Jhonnattann is proving his true worth at Valletta Published on: 22-12-2015
Valletta fans woke up with a broad smile on their faces yesterday, still basking in delight after seeing their team taking sole leadership in the Premier League standings after beating champions Hibernians on Sunday.
Inside the various social clubs at the football-mad city, the 3-2 win was top of the agenda and one name that cropped up repeatedly was that of Jhonnattann.
Last weekend, the Brazilian striker returned to the starting formation after more than a month out with a hand injury. He took little time to remind the fans of what they were missing when netting his team’s opening goal with a thundering drive.
Jhonnattann, 26, also had a hand in the other two goals in a sparkling performance that was crowned with the man-of-the-match award.
“It was a perfect return for me after so many weeks out because of an injury,” Jhonnattann told Times of Malta yesterday.
“During my recovery I continued to train hard as I wanted to make sure that when I got the go-ahead to play I would be ready.
“We knew that Hibernians were going to be very difficult opponents but at the same time there was a growing belief inside the dressing room that we could beat them and our mindset on the day was focused on the three points.
“It was a very tense encounter but when we took the game from Hibernians there was no doubt where victory was heading.”
Hibs and Valletta matched each other for most of the first half.
However, Jhonnattann’s goal on the hour proved to be the turning point. Hibs were forced to push more men forward, leaving wide spaces available for the City forwards to hit on the counter.
“Scoring the first goal worked in our favour even though they drew level a few minutes later,” Jhonnattann said.
“However, we kept the same pattern and went on to score two more goals that secured the win.”
Inevitably, City’s showings, this month in particular, have raised the credence among their loyal band of supporters that this could be their year again.
Jhonnattann remains grounded though but admitted that the players are starting to believe more in their potential now.
“There’s so many other matches to play but our wins over Hibs, Birkirkara and Balzan were no mean feat. You have to beat teams of that quality to start thinking about winning the title,” Jhonnattann said.
“With Paul Zammit the team is showing signs of progress with every game we play and he reckons there’s more room for improvement and I agree.
“Now, we have to keep our feet rooted to the ground but our position is very encouraging. There’s unity in the club and if we continue to work hard with the coach I guess we can all aspire for an exciting second half to the season.”
For Jhonnattann winning the Premier League would be a perfect response to those who doubted his skills and contribution during his first spell at Valletta.
Back in July 2012, Jhonnattann went on trial with the Citizens but the decision was taken not to sign him and he then joined Birkirkara with whom he won the league.
During his time with the Stripes, Jhonnattann established a great relationship with Paul Zammit and he did not think twice to re-join his coach when the latter called him this summer.
“Paul Zammit is the reason why I decided to return to Valletta,” Jhonnattann, who won the Bahrain championship with Al Muhraqi last season, said.
“When he called in summer and informed me he had joined Valletta and they were showing interest in me I accepted. Paul is a coach who believes a lot in my qualities and I really like the way he conducts his training. He’s an inspiration to all.
“Now, I am really happy to be back as for me this is an ideal opportunity to prove that those who rejected me a couple of years were wrong.
“The club committee and fans have also been very supportive so I want to do everything I can to make them happy and help the team win as many trophies as possible.”
Source - Times of Malta