FA Trophy: Valletta 4 St Andrews 0
Valletta needed just 45 minutes to dispose of the tame challenge of an inexperienced St Andrews to secure qualification for the next round of the FA Trophy.
Four goals in the opening period ensured a trouble-free win for last year’s finalists but it does not constitute a genuine indicator of their real strength. With the game good as over, Valletta eased up and St Andrews made an effort to pep up their challenge but it was too little too late.
Valletta coach Darren Abdilla was clearly determined to extend the recent vein of form of his side, which saw them win four out of their last five matches, as he fielded his strongest possible formation but he opted for a switch of goalkeepers as he gave second-choice Yenz Cini his chance to shine.
Only last season, St Andrews were playing in the top flight and kept hold of some seasoned players like skipper Joseph Farrugia and foreign trio Ricardo Martin, Kemar Reid and Degran Jackson.
Despite playing without Rowen Muscat, Emny Pena Beltre, Matteo Piciollo and Irakli Dzaria, Valletta were still miles ahead their opponents as they registered an easy win over the Saints.
The ease with which Valletta, last year’s finalists, brushed as their opponents is ample proof of the gulf between the two teams.
The Citizens subdued their opponents within the first quarter as Douglas Ricardo Packer delivered an inviting ball to Jean Borg who headed behind the Saints goalkeeper Nicholas Grima.
This early City goal set the tone for the rest of the match and St Andrews coach Brian Said must have feared the worst when Valletta doubled their lead on 26 minutes. Packer planted the ball into the net with clinical prescision.
St Andrews were now engulfed by a mass of white-shirted players who laid siege on their fort. On the half hour mark, Packer lofted a cross towards the far post for Steve Borg who headed home.
On 35 minutes, Valletta moved four goals clear. A long ball caught the Saints defenders napping and Steve Borg capitalised to beat Grima with a low drive.
After the change of ends, Valletta dominated for long stretches but rarely moved out of second gear. On 68 minutes, Said made a double substitution, bringing on Mattia Veselji and Jamie Sixsmith but the move did little to quell Valletta’s cautious approach.
On 75 minutes, St Andrews could have scored a consolation goal when Degran Jackson outwitted his marker but City goalie Cini was up to the task as he palmed the ball away.
As the game drifted into its final five minutes, Valletta carved two scoring opportunies.
First, substitute Ryan Tonna was clean through but his piledriver finished just wide of the post. Then Kyrian Nwoko was denied by Ian Azzopardi’s aerial prowess when he was about to hit a cross by Joseph Zerafa.
VALLETTA: Y. Cini, S. Borg (E. Sala), R. Camilleri, S. Dimech, K. Nwoko, J. Borg, J. Zerafa, D. Packer, N. Pulis, M. Fontanella (R. Tonna), K. Tulimieri (J. Micallef)
ST ANDREWS: N. Grima, I. Azzopardi, M. D’Alessandro (M. Muscat), R. Martin, N. Bradshaw (M. Veselji), D. Reid Kemar, J. Farrugia (J. Sixsmith), D. Curmi, A. Borg Olivier, D. Jackson Kemmu, W. Camilleri.
Yellow Cards: R. Martin (S)
Scorers: 16′ J. Borg, 26′ D. Packer, 30′ 35′ S. Borg
Referee: A. Sciriha