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Premier League Champions 2018-2019

Valletta FC Champions 2018-2019

Valletta are the Malta champions yet again. The Citizens once proved that they are the best team in Maltese football with a gutsy performance that saw them edge past a fighting Hibernians side in a penalty shoot-out that secured the 25th league title of their club’s history.

It is a landmark achievement for Valletta who have now joined their fierce rivals Floriana on the overall winners’ list and are just one win away from Sliema Wanderers who top the standings with 26 titles to their name.

The match turned out to be a cracker.

Hibernians had looked to have the edge over Valletta with a fast start that saw them take an early lead through Taylon.

But Valletta’s experience came to the fore once more as they refused to panic and slowly got themselves back into the match. After a spell of sustained pressure, they drew level through their skipper Jonathan Caruana.

Here, Hibs looked on the ropes with Valletta creating several chances but could not find the winner as the match went into extra time.

Valletta remained on top and when Mario Fontanella put the citizens ahead on 98 minutes it looked as if the title was surely heading to the capital city.

But to their credit, Hibs kept fighting and managed to stun their opponents with a Marko Sahanek equaliser two minutes from time to send the match to a penalty shoot-out.

Here, Valletta’s superior experience made the difference as the Lilywhites were perfect from the spot while Hibs missed through Sahanek, who hit the post, and Taylon saw his shot saved by Henry Bonello.

That left Fontanella with the task of killing off their opponents and the Italian duly delivered to fire home the winning penalty to the delight of the City fans.

Now, Valletta will look forward to Wednesday’s FA Trophy quarterfinal against the same Hibs as they set their sights on a second successive league and club double.

Valletta coach Gilbert Agius fielded an attacking formation with a 4-2-1-3 formation with Bojan Kaljevic coming into the fray and partnering with Mario Fontanella and Kyrian Nwoko upfront. Young defender Jean Borg was also handed a start as he replaced Ryan Camilleri who was not fully fit.

The Paolites, under the charge of Stefano Sanderra, made one enforced change from the team that crushed Balzan 5-1 last week as Marcelo Dias failed to recover from a hamstring injury with Bjorn Kristensen coming in to skipper the side.

Hibernians had the ball in the Valletta net after four minutes when Kristensen lobbed the ball towards Jake Grech who squared the ball towards Taylon who stabbed home. However, referee Malcolm Spiteri annulled the ‘goal’ for a dubious offside position.

But the Paolites were not to be denied and in their next attacking foray they took the lead.

Valletta FC Champions 2018-2019

The clock marked 13 minutes when Isaac Ntow moved past Rowen Muscat before sending a teasing cross towards Taylon and the Brazilian headed firmly past a stranded Bonello to send the Hibs fans into a frenzy.

Valletta’s response arrived on 18 minutes when Enmy Pena Beltre connected with the ball inside the area but his thumping volley was deflected wide by Tiago Fonseca.

Moments later, City’s defensive struggles were exposed again when Taylon raced through and intelligently released Grech but the Malta midfielder elected to shoot first time and his shot was blocked by Bonello.

Two minutes later, Valletta finally came close when Kyrian Nwoko connected to Muscat’s pass but his flick was brilliantly saved by Marko Jovicic.

Valletta were starting to threaten more and on 25 minutes Jean Borg did well to move past Joseph Mbong and sent a dangerous cross inside the area but neither Kaljevic nor Alba managed to intervene.

On 26 minutes, Valletta goalkeeper Bonello came to the rescue when he charged out of his goal to close down Taylon after the Brazilian pounced on Steve Borg’s poor backpass.

Nine minutes from half-time, Valletta were awarded a central free-kick but Alba’s inswinger was too central to trouble Jovicic.

Valletta should have drawn level on 42 minutes. Santiago Malano sent a fine cross inside the area with the ball falling into the path of Alba. The Argentine, however, incredibly scrambled wide from two metres out to the dismay of the City fans.

Another big chance for Valletta came in stoppage time when Malano’s inswinger passed through the Hibs wall and fell to Nwoko who was blocked by Jovicic nd from the rebound neither Kaljevic nor Steve Borg could conclude.

In the second half, Valletta seemed to finally click into gear as on 54 minutes Alba found Kaljevic at the far post but the Montenegrin striker was denied by an excellent save from Jovicic.

Valletta’s pressure finally yielded an equaliser on 59 minute. Alba’s delivery from a corner was met by Nwoko who saw his thumping header somehow kept out by Jovicic. Malano reacted first but was denied again by the Paolites goalkeeper. Jonathan Caruana, however, made no mistake from close in to level the match, sending the City fans in jubilation.

Valletta FC Champions 2018-2019

The goal sparked a contrasting reaction from both coaches. Agius withdrew Kaljevic and roped in Bogdan Gavrila as he looked to go for the winner.

Hibs on the other hand brought on Dunstan Vella for Kristensen as Sanderra looked to add more cover to his defence.

Gavrila almost left an instant mark as on 70 minutes he hit a piledriver that flashed wide.

Agius was forced to make another change as Caruana struggled with an injury and was replaced by Ryan Camilleri.

Valletta continued to threaten from set-pieces and 11 minutes later, Alba found Steve Borg who headed the ball across the face of the goal but found no takers as the match drifted into extra-time.

In the first minutes of injury time Valletta lost Rowen Muscat to injury and replaced him with Antonio Monticelli.

But that setback failed to derail Valletta who took the lead on 98 minutes.

Nwoko’s pass found Fontanella who managed to outmuscle Barbosa before hitting past Jovicic.

Hibs tried to step up their game and on 113 minutes Taylon was picked in space and the Brazilian’s thumping drive flashed wide.

Three minutes from time, Nwoko should have put the game to bed when he embarked on a powerful run that took him past Andrei Agius and instead of passing to Fontanella, he elected to shoot with the ball rolling wide with only Jovicic to beat.

That proved costly for Valletta as in their next attack Hibs were level.

Vella found Sahanek inside the area and the Austrian winger beat Bonello with a low drive to send the game to a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Here, more drama ensued with Sahanek turning from hero to villain by missing his effort to give Valletta the initiative.

Valletta kept their composure with Alba, Malano and Gavrila making no mistake with Hibs scoring through Jake Grech and Tiago Fonseca.

Then came up Taylon who saw his shot saved by Bonello before Fontanella kick-started Valletta’s title party to seal a 4-2 penalty win.

VALLETTA – H. Bonello, J. Caruana (R. Camilleri), S. Malano, M. Fontanella, K. Nwoko, B. Kaljevic (B. Gavrila), E. Pena Beltre, J. Borg, R. Muscat (A. Monticelli), M. Alba, S. Borg

HIBERNIANS- M. Jovicic, N. Radejovic (D. Abela), M. Barbosa da Silveira (T. Tabone Desira), J. Mbong, J. Grech, B. Kristensen (D. Vella), I. Ntow, T. Correa Marcolino, M. Sahanek, A. Agius, T. Adan Fonseca.

Yellow Cards: M. Alba, R. Muscat (V), I. Ntow (H)

Scorers:  12′ T. Correa Marcolino, 59′ J. Caruana, 98′ M. Alba, 118′ M. Sahanek


Sahanek (Hibernians) post; Alba (Valletta) 1-0; Grech (Hibernians) 1-1; Malano (Valletta) 2-1; Tiago Adan (Hibernians) 2-2; Gavrila (Valletta) 3-2; Marcolino (Hibernians) saved; Fontanella (Valletta) 4-2.

BOV Player of the Match: T. Correa Marcolino

Referee: M. Spiteri

Source: Times of Malta