Matchday 03: Valletta 0 Sirens 0
Valletta’s bid to climb to second place was scuppered after a fractious stalemate with Sirens on Saturday.
Sirens, who saw Gary Camilleri sent off after 52 minutes, were perhaps lucky to hold out for a draw with Valletta substitute Andrea Zammit arguably missing a golden opportunity at death.
Both sides were committed from the outset but, as their frustrations mounted in the latter stages, the challenges got more rash, and referee Philip Farrugia reached more readily for his pocket.
Thane Micallef opted for three at the back with Enmy Pena Beltre detailed to push high up the right flank. The returning Tristan Caruana stationed himself alongside Brandon Paiber in central midfield with Shaun Dimech playing in the hole.
Sirens’ game plan appeared to focus on being tight in defence with Rei Tachikawa and Sean Cipriott trying to find gaps in the Valletta rearguard for Ivan Kolev in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Cipriott picked the first hole in the Valletta’s defence after 20 minutes but Kolev’s header finished wide.
And Cipriott, Valletta’s chief tormentor, created another chance in the half when Weder slipped in the box but the Brazilian defender’s lunging flick went wide on 38 minutes.
Micallef made a double substitution at half-time with Christian Gauci and Jean Marie Ngong replacing Caruana and Oke Akpoverta respectively. The changes were not limited to the personnel as he switched to a 5-3-2 configuration.
The start of the second half did little to invigorate both sides as both sets of players went in far more heavily with their challenges. On 52 minutes, Camilleri was shown a straight red for a wild lunge at Pena Beltre.
On the hour mark, Winston Muscat brought on former PSG striker Stephane Sessegnon for Kolev. Soon after, Sirens almost had a goal to cheer when a diagonal shot from Kei Sano crossed the face of goal but Gauci cleared it over from close to the line.
At the other end, Andrea Cassar was called into action when Ngong struck from distance in the 75th minute. But his looping effort landed straight in the hands of the goalkeeper.
The Valletta coach threw caution to the wind when he also introduced Zammit in lieu of Eslit Sala, taking the number of strikers on the pitch to five, considering that Pena Beltre and Bradley Kamdem were pushing high on the flanks.
Four minutes from time, Citizens finished with ten men when Paiber elbowed David Promise behind play.
At death, a superb late save from Cassar to deny Zammit prevented Valletta from taking the full points.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: A. Guarnone, E. Ruiz 49 L. Cremona), J. Borg, T. Caruana (46 C. Gauci), S. Dimech(61 F. Cheveresan), O. Akpoveta (46 J.Ngong), E. Pena Beltre, S. Kamdem, B. Paiber, E. Sala (78 A. Zammit), K. Bevis.
GUDJA: A. Cassar, G. Camilleri, W. Soares, M. Pereira, K. Sano (76 D. Promise), R. Tachikawa, S. Cipriott, J. Walker (45 A. Borg-), I. Kolev (60 S. Sessegnon), G. Ventura, D. Jackson.
Referee: P. Farrugia
Yellow Cards: Tachikawa, Cipriott, Bevis, Jackson, Ventura (S), T. Caruana F. Cheveresan (V)
Red cards: G. Camilleri (S), B. Paiber (V)
Man of the Match: W. Soares (S).