Spartans Fail to Impress

Much was awaited from Hamrun Spartans after being crowned champions of the past season. However, the squad has failed to impress in any of the six games played so far. A negative record of four defeats clearly indicates that the dressing room atmosphere is far from what was witnessed last year. One must not forget that we suffered just one defeat in an entire season last year.

Today’s match could be described as a match of two completely different halves. In the first half, Gzira were unquestionably superior and were unlucky not to go ahead as early as the 2nd minute when a long range effort hit the crossbar with Sanchez totally beaten. This was a prelude of what was to come in the 1st half, where Gzira continuously applied pressure and Hamrun were never really offering any threat. Of worry is the fact that Hamrun lost their star player Soares who sustained an ankle fracture in the latter stages of the 1st half.

The 2nd half however was a totally different story. The Spartans were dominant throughout, but just like Gzira in the 1st half, they could not break the deadlock. The most dangerous chances came from a long range effort by N’Tow which was brilliantly saved by Curmi and a chip by El Bakhtaoui that beat Curmi but the ball was cleared by the Gzira defence before entering the goal. Contrary to the flow of play, Gzira managed to apply the killer blow when in the 83rd minute Messias headed the ball into the net from close range following a free kick which was slightly deviated by Corbalan.

As true Spartans, the fans will never surrender and will therefore continue to back the team in such difficult times. Similarly, as true Spartans, the players and technical staff need to keep on fighting and accept nothing less than the very best from each another.

Line-Up

  • Sanchez
  • N’Tow
  • Gojkovic
  • Micallef
  • Corbalan
  • Marcelina (55’ Guillaumier)
  • Gambin
  • El Bakhtaoui
  • Mbong
  • Soares (45’ Oyama)
  • Sasere (81’ Sasere)

Spartans Stand Their Ground to Register 2nd Win

Today the Spartans showed us what mettle they are made of. They showed discipline, determination, fighting spirit and focus in order to bring home the much needed 3 points.

The initial exchanges of the match were a balanced affair with both teams trying to keep possession of the ball while trying to reduce the dangers from the opposing side. However, following the first 15 minutes of play, the Spartans started gaining in stature and were taking the upper hand with continuous pressure applied to the Floriana rear-guard. It didn’t take much time for the Spartans to exchange this pressure into goals. N’tow, who was playing in a position which is different to what we are used to, unleashed a powerful ground shot that took the Floriana goalkeeper Kitanov by surprise, resulting in the 1st goal for the Spartans. Our lads were aware of their superiority and continued to attack even after gaining such an early advantage. It only took another 8 minutes for the Spartans to double their advantage. Sasere was brought down inside the area by Callegari and from the resulting penalty kick, the same Sasere scored his 1st league goal. At this point, the Spartan faithful could not help but shout and jump for joy.

As the match progressed further, our superiority started dwindling until Floriana started putting increased pressure on the Hamrun defence, especially in the last 5 minutes of the 1st half which were quite nervy for our team. Nevertheless, the Spartans managed to take a 2-goal advantage into the dressing rooms at half time.

The 2nd half started with a Lagzir powerful freekick which was centrally parried by Kitanov. However, in the 53rd minute, Floriana pulled one back. A quick break from Floriana caught us uncovered on our right flank with Camenzuli advancing and crossing into the area. Gojkovic, who until that moment was having a good game, had an erratic clearance with the ball ending in Caseres’ feet who slotted home past the blameless Bonello. At this point, every Spartan fan was wary of how our players would react to such a situation, but our support was continuous, especially at this delicate moment. Our players showed true fighting spirit and companionship. Every player fought for the ball, and when a player committed a mistake there were others who covered for him. As fans, we were surely delighted to see the same spirit that helped us become champi8ns last year. Our players had no easy task however, as our opponents started regaining the initiative and pressure was continuously increasing, although we still had our chances with Sasere missing a golden opportunity in the 78th minute after a pin-point cross from Soares who had a good game today.

The players and fans were elated at the final whistle. A deserved three points were celebrated when the Hamrun players went under their fans’ side to thank them for their ongoing support. The fans reciprocated by thanking the players for fighting like true Spartans.

