Matchday 09: Valletta 0 Sirens 0
Champions Valletta missed the chance to bridge the gap with Premier League pacesetters when they were held to a goalless draw by Sirens.
Buoyed by back-to-back wins, expectations were high among the City fans that the team could claim an other win but the match turned out to be an acid test for the champions as they failed to raise their game
Sirens held no fear and, increasingly no reason to hold back against a Valletta side lacking any sort of invention, menace or purpose. The St Paul’s Bay side grew in confidence, controlled the match but failed to apply the killer touch.
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of Anthony Zarb, former manager at the Centenary Stadium, who succumbed to injuries in hospital after being involved in a traffic accident last Sunday.
The first half was a poor advert for the Premier League football, with just one moment of quality lighting up an otherwise dreary 45 minutes.
That came courtesy of Emmanuel Okeye, who had a rising shot tipped away by Henry Bonello after some neat work by Wellington inside the first quarter of hour.
At the other end, some good build up play on the left by Shaun Dimech ended with the Valletta youngster toe-poking the ball for Kyrian Nwoko who shot straight at David Cassar.
Despite the game getting off to a flying start, the standard of football was not sustained with the poor conditions of the pitch not helping matters.
On 22 minutes, Mario Fontanella could not find a way past Cassar after being set up by Muscat.
Flavio Cheveresan should have put Sirens in front within three minutes of the second half but the Brazilian striker squandered two gilt-edges chances.
First, his pace took him into the box and after beating a defender fired a right-foot shot past the upright.
Then, he ran clear of the City defence but saw his unconvincing shot finishing wide.
Darren Abdilla’s thoughts on Valletta’s performance were reflected in his bold decision to make a double substitution shy the hour mark, when he replaced Dimech and Douglas Packer with Kevin Tulimieri and Matteo Piciollo.
Despite Valletta’s efforts to enhance their attacking impact, Sirens absorbed the pressure without much fuss and continued to impress.
The Lilywhites continued to look out of sorts going forward and shaky at the back to the point that after 63 minutes, Ige Adeshina saw his header fly across the face of goal.
Valletta decided to heed the warning and began to push forward with real purpose. Tulimieri’s volley finished high and wide from a good position and on 70 minutes, Muscat flicked a long ball into the path of Nwoko, who crossed from the left for Fontanella to hit the outside of a post.
Sirens could not find a way past Bonello and Memezes was denied by some good defending from Jean Borg while a curling shot from Adeshina was easily saved by the Valletta goalkeeper.
Adrian Borg sent Tulimieri crashing to the ground for Valletta’s last venture towards the Sirens penalty area. The Italian midfielder picked himself up to take the free-kick but his effort hit the wall and their last chance for the win went begging.
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, E. Pena Beltre, M. Fontanella, D. Packer (K. Tulimieri), R. Muscat, J. Zerafa, I. Dzaria , J. Borg, K. Nwoko (B. Kaljevic), S. Dimech (M. Piciollo), J. Caruana.
SIRENS: D. Cassar, R. Grech, W. de Oliveira, S. dos Anyos, E. Okeye, A. Borg, I. Adesina, R. Romao, R. Menezes, T. Espindola de Paula, F. Cheveresan.
Yellow Cards: B. Kaljevic, K. Tulimieri (V), S. Dos Anyos, A. Borg, R. Menezes, F. Cheveresan (S)
BOV player of the match: Flavio Cheveresan (Sirens)
Referee: D. Portelli