Day 05 Valletta 0 Floriana 2
Giovanni Tedesco, the Floriana coach, was reluctant to talk to the media on the eve of yesterday’s
derby against Valletta. Back-to-back defeats to Balzan and Tarxien Rainbows had piled the pressure on the Italian coach and his team ahead of their first encounter with their bitter rivals Valletta who were unbeaten in their opening four games.
No stranger to controversy, the outspoken Tedesco, tasked with leading the Greens back into Europe in his second spell in charge, only spoke about the need for his embattled team to approach the game with “sacrifice and humility”… and his players did just that.
The Greens did their talking on the pitch as they delivered a diligent performance to consign their neighbours to their first defeat of the season and dispel talk of an early crisis.
Despite enjoying more possession, Valletta were unable to carve a way past their solid opponents to the extent that they hardly tested Justin Haber in the Floriana goal.
Tedesco’s emphasis on sacrifice was reflected in his strategy as Floriana’s main priority was to press the lives out of their opponents, often doubling up on the wings and in the central areas before breaking away on the counter where the power of Amadou Samb, whose opener was crucial, and the guile of Steve Pisani ensured that they posed a constant threat when they went forward.
Not the same can be said of the two Valletta strikers as, for the second game running, Federico Falcone was a peripheral figure and Jhonnattann also had an off day.
Their task was certainly not helped by the absence of midfielders Roderick Briffa and Italian Claudio Pani who, having just completed a two-match ban, missed the game with a minor injury.
Brazilian wing-back Romeu Romao made way for the returning Llywelyn Cremona who started alongside Jean Borg in central midfield as Santiago Malano was pushed further upfield, just behind the front duo
of Falcone and Jhonnattann in a 4-4-2 formation.
There was also a change at the back as Ryan Camilleri was preferred to Juan Cruz Gill with Steve Borg shifting to centre-half.
Tedesco favoured a 4-1-4-1 template with Samb backed by the midfield quartet of Ryan Camenzuli, Nicolas Chiesa, Maurizio Vella and Steve Pisani with Antonio Monticelli sitting in front of the back four.
The Greens looked happy to cede the initiative to Valletta in the early stages and try to hurt them on the counter.
Scoring opportunities were something of a scarcity in the opening 15 minutes. Vella went close for Floriana
but his free-kick, after Borg had upended Monticelli, whistled past the near post.
As the minutes rolled by, the Greens began to show more adventure while Valletta struggled to bring their front players into play.
on 26 minutes, Cremona switched the ball to the sprinting Camilleri on the right wing but the latter elected to shoot instead of pushing into the box. His longrange effort was high and wide.
The stalemate was broken two minutes past the hour and it was Floriana who drew first blood. Valletta failed to clear a diagonal pass by Alex Cini and Samb nipped in before rifling a powerful shot that beat Henry Bonello at his near post.
Ceaseless pressing on Floriana’s part and erratic passes were hampering Valletta’s efforts to gain ground.
By contrast, Tedesco’s men carried a threat every time they ventured forward with Samb causing endless problems to the City defence. Five minutes from half-time, Samb held off Borg before dragging the ball back to Steve Pisani whose close-range strike was pawed away by Bonello.
Valletta should have equalised on the stroke of half-time when Umeh Uchenna’s flicked pass found Jhonnattann inside the box but the Brazilian drove wide from inside the box.
Paul Zammit, the Valletta coach, brought on Romao for Camilleri at the start of the second half.
The champions’ optimism rose when Malano rode a tackle in midfield before releasing Jhonnattann
who sped into the box but Jurgen Pisani cut back to dispossess the Brazilian.
Valletta went through the gears, Jhonnattann hitting marginally wide from an angle. Sensing his opponents’
propensity to attack, Tedesco responded by throwing on another striker, Mario Fontanella, for Vella.
The game remained hardfought with Valletta cranking the pressure in search of an equaliser.
Falcone, an anonymous figure so far, had a great chance to drag his team back on level terms but
headed over from Aguirre’s raking cross.
Haber then stopped a free-kick from Jhonnattann but, in their next attack, Floriana doubled their advantage.
Valletta’s offside ploy appeared to fail as Steve Pisani’s cross from the right dropped to the unmarked Fontanella whose first-time volley gave Bonello no chance.
Zammit unleashed another forward, Michael Mifsud, for Cremona and adjusted to 4-3-3. With 17 minutes left, Falcone’s strong drive, from the distance, was deflected away for a corner.
Haber was unable to hold Jhonnattann’s pulverising freekick from the distance with the loose ball falling to Mifsud who was flagged offside.
As can be expected from a team needing a goal to revive their hopes, Valletta stormed forward with abandon but the welldrilled Floriana showed no signs of wilting.
Brooke Farrugia, who had just come for Steve Pisani, had two central efforts blocked by Bonello.
Three minutes from time, Valletta came close to narrowing the deficit when Jhonnattann’s freekick was partially cleared with the ball landing at the feet of Mifsud but his strike was repelled by the Floriana defenders.
The game ended on a poor note for City as Aguirre was dismissed for lashing out at Cini.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, S. Borg, S. Malano, J. Borg, U. Calistus, L. Aguirre, J. Benites, J. Caruana, F. Falcone, R. Camilleri (R. Romao), L. Cremona (M. Mifsud).
FLORIANA – J. Haber, A. Monticelli, E. Pepe, E. Ruiz, S. Pisani (B. Farrugia), M. Vella (M. Fontanella), J. Pisani, A. Cini, A. Samb (A. Scicluna), A. Chiesa, R. Camenzuli.
Yellow Cards: Vella, Peppe, Fontanella, Ruiz, (F), J. Benites (V).
Red Card: L. Aguirre (V)
Man of Match: A. Samb (F)
Scorers: 30′ A. Samb, 60′ M. Fontanella
Referee: T. Farrugia Cann