Day 20: Valletta 3 Pembroke 2
Valletta restored their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League after edging Pembroke Athleta in an entertaining game.
The Citizens had to fight hard for the points, twice coming from behind before hitting the winner through new signing Michael Mifsud after Pembroke Athleta had Italian midfielder Paltemio Barbetti sent off for retaliation.
Pembroke stunned Valletta by taking a fourth-minute lead. Gustavo Villalobos sent in a fine cross from the right and Siraj Arab headed past Henry Bonello from close range.
Valletta’s reaction saw Roderick Briffa flicking high from Federico Falcone’s cross but the Whites equalised on 14 minutes.
Jhonnattann’s corner caused confusion in the Pembroke box and Romeu Romao slid in to fire home.
The Citizens remained on top but were unable to get a second goal. They came close in the final minutes of the first half but Pembroke defended well with goalkeeper Mario Muscat keeping out Falcone’s lob while subsequent efforts from Jhonnattann and Michael Mifsud were blocked.
The second half started like the first as Pembroke regained the lead. Once again, Valletta’s defending left a lot to be desired as Kyle O’Brien’s cross, from the right, sailed towards the unmarked Gustavo Villalobos whose header was kept out by Bonello but the American winger scored from the rebound.
Pembroke threatened to further ahead when the advancing Arab set up Ariel Laudisi but the latter hit wide.
Valletta’s reaction was not long in coming. They were denied by Mario Muscat who saved attempts from Mifsud and Falcone but, on the hour, Valletta equalised. A half-clearance landed at the feet of Roderick Briffa who hit past Muscat from the edge of the area.
Midway into the second half, Ian Azzopardi’s cross from the left was met by Mifsud but his header was off target.
Jhonnattann then dribbled his way into the box but his tame effort was easily blocked by Muscat. The Brazilian was unlucky not to put Valletta ahead as his excellent volley hit the upright.
Pembroke suffered a blow 17 minutes from time when midfielder Paltemio Barbetti received a straight red card for lashing out at Mifsud.
Valletta took instant advantage of their extra man as, with 15 minutes left, Jhonnattann’s corner was headed on by Jonathan Caruana and Mifsud tapped home from point blank for his first goal since rejoining Valletta.
Roderick Briffa, the Valletta midfielder, was named BOV player of the match.
Source – times of malta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, I. Azzopardi, R. Briffa, M. Mifsud (N. Pulis), J. Caruana, L. Cremona (U. Calistus), J. Borg, R. Romao, F. Falcone, J. Benites (J. Suda), R. Camilleri.
PEMBROKE. – M. Muscat, Z. Levnaic, A. Cini, M. Attard, O. Bugeja, P. Barbetti, K. O’Brien, S. Arab (G. Da Nobrega), A. Laudisi, P. Shereni, G. Villalobos (T. Agius).
Scorers: 5′ S. Arab, 53′ G. Villalobos (P), 15′ R. Romao, 60′ R. Briffa, 76′ M. Mifsud (V)
Yellow cards: L. Cremona, R. Romao (V), A. Cini (P)
Man of match: R. Briffa (V)
Referee: Esther Azzopardi