ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
SANTA LUCIA 1
Ħamrun Spartans were forced to settle for a draw for a second successive week as a late goal enabled Sta Lucia to secure a point at the Centenary Stadium yesterday.
It looked as though the Spartans were set to leapfrog Sirens, who face Valletta tomorrow, into third place in the standings when Wilfried Domoraud put them ahead in the first half.
But the Spartans failed to maintain their momentum after the break and it was Sta Lucia who finished the game on top with substitue Jamie Zerafa netting his first Premier League goal to earn his team a deserved draw.
Ħamrun were forced to be without a key player in goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo who was ruled out of the match with a shoulder injury, with Jean Claude Debattista handed a rare start in goal.
The match began at a frenetic pace. Oliver Spiteri’s side had quickly got into their passing stride but struggled to pierce the Spartans’ backline.
Ħamrun almost took the lead early on when Valdo Alhinho saw his effort kept out by the onrushing Ryan Caruana, the Sta Lucia goalkeeper.
But the Reds were not to be denied minutes later. The Saints defence was caught napping and Alhinho picked up Domoraud and the French striker fired home from close in.
Karl Micallef appeared to have the freedom of the right flank as Marco Criaco played a raking pass that found the wingback in space.
The Malta international picked out Soufiane Lagzir who should have scored but headed wide.
Hamrun could consider themselveds unlucky not to have doubled their advantage but Orestis Nikolopoulos’s header was saved by Caruana.
Here, Spartans coach Manuele Blasi protested vehemently with the referee, claiming that Sta Lucia Gabriel Bohrer had touched the ball with his hand but Mario Apap saw nothing untoward.
Sta Lucia took the fight to their opponents after the restart with Rei Tachikawa heavily involved.
The nippy Japanese midfielder should have equalised with a header from Jacob Walker’s cross that skimmed wide.
A few moments later, Tachikawa’s right-foot volley took a slight defelection and drifted just wide of the Spartans goal with Jean Claude Debattista stranded.
Kevin Ante Rosero then forced a brilliant save from Debattista with a fir striker after Tachikawa had created the opening for the Colombian striker.
At the other end, the pace of Lagzir was troubling the Saints, but he dragged his shot just wide on 70 minutes.
Spiteri brought on Jamie Zerafa for Tachikawa and this change proved a masterstroke as the young midfielder levelled matters with virtually his first touch when heading the ball into the net after Wilkerson had lobbed the ball over Debattista.
Lagzir might have won the game for the Spartans five minutes from time but dragged his effort wide as virtually everything went wrong for Ħamrun in the second 45 minutes.
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