Line-Up

  • Bonello
  • Oyama
  • Gojkovic
  • Micallef
  • Mbong
  • Marcelina
  • Gambin
  • N’Tow
  • Lagzir (67’ El Bakhtaoui)
  • Soares
  • Sasere

A Third Defeat in Poor Showing

Following the first win registered last week against Mosta, all Spartan faithful expected the team to start making progress from the two initial defeats of the campaign. This was not to be however, as this match against Balzan was probably the poorest showing so far. Our team seemed like an army with no weapons as although we kept most of ball possession we did very little to penetrate our opponents and never really put our opponents in uneasy situations. On the contrary, Balzan managed to harm us with much less possession but with much more tactical discipline.

The all-important goal came in the 29th minute when Djordjevic imprudently lost possession in midfield and committing a foul to stop the ensuing danger. Nevertheless, Balzan’s Djuric opened the score with an inch-perfect free kick. Everybody expected a bold comeback from the Spartans but this was never to materialise. Balzan allowed us to pass the ball horizontally throughout the game even though some reckless play meant that the Spartans continuously lost possession. However, once the ball moved vertically, it seemed too easy for the Balzan players to anticipate every ball and the Spartans surely lacked the fighting spirit that should characterise any player who dons the Spartan shirt. In fact, our only threat towards goal was a Sasere header than ended just wide, following a Gambin cross. As for the rest of the game there is little to report, with Hamrun trying to keep possession until some sloppy passing or vertical play meant that Balzan put the Hamrun rear-guard under pressure. It could have been worse had Kaljevic not missed a penalty by shooting incredibly wide from the spot. Unfortunately, the Spartans ended the game all over the place and it was evident that although our team is technically superior, we lost the match due to poor tactical discipline.

 

Line-Up

  • Bonello
  • N’Tow (62’ Borg)
  • Gojkovic
  • Dielna (75’ Mercieca)
  • Micallef (62’ Lagzir)
  • Marcelina
  • Gambin
  • Djordjevic (46’ Oyama)
  • Mbong
  • Soares
  • Sasere

Spartans Register First Win of the Season

The much awaited first win and first points of the season have arrived in this match against Mosta. Nevertheless, it was no easy feat and once again the Spartans had to fight hard for every ball. The Spartan faithful filled the stands and their singing and shouting created a marvellous atmosphere notwithstanding the fact that this encounter following two consecutive defeats.

Contrary to what was expected, Mosta dictated the opening exchanges with our lads finding it difficult to keep possession of the ball and move beyond our defensive half. Mosta made sure to press us high up while not allowing us to build up play from our defensive department. Such ongoing pressure led to a nightmare goal on the 12-minute mark. Micallef passed the ball from the right side of the pitch to Bonello who mistimed the ball which ended at the back of the net. The Spartan fans could not believe what they were seeing and for a moment you could hear a pin drop. But our Spartans acted as true warriors and immediately went out to recover from such a setback. In less than 60 seconds, our debutant Gambin equalised sending the Spartan fans into ruptures.

Throughout the remainder of the first half, play was rather balanced with both teams trying to surge forward, with the best chance for Hamrun to move ahead falling to Gambin whose shot was excellently saved by Jovicic from close range. At the other end, Bonello performed an excellent save from a Mosta long range effort. In the second half, the Spartan players took to the pitch with renewed determination. Our midfield players were continuously creating space and chances and on a couple of occasions Soares had the opportunity to put us ahead but he either found Jovicic well placed or the finish was off target. On the 56th minute Gambin had an excellent effort miss the target by a whisker. On the 63rd minute, Soares was creating space for a shot with his fine dribbling, but he was brought down with a tackle to his ankle. The match official had no option but to award a penalty which Soares decided to convert himself with a cheeky but risky chip.

After going behind, Mosta gradually started increasing the pressure on the Spartan rear guard with presumably their greatest chance at equalising coming in the 68th minute when Bonello made an excellent save with his outstretched arms. Nearing the end of the match, the affair grew tense with a couple of scuffles breaking out between the opposing players on the field, with the match officials being able to control things without letting them escalate further. As true warriors, the Spartans held on to bring home the three points. This win might start reducing some of the pressure that has been building up in the past few weeks.

