GFA Cup Q/ Finals Gozo Stadium
Xewkija T : 0
- Sultana, M. Xerri (C. Bugeja), J. Azzopardi, A.J. Samaniego Raya, D. Sakic, S. Bajada, J.M. Vella, R. Buttigieg, T. Melo Dos Santos, D. Shields, E. Vella.
Kercem A : 1 (J.P. Mizzi 119’)
- Vella, M. Tabone, P. Kyumyurdzhiev, O. Spiteri, M. Mifsud, P. Taylor, J.P. Mizzi, T. Grozev, A. Mizzi, G. Franca Amadio, L. Grima.
Kercem Ajax booked a placed in the semi-finals of the GFA Cup with a close win over the holders for the last two editions of the competition Xewkija Tigers. The match between two of the top teams in the first division turned out into a typical cup tie where victory could have gone either way. Kercem saw more of the ball through the 120 minutes of the encounter and produced more scoring opportunities than their opponents so that their qualification was deserved. The main protagonists of the encounter were undoubtedly the two goalkeepers who were both in a fine form and produced a series of difficult saves which contributed to extend the match into extra time and to retain the goalless score until the final minute of extra time. For this match Xewkija had Gennaro Hili missing due to a suspension, while other regular players were not utilised due to injuries. On the other hand Kercem had their typical formation available for this match and their performance goes to show that the Ajax are determined to make up for the disappointment in the championship by challenging to win the GFA Cup.
Play during the first period was quite balanced although Kercem created more scoring opportunities. In the fifth minute of play Kercem’s Trayo Grozev had a good attempt form an angled position that was saved to a corner by goalie Steve Sultana and on 17 minutes the same Ajax once again threatened Xewkija’s rearguard through a low shot by Andrew Mizzi that was neutralised by goalie Steve Sultana. On 21 minutes Kercem’s Gustavo Franca Amadio had a lob when Xewkija’s goal was unattended that ended wide. Xewkija’s first serious attempt at Kercem’s goal arrived on 25 minutes through a counter break by Thiago Melo Dos Santos who concluded his initiative with a low shot that ended wide. Three minutes later Xewkija’s Rodney Buttigieg had a good shot following a deflection form a free kick that was also deflected by a defender and goalie Franklin Vella saved to a corner. Kercem replied on 31 minjtes through a shot by Gustavo Franca Amadio that ended wide and three minutes later Xewkija’s Elton Vella also had a good attempt that was saved by goalie Franklin Vella. On 37 minutes Kercem protested for a penalty alleging handling by Xewkija’s Joseph Azzopardi following a header by Andrew Mizzi an on 43 minutes Kercem’s Trayo Grozev had a good shot from a good position that was saved to a corner by Xewkijs’s keeper.
Kercem maintained their momentum after the break and in the first minute of play of the second period they could have opened the score but a shot by Trayo Grozev was saved in two attempts by goalie Steve Sultana. The same goalkeeper once again denied Kercem’s Bulgarian striker from scoring less than a minute later when Xewkija’s rearguard failed to clear the ball from the area but Grozev’s strike from close distance was partially saved by Sultana and the defence cleared the danger from the area. Xewkija continued to struggle to produce effective play and for most of the time they ended up suffering Kercem’s initiatives. On 67 minutes Kercem were again dangerous through a close ranged shot by Andrew Mizzi following a corner kick by Mario Mifsud but goalie Steve Sultana managed to block the danger. One minute later Xewkija replied with a strike from outside the area by Thiago Melo Dos Santos but Kercem’s keeper Franklin Vella managed to turn the ball into a corner. The same Brazilian striker had a shot from outside the area on 71 minutes that ended wide and as time passed by play became more exciting as Xewkija improved in their offensive play while Kercem continued to be adventurous and motivated to win the encounter. However for most of the time during the last stages of regular time the two defensive departments prevailed over the respective strikers and the match had to be prolonged with extra time.
The first period of extra time continued to produce some exciting moments with good scoring opportunities at the two ends of the field. In the first minute of extra time a free kick by Xewkija’s Shaun Bajada ended high and less than a minute later Kercem’s Owen Spiteri released Gustavo Franca Amadio inside Xewkija’s area but the latter had his close ranged shot well saved by goalie Steve Sultana. On 102 minutes Kercem’s Philip Taylor tried to surprise Xewkija’s keeper who was out of his position but his lob from close distance ended just wide. Xewkija could have opened the score one minute later when Dene Shields entered the area following a personal action but from his low cross Thiago Melo Dos Santos had his close ranged shot blocked by goalie Franklin Vella and from the rebound Shaun Bajada’s shot on the run with an open goal at his mercy ended over the crossbar. Kercem went again close to scoring in the third minute of play of the second period of extra time through a shot by Philip Taylor following a corner action that was neutralised by goalie Steve Sultana. As the match seemed heading for a penalty shoot-out, Kercem scored the decisive goal of the encounter on 119 minutes when Xewkija’s rearguard failed to clear the ball from the goalmouth following a header by Andrew Mizzi from a corner kick by Guztavo Franca Amadio and Jean Paul Mizzi turned the ball in goal from close distance.
Referee: Andrea Sciriha