Day 12 Valletta 2 Sliema W 1
Valletta began their second round on a high note as they beat Sliema Wanderers 2-1 to keep the pace with the front-runners.
The champions looked set for a straightforward victory after moving into a two-goal lead by the 70th minute but Mark Scerri pulled one back to revive Sliema who, until then, had been second best.
There were some late scares for Valletta but they held on to keep their title challenge on track.
Valletta were the sprightlier side in the first half but failed to translate their supremacy into something tangible.
Three minutes into the game, Llywelyn Cremona slipped an intelligent pass to Michael Mifsud who controlled well but his drive was parried away by Glenn Zammit, the Sliema Wanderers goalkeeper.
Jhonnattann’s swift progression forced Sliema defender Roger to haul down Valletta’s Brazilian striker.
From the ensuing free-kick, Jhonnattann’s low drive, hit towards the near post, was beaten away by Zammit.
Valletta were dominating possession.
On 20 minutes, Steve Borg hit a forward pass towards Mifsud who sped past Gary Muir on the right wing but his strike, from an angle, was parried away by Zammit.
Sliema failed to register a shot at goal but they gained ground as the first half moved on. Seven minutes from half-time, Denni tried his luck from the distance but his drive was off target.
The second half was only four minutes old when Valletta had a brilliant chance to take the lead.
Having broken down a Sliema attack, Mifsud picked up the clearance and sped forward in a two-vs-two situation. Jhonnattann, who had sped clear on the left, was unmarked when he received Mifsud’s pass but his grounder rolled past the base of the far post.
Alhinho also went close but his piledriver was high.
The erstwhile low-key Blues tried to raise their game as the second half progressed.
They had a great opportunity to break the deadlock when Denni’s cross from the left fell to Matias Muchardi, who was unguarded inside the Valletta box, but the Argentine’s low drive flashed past the far post.
Valletta should have taken the lead when Borg’s cross was met by Falcone at the far post but the Argentine’s close-range header was blocked by Zammit.
In the next minute, Valletta struck. A lengthy raid on the Sliema defence ended with Leandro Aguirre dragging a teasing cross into the six-yard box and Falcone scored with a diving header to end his goal famine.
Valletta were now in control.
They increased their lead with 21 minutes left when Santiago Malano, who had replaced Mifsud, passed to Cremona who cut into the box from the right before rifling a powerful drive that soared above Zammit and into the net.
Th Citizens looked to have the points in the bag but Sliema reopened the issue seven minutes from time.
Milos Galin, who had replaced Mandinho, did well to shield the ball inside the Valletta box before setting up Mark Scerri who rifled past Bartkus from an angle.
Sliema plucked up courage.
They threatened to equalise when Scerri, one of their better performers, crossed for Farrugia but his header was stopped by Bartkus.
Deep into stoppage time, Ryan Camilleri came to Valletta’s rescue with a goal-line clearance following a goalmouth melee.
Jhonnattann, the Valletta forward, was named BOV player of the match.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – D. Barktus, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, J. Benites (J. Borg), M. Mifsud (S. Malano), J. Caruana, F. Falcone, C. Pani, V. Alhinho, L. Cremona (R. Fenech) , L. Aguirre.
SLIEMA W. – G. Zammit, A. Dos Satos Tarlaziz (G. Milos), G. Muir, R. Vilas Boas, S. Biancardi, J. Mintoff, M. Muchardi (G. Aquilina), M. Scerri, P. Xuereb, J. P.Farrugia, D. Dos Santos.
Scorers: 62′ F. Falcone, 69′ L. Cremona (V), 81′ M. Scerri (S)
Yellow Cards: C. Pani, F. Falcone, D. Barktus (V) G. Milos (S)
Man of Match: J. Benites (V)