Day 16 Valletta 1 Naxxar 2
Naxxar Lions pulled off an upset this evening after beating title challengers Valletta 2-1 in a fiercely-fought encounter.
First-half goals from Terrence Scerri and Brazilian defender Thiago set Naxxar Lions on the way to victory as Winston Muscat’s men frustrated Valletta with their robust defending and attacked with menace every time they broke on the counter.Unimpressive in the first half, Valletta did make a reaction in the second half despite the dismissal of Steve Borg but they were unable to nullify the two-goal deficit as Ryan Fenech’s goal came too late for the Citizens who remain second in the table, one point behind Birkirkara before the champions’ clash with Hibs this afternoon.
Six minutes into the game, Denni’s shot for Valletta was pished away for a corner by Julian Azzopardi, the Naxxar Lions goalkeeper.It was Naxxar who almost took the lead six minutes later.
Valletta were caught unawares at the back as Evaldo played a through-pass to fellow Brazilian Gilmar who sped past Steve Borg but his strike was beaten away by Yenz Cini, the Valletta goalkeeper.
The Lions’ ability to launch quick counter-attacks unsettled Valletta.Ryan Gilmour Cassar set off on a powerful overlap down the right wing but his cross-cum-shot took a deflection with the ball landing into the hands of Cini.With Valletta struggling for form and inspiration, Naxxar remained the more dangerous side.
Borg saved Valletta from a dangerous situation, diving in to block Scerri’s close-range attempt after Buhagiar had again burst clear on the right.Denni’s floated cross-shot triggered a scramble in the Naxxar box before goalkeeper Julian Azzopardi grabbed the ball.In their next attack midway into the first half, Naxxar opened the scoring.
They stormed forward with speed as Gilmar ran clear on the left before supplying an a perfect cross for Terrence Scerri who punished his former team by poked the ball home from point blank.The Citizens threatened to level matters a minute past the half-hour when Abdelkarim Nafti’s curling free-kick came off the crossbar.
Ten minutes from the end of the first half, Oscar Reyes Sanchez delivered a long cross into the box but Denni’s volleyed pass found no takers..Valletta’s woes increased six minutes from half-time.
A swinging corner by Gilmar was met by Buhagiar whose header crashed against the bar with the ball landing on the line before bouncing out. Thiago was on hand to drive the ball home despite Cini’s attempt to keep out the Brazilian’s effort.
The Citizens looked stunned. They clearly needed to raise their game against a fired-up and organised Naxxar Lions
.In first-half stoppage time, Edmond Agius lifted a pass towards Mifsud Triganza but his volley was high.Nafti’s swinging free-kick was deflected away for a corner just before half-time.
Valletta coach Mark Miller switched to a three-man defence to boost his side’s attacking impetus but his plans were jolted when defender Steve Borg was sent off for two yellow cards close to the hour.Midway into the first half, Valletta came close to pulling one back.
Shaun Bajada, who had replaced Bakare, swung in a cross from a corner, the ball was deflected into the path of Luke Dimech whose first-time strike was cleared off the line.
Azzopardi, the Naxxar goalkeeper, then blocked an effort from Reyes Sanchez.Despite being down to 10 men, Valletta dominated possession but their efforts were repelled on the crowded Naxxar defence.
Two minutes from time, Valletta revived their hopes when Ryan Fenech beat Azzopardi with a strong shot from outside the box but Naxxar held on to secure a famous victory.
Naxxar striker Gilmar was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – Y. Cini, R. Fenech, E. Agius (H. Barry), S. Borg, D. Dos Santos, J.P. Mifsud Triganza (I. Zammit), L. Dimech, J. Caruana, A. Nafti, O. Reyes Sanchez, R. Bakare (S. Bajada).
NAXXAR L. – M. J. Azzopardi, V. Bellia, A. Buhagiar, R. Cassar, G. Da Silva Ribeiro, A. Decesare, P. Doffo, T. Lopes De Souza, A. Rocha Da Silva (J. Ani), T. Scerri (M. Del Negro), E. Silva Dos Santos.
Date: 21.12.13 Time: 16:15 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Scorers: 23′ T. Scerri, 39′ T. Lopez de Souza, 88′ R. Fenech
Yellow Cards: A. Decesare, V. Bellia, E. Silva Dos Santos (N), S. Borg, R. Fenech, L. Dimech, R. Bakare
Red Card: S. Borg
Man of Match: Gilmar Da Silva Ribeiro (N)
Referee: Mario Apap