Day 26: Valletta 2 Pieta H 1
Valletta earned a hard-fought victory over Pieta’ Hotspurs.
Valletta pressed forward from the off. After 18 minutes, Miguel Montfort made a timely block on Ian Azzopardi after good work by Borg. The Citizens continued to enjoy more possession without extending the Pieta’ defence. Running on to a clever pass by Llywelyn Cremona, Barry outwitted his marker but his grounder from an angled position rolled across the face of goal.
Pieta’ fashioned the first chance of the second half, Leonardo Fortunato heading straight into Marino’s hands from Claudio Frances’s free-kick.
Not before long, Valletta issued a reminder of their counter-attack threat as Nafti sped clear of his marker but his central flick went wide. A cohesive Valletta move opened up the Hotspurs defence on 53 minutes. Shaun Bajada laid the ball to the advancing Nafti who had the presence of mind to lift the ball over the onrushing Montfort.
Chances came thick and fast in the early stages of the second half with both teams upping the tempo of their game. In the 56th minute, Borg was a picture of disbelief when his header from Nafti’s corner was hooked off the line by Gabriel.
On the other side, Ikenna Hillary lost possession cheaply near the halfway line, Gabriel released Luke Micallef who sped through, rounded onrushing Pietro Marino and fired the ball into an empty net, only to see his effort crash against the foot of the post.
Valletta did not heed the warning, however, and when Frances burst clear on to a through pass by Luke Micallef, the Argentine striker showed great composure to out-sprint Marino and place a low shot into the net.
Pieta’s joy was short-lived when they failed to clear the ball in midfield and Nafti pounced to send the ball into the top of the net from close range to the relief of the Valletta crowd at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
Valletta struggled to settle into their usual rhythm as the hard-running Pieta’ players defended compactly and broke forward in numbers. In stoppage time, Marino leapt to his right to pay away Costa’s pulverising drive.
Then, Nafti tried to surprise Montfort with a chip after a good run by Bajada but the goalkeeper saved.
VALLETTA – P. Marino, R. Camilleri, H. Barry, J. Caruana, L. Cremona (L. Dimech), I. Azzopardi, A. Nafti, I. Hillary (R. Briffa), S. Bajada, D. Leeflang (R. Fenech),
PIETA H. – M. Montfort, K. Micallef, C. Grech, L. Dos Santos, J. Pisani, J. Gabriel Da Silva (K. Cesare), C. Attard, R. Rodrigues da Silva (R. Costa), C. Newuche (D. Agius), L. Micallef, C. Frances
Date: 14.03.15 Time: 16:15 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Scorers: 54′, 72′ A. Nafti (V), 71′ C. Frances (P)
Yellow Cards: J. Gabriel da Silva (P), R. Fenech (V)
Man of Match: A. Nafti (V)
Referee: F. Zammit