The Maroons turn on the show in the second half
Marsaxlokk 0 Gzira United 3
22nd January 2023, Centenary Stadium, Ta’Qali
Gzira United maintained their second position in the league table after slipping temporarily joint third after Saturday's victories registered by Hibs and Birkirkara. However, Gzira returned to second place after a convincing 3-0 victory against Marsaxlokk which win culminated after a solid second half performance.
The match started off in cold wintery conditions with the lashing rain and wind impacting proceedings mostly in the initial stages and first half. Possession in the first half was evenly balanced, with Marsaxlokk well organized and compact in defence and play mostly concentrated in midfield with chances rare, let alone attempts on target. Gzira let Marsaxlokk take some initiative, while at the same time operating with their customary counter attacks.
Gzira's coach Darren Abdilla's team talk at half-time, with some fine tuning of tactical plans, turned the match on its head. This reaped dividends immediately with a double one two quick succession goals at the start of the second half, which proved to be the turning point of the match. From then onwards, Gzira took control of the match and controlled proceedings till the end of the match with Marsaxlokk no match for Gzira's game plan. The Seasiders rarely created any real danger to Gzira's fort of defence. Gzira closed off the match with the third goal and with the flurry of chances they created in the second half could have easily run out winners with a greater margin.
The first chance of the match was created by M’Xlokk when in the 10th minute a shot by Ferraris went just wide. Gzira responded in the 17th minute when a cross by Riascos tried to be headed in by Maia after a clash of heads within Marsaxlokk’s penalty area and once more Maia tried his luck again in the 21st minute heading wide a cross by Dias from the left.
Marsaxlokk had two freekicks in the 27th and 35th minutes which did not create any threat to the Gzira defence, while in the 38th minute a close range shot from within the penalty area by Marsaxlokk’s Xuereb was well saved by Gzira’s goalkeeper Zarkov.
Chances in the first half remained few and rare, with Gzira having two penalty claims in the 20th and 39’ minutes being turned down.
Gzira United started off the second half in style. A long run by Maia along the left flank, followed by driving the ball low into the penalty area to be meet by the on rushing De Assis who coolly placed the ball in the net in the 46th minute.
Gzira punished Marsaxlokk with another quick goal in the 50th minute, when a long cross by Dias from the left found Marsaxlokk’s keeper Drobnjak fumble the ball just beneath the cross bar, only for Maia to seize hold of the opportunity and easily tap the ball in the net.
After this second goal Gzira took over and from then onwards followed a string of chances created by Gzira, one after the other.
A cross by Maia was headed just wide in the 52nd minute following a cross by Pisani.
In the 56th minute, a cross by De Assis from the left found Kolega’s first time shot saved with difficulty by Marsaxlokk’s custodian.
In the 59th minute a cross by Gzira’s Tabone found De Assis being bundled over before concluding in the net.
In the 60th minute, Aguirre of Marsaxlokk, broke slightly Gzira’s dominance, when after dribbling into Gzira’s penalty area, found his central shot neutralized by Gzira’s custodian Zarkov.
In the 61st minute, a corner by Gzira’s Pisani placed in the small box of the penalty area, saw Maia’s first shot saved by Marsaxlokk’s Drobnjak and from the rebound Maia incredibly hit the crossbar when it was more easier to score.
In the 66th minute, a close header by Gzira’s De Assis finished just wide over the cross bar, after being first missed by Scerri.
In the 69th minute, Gzira United scored again. A freekick, well outside Marsaxlokk’s penalty area, was blasted in from long range by Gzira’s Bohrer customary bombshell freekicks, giving no chance to Drobnjak to save.
Gzira practically closed the match and till the end continued creating other chances which could have increased the score further.
In the 85th minute, a pass by Gzira’s new signing and debutant Ribeiro De Oliviera, from Gzira’s half, found Muscat advancing into Marsaxlokk’s half but his low drive shot was saved by the opposing keeper.
In the 89th minute, Gzira’s Ribeiro De Oliviera had a header going just wide following a corner and his attempt on target in the 91st was well saved. In between, in the 90th minute, substitute Borg saw his long-range shot being saved to a corner.
Gzira controlled proceedings till the end to round off a merited victory.
The Maroon’s attention now turns to next Saturday’s duel against Hibernians, in a six-pointer clash, in a challenge for European places.
Man of the Match: Maxuell Maia
Luis Carlos Riascos 38’
Marko Cosic 45’
73’ Nikolai Muscat in for Zachary Scerri
73’ Jackson Mendoza in for Luis Carlos Riascos
73’ Lucas Ribeiro De Oliveira in for Jefferson De Assis
82’ Andrew Borg in for Marcelo Dias
89’ Izaak Ellul in for Maxuell Maia