GŻIRA UNITED 1
SANTA LUCIA 2
Tachikawa 13, 38
Two first-half goals from Rei Tachikawa gave Santa Lucia a valuable victory in their struggle for survival and dented Gżira's title ambitions.
The nippy Japanese winger's double sealed Sta Lucia's first win of the new year in a whirlwind first half for the Saints after which they took control of game with Gżira being unable to find a way past Oliver Spiteri's gritty side.
In the opening period, Santa Lucia contained Giovanni Tedesco's side well, restricting Gżira to the odd attack down the right.
Rei Tachikawa and Diego Segura looked sharp in attack for the saints, and Justin Haber's first intervention was a sound one as the Gżira goalkeeper came out to head the ball away to block the Japanese winger.
The determination and positive mindset of Santa Lucia players was evident when Adam Magri Overand retrieved possession just outside the box and flicked the ball towards Tachikawa who sped towards goal before beating Haber with a low drive.
On 16 minutes, Jamie Zerafa played a short free-kick towards Gabriel Bohrer. In next to no time, the Brazilian defender let fly a stinging shot that Haber turned away for a corner.
It took Gżira some time to pick themselves up their predicament underlined by their inability to make inroads into the solid Santa Lucia rearguard. So, it looked even more likely that they would have to rely on their set-pieces prowess break through. On 28 minutes, Hamed Kone curled a beautiful free-kick over the top of a Santa Lucia wall but the debutant goalkeeper Timothy Aquilina, was equal to task pulling off a great stop to tip the shot over the bar.
Santa Lucia's response was immediate. Tachikawa's first shot was blocked by Zachary Scerri but there was to be no second escape for the Gżira defence when the Japanese winger sent a thunderous shot past the goalkeeper to stun the Gzira fans into silence.
Gżira made a substitution at half-time, bringing on Ryan Darmanin in lieu of Marco Criaco in a swap between two debutants for the Maroons. He was thrust straight into the thick of things when Martin Davies picked the former Ħamrun striker who fired into the side-netting from a good position.
On the hour mark, Luis Riascos tugged Scerri back by his shirt. The 18-year-old striker escaped with a caution, but his angry reaction earned him a second yellow card and was dismissed.
With the game slipping away from Gżira, Tedesco make two further changes, first bringin on Andrew Cohen and then Nikolai Muscat for Davis and Rodolfo Soares respectively.
Muscat's fierce shot from the distance almost had the better of Aquilina who got a touch to the ball but could not hold only for the goalkeeper to recover in time and block Wilfried Domoraud.
Gzira were handed a lifeline by Scerri's majestic strike when the midfielder unleashed a ferocious drive that soared into the top corner behind the hapless Aquilina.
It sparked a late siege from Gżira, but the saints held out for their only third win of the season.
Rei Tachikawa of Sta Lucia was named BOV Player of the Match.
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