Line-Up

  • Bonello
  • N’Tow
  • Gojkovic
  • Dielna
  • Micallef (68’ Lagzir)
  • Marcelina
  • Gambin
  • Corbalan
  • Mbong
  • Soares (85’ Oyama)
  • Sasere

Spartans Face Defeat Again

It seemed as if we were witnessing a repeat of last week’s match. Dubious penalty decisions, Hamrun hitting the crossbar, the Spartans dominating the game for long stretches of time without really offering a threat to the opposing goalkeeper, going in front, and ultimately succumbing to our opponents and losing 2-1.

Although a hard pill to swallow, there is a lot that can be learned from this game. First and foremost, you can be technically superior but this can be easily outdone through tactical discipline. The Euro 2020 played this summer is a clear example of this. Unfortunately, that brisk passing and one touch fast football that saw us break through defences last year was somewhat inexistent in the first 120 minutes of league football this year. The international break can be a blessing in disguise for us to sharpen our blades as they are somewhat blunt.

Similar to last week, the Spartans took the upper hand of proceedings dominating possession and pressing forward in the early minutes. In the 8th minute we witnessed a scandalous decision not to award Hamrun a penalty for a clear handball. Unfortunately, this was the 2nd unfair penalty decision that goes against us in as many games. Nevertheless, Hamrun continued going forward and El Bakhtaoui, who was replacing Lagzir in the starting line-up, was unlucky to hit the crossbar in the 19th minute following a well-taken long range shot which Fernandes managed to deviate onto the crossbar. However, the Spartans were awarded for their efforts when Joseph Mbong provided an inch perfect assist to Soares who hit low past Fernandes to throw the Spartan fans into euphoria. This happiness only lasted eight minutes though as Birkirkara managed to equalise through Montebello, whose header gave no chance to Bonello. At the end of the 1st half we could easily conclude that although Hamrun had the majority of the ball, Birkirkara were much more threatening in front of goal considering that had created three 1v1 situations of which only one was converted.

The plot in the 2 nd half did not change. Hamrun kept possession but found it difficult to penetrate and be of any threat while Birkirkara scored the all-important goal in the 58th minute. Diego Venancio took a powerful low freekick which Bonello partially parried but Falcone was quick to pounce on the loose ball and easily converted to put Birkirkara ahead. The rest of the 2nd half was again a constant attempt by Hamrun to create threats though the flanks with Djordjevic and Sasere going closest through a parried header and a shot that went wide respectively. However, Birkirkara were tactically disciplined to take home the three points.

As fans we want our boys to fight like Spartans, but as fans we also need to show that we are true Spartans. Those of us who have been to the stadia even at the worst of times in the 3rd tier of Maltese football know well enough the heartbreak of losing matches. Those fans will be behind the team no matter what. Those are the 300 Spartans. For others who have approached in the past few years it is now time to be true Spartans and never surrender. Heartbreaks are a part of football, but so are comebacks and a 6-point deficit with 25 games to go is not unsurmountable. Remember that the Spartans bow down to nobody.

Line-Up
Bonello
Corbalan
Gojkovic
Dielna
Micallef (74’ Mercieca)
Marcelina (86’ Lagzir)
Djordjevic (80’ Oyama)
Mbong
Soares
El Bakhtaoui
Sasere

Hamrun S – Valletta (1-2) Match Report

Moments of inattention prove costly.

It was the first time in over 17 months that fans were allowed into the stadium. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm and expectation, especially when considering that this was our first official game as reigning champions.

The game started off as a rather balanced affair and it seemed that both teams were trying to get accustomed to competitive football, bearing in mind that both teams did not partake in a competitive match for over 5 months. However, the Spartans started edging forward more convincingly after the initial period and went close on various occasions. As fans, we were sure that the opening goal was to be witnessed shortly. After missing a handful of goal scoring opportunities, the time for us to roar with excitement came in the 42nd minute, when Gojkovic headed the ball into the net following a well taken free-kick by Soares. The scenes of jubilation on and off the field were incredible. The first half ended shortly afterwards with the Spartan advantage being a true reflection of what was witnessed on the field of play.

