahead of Sliema.

The Blues had temporarily reopened the issue when Jackson Lima scored from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time to halve Valletta’s lead but the Brazilian turned from hero to villain as he was sent off for two quickfire bookings on the hour.

Valletta’s win lifted them 13 points clear of rivals Floriana who failed to cut the gap back to 10 points after succumbing to a 3-1 defeat to Tarxien Rainbows who have leapfrogged the Greens into second place.

Tarxien’s merited win was inspired by their Brazilian strikers, especially Daniel Mariano Bueno. After coming off the bench to replace injured compatriot Ricardo, Bueno set up Cristiano for Tarxien’s opener on 36 minutes, scored his side’s second early in the second half and provided the assist for Cristiano to make it 3-0.

Floriana pulled one back through Dragomir Draganov but the dismissal of defender Tyrone Farrugia all but scuppered their hopes of extending their positive run to five matches.

Birkirkara mathematically sealed their place in the Championship Pool with a 1-0 win over Vittoriosa Stars on Sunday. Debutant Agius scored with an acrobatic volley seven minutes from half-time as the Stripes secured back-to-back wins to consolidate fourth place in the table on 26 points.

Marsaxlokk made a giant step towards earning a berth in the Championship Pool on Friday after outpointing top-six rivals Ħamrun Spartans by the odd goal in five in a thrilling game.

The returning Dene Shields fired the ‘hosts’ ahead from the penalty spot after 15 minutes but goals from Florent Raimy and Ruben Guerreiro Gravata in the space of three second-half minutes turned the tide in Marsaxlokk’s favour. Gaetan Spiteri equalised for the Spartans but, barely a minute later, Trevor Templeman hit the winning goal for the Blues.

Qormi kept their Championship Pool hopes alive with a narrow 1-0 win over the crisis-hit Hibs who have been condemned to the Relegation Pool. Brazilian Josue scored the winner from a penalty seven minutes from half-time.

Qormi are now only two points behind the sixth-placed Spartans with two games remaining before the end of the first phase.

Premier League statistics

Scorers, red cards

Birkirkara: Lattes 6; Fenech 4, Galea 4 (1 pen); Vella 3; Cilia 2, Tabone 2 (1 pen); Vukanac, Borg, Agius.
Floriana: Woods 6 (2 pen.), Nwoke 6; Caruana 3; Mecerod 2, Draganov 2; Dzhorov, Darmanin, Agius, Said, Micallef, Farrugia. Red card: Farrugia (vs Tarxien).
Ħamrun Spartans: Spiteri 9; Grima 5; Pereira 4, Shields 4 (1 pen); Fenech 2 (1 pen), Anizoba 2, Mangion.
Red cards: Hrubsa (vs Floriana, vs Valletta), Bonnici (vs Floriana), Ryan Fenech (vs Floriana).
Hibernians: McManus 5; Cohen 3 (1 pen), Herrera 3; Pisani 2; Pulis, Caruana, Clarke, Farrugia, Pearson, Kristensen.
Red card: Pulis (vs Ħamrun Spartans).
Own goal: Micallef (vs Vittoriosa).
Marsaxlokk: Effiong 8; Templeman 3, Guerreiro 3, Sciberras 2; Alcorse pen, Kokavessis, Deanov, Licari, Raimy.
Red cards: Alcorse (vs Valletta), Mamo (vs Floriana).
Qormi: Frendo 4; Mallia 3, Josue 3 (2 pens), Bello Osagie 2; Bjedov, J. Farrugia, Chetcuti, Camilleri.
Red cards: Bondin (vs Ħamrun), Hojung (vs Vittoriosa Stars), Bartolo (vs Floriana).
Sliema Wanderers: Mifsud Triganza 5, Lima 5 (1 pen); Obiefule 4; Lachkhem 2; Scerri.
Red cards: Mintoff (vs Birkirkara), B. Muscat (vs Vittoriosa), Lima (vs Valletta).
Tarxien Rainbows: Bueno 6, Cristiano 6 (1 pen); Sergio 4, Ricardo 4; Caruana, Everton.
Own goals: Pearson (vs Hibernians); Kang (vs Qormi).
Valletta: Scerri 14 (4 pens); Denni 8 (1 pen), Sammut 5; Falzon 2, Pace 2, G. Agius 2, Fenech 2; Zammit, E. Agius, Temile, Borg.
Red cards: Ramon (vs Floriana), Falzon (vs Ħamrun).
Vittoriosa Stars: Ewurum 6; Edison 4 (2 pen); Santos Silva 3, Micallef, Grech.
Own goal: Gauci (vs Hibernians).
Red cards: Campagnoli (vs Valletta), Edison (vs Birkirkara, vs Sliema), Mifsud (vs Valletta).

Next fixtures
Friday (Tedesco Stadium): 7.30 p.m. Marsaxlokk vs Vittoriosa Stars.
Saturday (National Stadium): 2 p.m. Birkirkara vs Qormi; 4 p.m. Valletta vs Ħamrun Spartans.
Sunday (Hibs Stadium): 2 p.m. Floriana vs Sliema Wanderers; 4 p.m. Hibernians vs Tarxien Rainbows.

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