2008 - VALLETTA WIN BETFAIR CUP ON PENALTIES
The euphoria engendered by Juve’s training camp in Malta was again in abundant evidence last
night as the Serie A giants graced the National Stadium when playing a friendly match against local side Valletta FC.
Rightly considered as the main attraction of Juve’s much-publicised stay on our shores, the encounter wooed a large crowd to Ta’ Qali.
Given the gulf in class between the two teams, the majority of those who bought tickets for this match probably expected Juventus to run rings around Valletta but the envisaged
deluge of goals never materialised.
With an important Serie A match against Catania on the doorstep,
Juventus will have been wary about spending too much energy but that is not to say that they didn’t endeavour to win.
Claudio Ranieri’s men created a series of scoring chances but Valletta also had their bright moments. The Premier League pacesetters certainly deserve credit for their commitment
and tactical cohesion but most of all, for their refusal to be intimidated by the reputation and
aura of their stellar opponents.
City’s efforts certainly helped to make a good advert for the often much-derided Maltese football, especially in the eyes of those numerous supporters who probably had never been to the National Stadium before Juventus came to town.
Although Juve’s performance left much to be desired, the Turin stalwarts still delighted their fans with their presence.
In the end, the supporters got more than they had bargained for as
a penalty shoot-out was needed to decide the Betfair Cup, as the match was called, after the score at the end of the regular 90 minutes was surprisingly locked at one-all.
Valletta completed a David vs Goliath act when Antonio Nocerino sent his penalty shot wide and Saviour Darmanin, who had replaced Andrew Hogg at half-time, saved Nicola Legrottaglie’s spot-kick.
Ecstatic City fans sung their hearts out and saluted their heroes as skipper Gilbert Agius lifted the
Several thousand of fans were crammed into the North and South Ends of the National Stadium. The Juventus fans daubed the North End black and white while the loyal City aficionados, who also turned up in large numbers, decorated the other curve with red and white streamers.
A buzzing atmosphere reigned at the stadium, the level of expectancy rising steadily as kick-off drew closer. The ‘warm-up’ for the fans kicked off with the playing of the anthems of the two teams.
Just as the multitude of photographers lined up in front of the tunnel in preparation for the entrance of the Juventus players, a minor incident occurred at pitchside.
Photographer Ben Borg Cardona was brusquely dragged off the pitch and into the tunnel by a group of security officers.
Before referee Joe Attard whistled the start of the match, Gilbert Agius and Alessandro Del Piero, the captains, encouraged the crowd to donate money in aid of the YMCA by sending an SMS on an advertised number.
Ranieri fielded an experimental, but still valid, side as established players such as Del Piero, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved were joined by emerging stars like Cristian Molinaro and Marco Marchionni while Sergio Almiron was also handed a rare start in the midfield.
After Valletta forced the first two corners of the game, Andrew Hogg, the Valletta goalkeeper, effected a fine save to parry a grounder by Pavel Nedved.
Frank Temile was proving quite a handful for the Juve players in those early stages as the young
Nigerian switched from one side of the pitch to the other in search of openings.
Juve threatened to surge ahead when Marchionni, latching onto a crossfield pass from Nedved,
volleyed the ball high and wide. Hogg again did well to touch away a free-kick by Del Piero. On 24 minutes, Agius and Almiron were involved in a brief bout of showing after the Valletta talisman was incensed by a tackle by the former Empoli midfielder.
Bar the occasional chant of ‘Juve, Juve’, the local tifosi were strangely subdued in the opening stages of the match but not so can be said of the City fans whose vocal support for
their team was constant as ever.
It wasn’t before the 31st minute that Buffon made his first intervention as the Italy no.1 came out to block a floated cross by Giglio.
At the other end, Del Piero flicked the ball wide of the near post after receiving a low through-pass by Marchionni. Pouncing on a loose ball in midfield, Monesterolo then tried to surprise Buffon with a long-range chip but his effort lacked precision.
Eight minutes from half-time, Del Piero curled the ball beyond the City wall but the ball landed at the wrong side of the near post.
But, two minutes from half-time, Juventus opened the scoring. Nedved was the provider with an
excellent cross from the left towards the centre of the box where the unmarked Olivera headed firmly past Hogg.
The Juve followers were overjoyed but their delight didn’t last long as within a minute Valletta had
Perseverance on Temile’s part led to City’s goal as the Nigerian, swooping at the far post, managed to get a shot towards goal despite being closely shadowed by a Juventus
defender. The ball ricocheted off the bar and back into the goalmouth where Monesterolo was on the right spot to guide the ball home.
Ranieri changed the entire team for the second half, bar Marchionni and Zdenek Grygera. The captain’s armband was passed on to David Trezeguet.
Valletta coach Zammit introduced goalkeeper Darmanin, Jonathan Bondin, Claude Mattocks, Ian Zammit and Dyson Falzon at the start of the second period.
Darmanin denied Juventus an equaliser when smothering away a point-blank shot by Trezeguet before the Valletta defence cleared the ball away for a corner. Hasan Salihamidzic then headed wide.
Juventus were the brighter side in the early stages of the second half but the gallant Citizens continued to battle bravely and give a good account of themselves. Sixteen minutes into the second half, Zammit had a diagonal shot from the edge of the six-yard box that was deflected away for a corner.
In a fast counter-attack, Juve came close to restoring their lead but Raffaele Palladino, set up by Marchionni, blasted the ball high.
An excellent move involving Tiago and Trezeguet unlocked the erstwhile resolute City defence but Vincenzo Iaquinta, sprinting into the box from the blind side, drove wide with only Darmanin to beat.
The home team also went agonizingly close to putting their noses ahead when, with 19 minutes of the game left, Kurt ‘Maxi’ Magro, who had just replaced Monesterolo, combined with Steve Bezzina to open up the Juventus defence but the Valletta youngster was twice denied by
Darmanin also did well when palming away Tiago’s piledriver. Five minutes from time, the
incoming Keith Fenech miscued his shot after receiving Falzon’s cutback. Then came the penalties and City kept hold of their nerves to secure an unlikely success.
(Valletta win 4-3 on penalties)
A. Hogg, J. Grioli, K. Scicluna, J. Mifsud, S. Bezzina, D. Camilleri,
S. Giglio, H. Backhaus, G. Agius, F. Temile, S. Monesterolo.
Subs: S. Darmanin, J. Bondin, I. Zammit, D. Falzon, C. Mattocks, K. Magro, B,
G. Buffon, A. Birindelli, G. Chiellini, S. Almiron, C. Zanetti, A. Del
Piero, P. Nedved, Z. Grygera, R. Olivera, C. Molinaro, M. Marchionni.
E. Belardi, H. Salihamidzic, V. Iaquinta, D. Trezeguet, J. Boumsong, R.
Palladino, A. Nocerino, Tiago, N. Legrottaglie.
Olivera 43; Monesterolo 44.
Iaquinta (J) scored ...........1-0 Zammit (V) scored ............1-1
Palladino (J) scored .........2-1 Mattocks (V) scored..........2-2
Tiago (J) scored ...............3-2 Mifsud (V) scored .............3-3
Nocerino (J) missed .........3-3 Falzon (V) scored .............4-3
Legrottaglie (J) missed .... 4-3
Source – Times of Malta