Day 15 Valletta 2 Hibernians 1
Valletta boosted their chances of retaining their Premier League title when scoring two second half goals and beat Hibernians 2-1 to join the Paolites at the top of the Premier League standings.
The match had taken a difficult path for Valletta as Hibs took the lead after five minutes.
Joseph Mbong, who was beyond the Valletta defenders, found the ball into his feet after it was deflected by a City player. The Valletta players appealed for offside but referee Philip Farrugia waved play on and Mbong served Jurgen Degabriele who saw his shot pushed away by Bonello. Taylon failed to control the rebound but in came Tiago Fonseca who rammed the ball into the net.
Hibs looked the more composed side and on 12 minutes they should have doubled their lead.
Dunstan Vella won possession just outside the Valletta area and quickly played in Jurgen Degabriele who was denied by a fine one-handed save from Bonello.
Valletta’s first attempt at goal arrived on 26 minutes when they were awarded a central free-kick and Miguel Alba’s inswinger was saved by Andrew Hogg.
Hibs suffered a blow on the half hour when Fonseca fail to recover from a blow he received and was replaced by Marco Sahanek.
The match remained evenly-balanced and Sahanek almost made an instant impact on 38 minutes when in a swift break he put clear Taylon but the Brazilian took too much time to conclude and was closed out by the Valletta defenders.
On 41 minutes, Valletta came close when Alba hit a firm drive that was deflected towards goal by Piciollo but Hogg was alert to block.
The second half was off to a storming start as Valletta took just two minutes to level matters.
They won a free-kick on the right channel and Alba’s delivery was met by Santiago Malano with his dipping effort finishing past a stranded Hogg.
Things got from bad to worse for Hibs as on 54 minutes Ntow was dismissed after he picked up his second booking for a foul on Enmy Pena Beltre.
The decision irked the Hibs bench with coach Stefanno Sanderra sent to the stands by referee Farrugia for dissent.
Just past the hour mark, Degabriele took the City defence single-handedly when he showed great skill to turn past two defenders but his shot was fisted away by Bonello.
Valletta continued to hold a slight edge and on 66 minutes Alba found Piciollo who however hit wideof Hogg’s goal.
Hibs had Radojevic to thank for not falling behind on 69 minutes when the Serbian produced a timely block on Kaljevic infront of a gaping goal after a fine pass from Piciollo.
From the resultant corner, taken by Alba, Hogg just managed to keep out Mario Fontanella’s header.
Seventeen minutes from time, Doncic looked to add fresh legs to his forward line when he withdrew Piciollo and roped in Bogdan Gavrila as the Citizens looked to pile up the pressure on the Hibs defence.
Eight minutes from time, Bogdan Gavrila’s cross found Fontanella who was denied by Hogg. The ball fell to Alba whose fiece drive was again kept out by Hogg. Fontanella picked up the ball but was upended by Degabriele and the referee pointed to the spot.
Alba stepped up for the kick and the Argentine rammed the ball into the top corner.
Valletta midfielder Santiago Malano was voted as the BOV Player of the Match.
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, J. Caruana, R. Camilleri, S. Malano, M. Piciollo (B. Gavrila), E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa (J. Borg), R. Muscat, M. Alba (K. Nwoko), B. Kaljevic, M. Fontanella.
HIBS – A. Hogg, D. Vella, N. Radojevic, J. Mbong, M. Dias, J. Degabriele, B. Kristensen, I. Ntow, T. Marcolino, A. Agius, T. Fonseca (M. Sahanek)
Yellow Cards: J. Caruana, M. Piciollo, R. Muscat, B. Kaljevic (V), N. Radojevic, J. Mbong, B. Kristensen, I. Ntow,
Red Card: I. Ntow (H)
Scorers: 4′ T. Fonseca (H), 48′ S. Malano, 84′ M. Alba (V)
BOV Player of the Match: M. Alba (V)
Referee: P. Farrugia