The second half started in the same way as the first half had ended; with evident Spartan superiority. The game was played in the half-pitch defended by Valletta. Nevertheless, some slow decision making and lack of brisk team passing meant that the Spartans were not making the best of their territorial superiority. However, in the 58th minute, Soares was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a long-range shot. The territorial advantage continued although Valletta started coming out from their half more prominently. In the 69th minute, a very generous and dubious penalty was awarded to our opponents and after considerable protests from our players, Fontanella converted to equalise the proceedings. This seems to destabilise our team members as the Spartans suddenly seemed to lose the plot and Valletta were taking the upper hand. However, it was Hamrun who squandered an incredible goal scoring opportunity. Mbong won a contrast in midfield and immediately passed the ball to Soares, who advanced by dribbling through two defenders before chipping the ball narrowly wide from very close range with Guarnone visibly beaten. Evidently, this was not going to be the Spartans’ day as Fontanella scored once again in the 74th minute. Micallef committed a foul and our opponents took a quick free-kick which caught our entire rear guard off balance and distracted. Curjuric quickly delivered to Caio Prado who advanced and gave a low cross to Fontanella who put the ball at the back of the net. This was a 5-minute spell that turned the match on its head.

 

The remaining 15 minutes were a constant attack by the Spartans with the Valletta players trying to minimise the pressure and quickly clearing the ball up-field when given the slightest opportunity. However, the Spartans were never really dangerous in the closing stages as most of the play was confused and direct towards the opponent’s penalty area without much creativity in midfield.

 

People learn from mistakes and the Spartans are no different. Let us take what we can from this defeat and move forward with courage and determination. After all, the Spartans never ask who or how many the enemies are, but where they are.

 

Line-Up

Bonello

Corbalan

Gojkovic

Dielna

Micallef

Marcelina           (85’ Oyama)

Djordjevic

Mbong

Soares

Lagzir                  (70’ El Bakhtaoui)

Sasere

 

Photo Credit – Mark Mangion

Spartans Emerge Victorious in Tense Battle

The match against Birkirkara was a much awaited one, even because our only defeat came at the hand of the same Birkirkara. Every Spartan fan regarded this match as a true test for our team’s consistent improvement.

 

The start of the match surely resulted in a lot of Hamrunizi feeling their hearts racing, as Birkirkara started aggressively in the opening minutes. However, our boys immediately showed that they were tactically very well prepared by our coach Mark Buttigieg. This tactical superiority resulted in our beloved Spartans taking the lead as early as the 8th minute through our first real attempt at goal. Mbong, who had an excellent performance throughout the match, provided an accurate ball to Soares who instinctively took a long-range shot that gave goalkeeper Guarnone no chance. The Spartans remained tactically dominant throughout the first half, going close to double the score two minutes later through Sasere. Corbalan, who had a near-perfect performance was very close to increasing the score in the 28th minute, as did Oyama in the 34th minute through an in-swinging free kick.

 

In the second half, Birkirkara upped the game’s tempo and started putting increased pressure on the Hamrun rear-guard. On the 47th minute, Birkirkara were dangerous through Caio Prado but Corbalan managed to avert the danger by blocking the effort. Despite the added pressure, the Spartans remained tactically disciplined and in the 51st minute Mbong once again passed the ball to Soares who this time failed to beat Guarnone. The usual Soares went close once again in the 64th minute but Ntow kept Birkirkara hoping by clearing the ball from the goal-line.

 

The only major inattention came in the 76th minute when the Hamrun rear-guard where found napping and Caio Prado found himself in a 1 vs 1 situation with Bartolo, only for the Hamrun captain to come out on top of the situation and deviate Caio Prado’s first timer into a corner. Having nothing to lose, Birkirkara kept increasing the pressure but our Spartan warriors kept fighting valiantly. In added time, a short back-pass from Alidor provided the opportunity to Soares to advance from midfield towards the Birkirkara goal and seal the issue with his second goal of the day, and his fourth in two matches.

 

This win meant that Birkirkara’s positive run ends after 12 unbeaten matches, while the Spartans’ unbeaten record reaches the 15 match mark. It also leaves us at the top of the table with a 2-point advantage on our closest rivals Hibernians. Most importantly, Spartan fans could lower their heart beat and start breathing again.