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.
Micallef (74’ Mercieca)
Marcelina (86’ Lagzir)
Djordjevic (80’ Oyama)