GŻIRA UNITED 1
SENGLEA ATHLETIC 2
Senglea Athletic produced a major upset in the FA Trophy third round when they came from behind to knock out Gżira United by the odd goal in three at the Hibs Stadium.
Mario Muscat, the Senglea coach, produced a tactical masterclass when he roped in Jan Tanti and Leighton Grech late in the game and it was these two players that turned the match in favour of the Cottonera side.
In fact, trailing to Zach Scerri’s second-half goal, Tanti rifled home the equaliser with 15 minutes to go and then the Malta U-21 international picked Grech to head home the winner.
It was a stunning victory for the Cottonera side who now await the winner of today’s third round match between Floriana and Melita.
As expected it was Gżira who bossed the proceedings with Senglea Athletic happy to soak up the pressure and try and hit their opponents through quick counter attacks.
Jefferson quickly served notice of his attacking threat when after seven minutes the Brazilian sped clear on the left and hit a firm drive with the ball skimming the bar before finishing wide.
On ten minutes, the Maroons though they had taken the lead when Andrew Cohen connected to Hamed Kone’s cross and headed past Jonathan Debono but the ‘goal’ was annulled for offside.
On 14 minutes, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino’s cross-shot was spilled by goalkeeper Debono but the Senglea defence quickly averted the danger and cleared.
The Cottonera side finally threatened on 28 minutes when Manolito Micallef burst past his marker and served Taisei Marukawa but the Japanese was blocked by the Gżira defender as he was about to pull the trigger.
But the best chance of the half fell to Senglea ten minutes from the break.
Marcelo Dias sent a fine cross towards Micallef who saw his header have the better of goalkeeper Justin Haber but the ball came off the bar.
The Maroons tried to reassert their dominance but as the minutes passed Senglea were increasingly frustrating them with their tactical organization.
Gżira desperately needed a moment of quality from one of their players to break the stalemate and that did arrive on 56 minutes.
Zach Scerri picked up the ball some 30 metres out and let fly and firm low shot that flew past Sengela goalkeeper Debono.
Martin Davis almost put the game beyond Senglea’s reach when four minutes later he outmuscled his marker but he skied his shot to the dismay of the Gżira fans.
A Kone inswinger inside the Senglea penalty area on 67 minutes caused havoc with the ball deflected by Mirko Todorovic just wide of the upright.
Despite Gżira’s dominance, Senglea were still in the game and coach Mario Muscat roped in Jan Tanti and Leighton Grech for Manolito Micallef and Gonzalo Virano as he went in search of an equalizer.
Muscat’s change yielded dividends on 74 minutes as Dias found Jan Tanti at the far post and the Malta U-21 winger hit a low drive that rolled past Haber.
Gżira threw everyone forward to restore their advantage.
Eleven minutes from time, Jefferson was unlucky when he saw his curling drive coming off the upright.
At the other end, Tanti served Grech on the edge of the area and his shot finished just over.
But Grech was not to be denied as on 83 minutes he latched onto Tanti’s cross to head past Haber to complete a stunning comeback.