Day 33: Valletta 1 Hibs 1
Valletta wrapped up their title-winning season with a 1-1 draw against rivals and deposed champions Hibernians this evening.
Already assured of the championship after opening an unassailable four-point lead, Valletta were officially crowned as champions this afternoon with the players revelling in the adulation of the boisterous fans.
The game was hard-fought with Hibs creating the better chances as they looked to spoil their rivals’ party but Valletta, who had taken the lead through Federico Falcone, held on to end their commitments on a high.
A lively atmosphere prevailed at the National Stadium as thousands of Valletta fans turned up to watch their team bing crowned champions for the 23rd time in their history.
The first half was a balanced affair with Hibs showing their intent to give their rivals a rough ride despite being out of contention for the title.
Early on, a long-range free-kick by Jhonnattann sailed high.
There was a promising move for Valletta when Jhonnattann played the ball to the advancing Roderick Briffa on the right but the latter overhit his cross.
The danger was not over for Hibs as Ian Azzopardi pounced on a loose ball but drove wide.
At the other end, Henry Bonello, the Valletta goalkeeper, dashed out of goal to close down Jorginho.
As the first half moved on, the champions produced some encouraging attacks, especially when their flank defenders pushed forward on the wings, but Hibs held firm.
In a fast breakaway, Hibs had a great opportunity to take the lead when Marcelo Dias beat Azzopardi to the ball which landed at the feet of Gilmar. As the Valletta defenders raised their hands for offside, Gilmar supplied a perfect pass to Jorgingho who was clean through but his strike was blocked by Bonello.
Valletta also threatened when Jhonnattann unleashed a diagonal shot that sailed past the far post.
Appeals for a penalty after Umeh Calistus’s shot appeared to come off Andrei Agius’s right arm were turned down by referee Mario Apap.
Jorginho then missed another inviting chance for Hibs as he mishit his shot after being put through by Bjorn Kristensen.
On the brink of half-time, Bonello again denied Jorginho, who had profited from a moment of hesitancy in the City defence, but from the ensuing counter-attack, Valletta almost struck.
Falcone, who had just returned to the pitch after receiving medical attention, roobed Rodolfo Soares ofn the ball and passed to Nafti who sprinted forward through the middle but the Tunisian rifled high from the distance.
The second half began with Hibs seizing the initiative as they pressed for a goal.
Kristensen, who was having a good match, hit another teasing pass to Jorginho who moved clear of Caruana but his low effort was blocked by Bonello.
Valletta’s Jhonnattann then swept past Soares after receiving from Briffa but the Brazilian’s effort was saved by Justin Haber.
The Hibs goalkeeper was beaten close to the hour when Nafti delivered a through-ball to Federico Falcone who sped into the box before hammering past Haber.
It took Hibs four minutes to equaliser with Marcelo Dias heading home from Cohen’s cross.
When Falcone lifted the ball towards Llywelyn Cremona, Valletta’s optimism rose drifted across the st but the Malta U-21’s flick was too weak to trouble Haber.
Bonello did likewise from Lima’s free-kick.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, F. Falcone, A. Nafti (L. Cremona), J. Benites (M. Mifsud), R. Briffa, I. Azzopardi , U. Calistus (R. Romao), C. Pani, R. Camilleri, J. Caruana, J. Gill Cruz.
HIBS – J. Haber, R. Soares, A. Agius, J. Pearson, M. Dias (J. Mbong), C. Failla, B. Kristensen, J. Lima, A. Cohen (J. Degabriele), G. Da Silva, J. Da Sila
Yellow: A. Nafti, U. Calstus, A. Agius, R. Camilleri (V), B. Krstensen, J. Da Silva Pereira (H)
Man of Match: 60′ Federico Falcone (V), 65′ M. Dias (H)
Scorers: F. Falcone,
Referee: Mario Apap