Day 21 Valletta 1 Hamrun S. 1
A dramatic equaliser by Donneil Alain Moukanza deep into stoppage time handed Hamrun Spartans a 1-1 draw with Valletta at the National Stadium on Saturday.
Needing a win to secure a 25th league title, the Citizens were seconds away from retaining their status of Malta champions when they headed into stoppage time leading courtesy of Mario Fontanella’s first-half strike.
However, a rare mistake by the City defence in stoppage time proved costly as Moukanza fired home the equaliser.
With Hibernians crushing Balzan at Corradino it means that the Valletta were pegged back at the top of the standings and the title will be decided in a decider next week.
As for Ħamrun, the point secured them fourth place in the standings and should Birkirkara fail to win the FA Trophy they will be back in UEFA club competitions for a first time after an absence of 25 years…. a huge feat indeed for a club who was playing Division Two football only a few years ago.
Valletta coach Gilbert Agius effected just one change to the team that beat Tarxien Rainbows last week as Steve Borg returned from suspension to replace Jean Borg.
On the other hand, Giovanni Tedesco, the Ħamrun coach, recalled Sebastian Nayar and Donneil Moukanza in his starting XI at the expense of Conor Borg and Marco Criaco.
Valletta were quick out of the blocks as in the first minue Miguel Alba finds Mario Fontanella inside the area and the Italian saw his header blocked by Ħamrun goalkeeper Emmanuel Bartolo.
On 14 minutes, Santiago Malano sped towards the Ħamrun goal before serving Mario Fontanella and his low drive was pushed away by Bartolo.
From the resultant corner taken by Alba, Fontanella was again thwarted by Bartolo.
Play remained evenly balanced with Valletta holding a slight edge but were finding it difficult to breach the Spartans defence.
But all that chaned on 31 minutes when the champions took the lead.
Fontanella latched onto a poor back pass from Andre Scicluna and the Italian striker sped into the area and beat Bartolo with a firm drive.
That goal settled any nerves Valletta might have had as they looked happy to administer the advantage with the Spartans continuing to to struggle to create any kind danger to their opposing defence.
The Spartans finally threatened a minute from the break as Tulimieri’s overhead kick found Wilfried Domoraud at the far post and the French striker’s volley bounced just over the bar.
Valletta stepped on the accelerator as they looked for a second goal with Fontanella hitting a low shot that hit the side-netting.
Ħamrun coach Tedesco tried to revive his team by withdrawing Nayar and Scicluna and bringing on Conor Borg and Matthew Gauci.
Valletta suffered a blow just past the hour as Ryan Camilleri suffered a muscle injury and was replaced by Jean Borg.
On 63 minutes, Ħamrun were awarded a central free-kick but Moukanza blasted his shot over the bar.
Seven minutes later, coach Agius lost another key player as Alba limped out injured and was replaced by Raed Saleh.
Ħamrun were trying to step up the pressure but despite creating some good openings they were lacking that final pass to threaten the City defence.
As the minutes passed the City fans grew in their vocal support as the title was edging closer with Ħamrun looking increasingly short of ideas.
In the closing stages, Valletta were reduced to ten men when Saleh was shown a red card after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession.
Then the unexpected happened. Deep into stoppage time, Caruana sent a long pass towards Moukanza and the Frenchman turned past his marker to slot the ball home to the delight of the Spartans fans and City’s heartbreak.
Valletta striker Mario Fontanella was voted as the BOV Player of the Match.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, J. Caruana, S. Malano, M. Fontanella, K. Nwoko (B. Kaljevic), E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, R. Camilleri (J. Borg), R. Muscat, M. Alba (R. Saleh), S. Borg
HAMRUN S. – M.Bartolo, E. Pepe, T. Caruana, S. Nayar (C. Borg), W. Domoraud, A. Scicluna (M. Gauci), K. Micallef, D. Moukanza, O. Nikolopoulos, C. Calil, K. Tulimieri (R. Darmanin)
Yellow Cards: M. Alba, M. Gauci, M. Muscat, R. Saleh (V) C. Calil, W. Domoraud (H)
Red Cards: R. Saleh (V)
Scorers: 29′ M. Fontanella (V), 93′ D. Moukanza.
BOV Player of the Match: M. Fontanella
Referee: A. M. Sant