Day 18 Valletta 3 Pieta 0
Valletta made amends for their shock 2-1 defeat to Pietà Hotspurs in the first round after beating the BOV Premier League strugglers 3-0.
The game was generally a one-sided affair but Valletta’s wastefulness in front of goal kept Pietà in the game before substitute Luke Dimech settled their nerves with a third goal late on.
With this win, Valletta have narrowed the gap on leaders Hibernians to 12 points with the Paolites taking on Naxxar Lions tomorrow. Valletta dominated the first half but had to wait until the 39th minute to find a breakthrough. Hamza Barry should have given Valletta the lead inside the opening six minutes but the Gambian fired over from close in after Ryan Fenech’s pass found him unmarked.
A fine City move on 13 minutes saw Ian Azzopardi make headway on the left before passing to Lateef Elford-Alliyu who laid the ball back to Nafti but the Tunisian miscued his shot.
Jonathan Caruana did likewise from another Elford-Alliyu assist as Valletta stayed in firm control. The champions missed another great chance to open the scoring midway into the first half when, after a prolonged move, Roderick Briffa passed to Barry whose first-time screamer was deflected away for a corner.
Valletta were again unlucky on 32 minutes when Ryan Camilleri, pushing up on the right wing, released Elford-Alliyu but the English striker’s grounder hit the foot of the post.
There was a scare for Valletta when goalkeeper Nicky Vella slipped as he about to make a pass. Pietà striker Claudio Frances closed in but Vella just managed to keep the ball away from the Argentine.
Reprieved, Valletta nearly scored at the other end but Caruana blasted wide from point-blank range. The stalemate was broken seven minutes from half-time. David Cassar, the Pietà goalkeeper, did well to tip Fenech’s long-range drive over the bar but, from the ensuing corner, Nafti’s cross was met by Briffa whose header came off the crossbar.
Barry was on hand to tap the ball into the net. Things might have gone worse for Pietà as Fenech’s shot glanced off Christian Grech’s left hand but Valletta’s penalty appeals were turned down by Arciola. Valletta increased their lead just before half-time. Barry’s header, from Nafti’s corner, was fumbled by Cassar who initially had appeared to have saved the Gambian’s effort.
The pattern of the game stayed the same at the start of the second half. Briffa had a good opportunity to make it 3-0 but the Malta playmaker sent his shot wide after receiving from Elford-Alliyu.
The latter missed an even better chance, shooting straight at Cassar in one-on-one situation and, on another occasion, the Englishman was dispossessed by the alert Fortunato in the six-yard box. Barry then sprinted clear on the right before picking out Nafti who dragged the ball back to Briffa but the midfielder again failed to get his shot on target.
The Hotspurs were unlucky not to reopen the issue as Dylon Agius’s volley, from Rafael Rodrigues’s cross, shook the crossbar.
Pietà’s Kyle Cesare had an effort going wide after Gabriel’s free-kick came off Valletta’s defensive wall. With Valletta unable to add to their lead, Pietà gained some courage with Frances going close with a free-kick that ended wide. Valletta then protested for a penalty when Briffa appeared to have been upended by Karl Micallef inside the box but Arciola saw nothing wrong.
The champiions finally scored their third goal when, with eight minutes left, Barry’s run and pass from the right triggered a goalmouth scramble and Luke Montebello. who had just replaced Elford-Alliyu, fired home.
Hamza Barry was voted BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, R. Camilleri, S. Borg, H. Barry D. Camilleri, L. Elford (L. Montebello), J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, R. Fenech, A. Nafti (L. Cremona), L. Dimech, R. Briffa.
PIETA H. – D. Cassar, K. Micallef, L. Fortunato Dos Santos, C. Grech, R. Rodrigues Da Silva, D. Agius, O. Anonam (N. Pace Cocks), K. Cesare, J. Gabriel Da Silva (Z. Mark Kecskes), C. Frances, L. Micallef (C. Stewart).
Date: 10.01.15 Time: 16:00 Venue: Hibs Stadium
Scorers: 39′ 45′, Hamza Barry, 82′ Ian Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: R. Briffa, I. Azzopardi (V)
Man of Match: Hamza Barry (v)
Referee: Andre Arciola