Day 02 Valletta 1 Mosta 0
Jhonnattann struck the only goal, from a penalty, as champions Valletta had to fight really hard to fend off the stiff challenge of Mosta.
A combative clash produced two red cards, one for each team, and a spate of cautions as Mosta, well-organised and spirited, gave Valletta a rough ride but, as in their opening 2-1 win over Sliema Wanderers, the Whites did just enough to secure the three points and make it two wins in a row.
The first half produced no goals but plenty of drama as both teams had a player sent off.
Mosta debutant Chinedu Oweregbulam was first to be sent to the dressing room as his poor challenge on Jhonnattann on 12 minutes earned him a straight red card by referee Malcolm Spiteri.
Michael Mifsud was high with an acrobatic volley but Valletta struggled to find their rhythm.
Goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo, facing Valletta for the first time since his close-season move to Mosta, denied his former employers with a fine save from Roderick Briffa’s strong drive after the midfielder had been teed up by Jhonnattann.
Despite being a man down, the determined Mosta retained their tactical shape.
Argentine midfielder Santiago Malano, who has yet show his true worth for Valletta, had a long-range shot saved by Bartolo before Jhonnattann ran into the penalty area from the left but his cross-shot rolled across the face of goal.
Leandro’s Aguirre’s back-heeled pass freed Malano who raced into the box but his drive was deflected away for a corner.
The game remained lively with Mosta’s unyielding approach disrupting Valletta’s momentum.
Bartolo beat away Claudio Pani’s drive with the loose ball dropping kindly for Mifsud who lost his balance as he was about to shoot.
With three minutes of the first half remaining, numerical parity was restored as Pani also received a straight red card for a mistimed challenge on Mosta left-back Adrian Caruana.
Valletta should have scored five minutes into the second half as Bartolo failed to hold Jhonnattann’s long-range free-kick but Romao, swooping onto the loose ball, headed over from close in.
The Blues also had a great chance when Oseghale’s run troubled the City defenders whose half-clearance rolled to Priso on the edge of the box but the Cameroonian winger’s grounder was blocked by the alert Henry Bonello.
The champions forged ahead 10 minutes into the second half. They were awarded a penalty after Kurt Magro was deemed to have brought down Jhonnattann inside the box and the Brazilian made no mistake from the spot.
The game remained balanced.
Aguirre’s cross from the left rolled dangerously across the penalty box but found no takers.
The Argentine again advanced on the left before crossing for Mifsud who was anticipated by the indefatigable Dany Djoufack. The loose ball landed at the feet of Jhonnattann but he miscued his shot.
Jhonnattann, the Valletta forward was voted BOV player of the match.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, S. Borg, R. Romao (L. Cremona), J. Gill Cruz, S. Malano (J. Borg), M. Mifsud (U. Calistus), R. Briffa, C. Pani, L. Aguirre, J. Benites, J. Caruana.
MOSTA – M. Bartolo, A. Caruana, C. Oweregbulam, D. Djouffack, F. Onwudinjo, K. Magro (D. Xuereb), J. Repa (E. Vella), M. Vleck, N. Priso, L. Oeghale, Z. Brincat (K. Frendo)
Yellow Cards: J. Gill Cruz, L. Cremona (V) K. Magro (M).
Red Cards: C. Oweregbulam (M), C. Pani (V)
Man of Match: J. Benites (V)
Scorers: 56′ J. Benites (P)
Referee: Malcolm Spiteri