Day 23 Valletta 1 Gzira U 1
Valletta failed to reclaim top spot in the Premier League when they were held to a draw by Gżira United on Sunday.
The result left Hibernians leading the way, one point clear of Valletta with Gżira United in third place six points adrift.
Valletta could not have hoped for a better start as inside the first three minutes they were already ahead, albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances.
Joseph Zerafa sped clear on the right and his cross hit Roderick Briffa. Referee Fyodor Zammit pointed to the spot as he felt that the veteran midfielder had touched the ball with his arm but TV replays showed that the decision was very harsh.
Steve Borg stepped up for the kick and the Malta defender kept his cool to send Justin Haber the wrong way and hand his team a headstart.
On 24 minutes, Gżira United shouted ‘penalty’ when Corbalan fell underneath the challenge from Zerafa but the referee saw nothing untoward and waved play on.
A minute later, Zarate outmuscled Raed Saleh and picked Garba on the near post but the Nigerian fired over from routine distance.
Valletta suffered a blow on the half-hour mark when Saleh hobbled off injured and was replaced by Antonio Monticelli.
Eight minutes from the break, Borg again came to Valletta’s rescue. Zarate slid a throughball towards Garba who avoided the onrushing Bonello but the Nigerian was intercepted by Borg who cleared the ball to a corner.
Four minutes from the break, Gżira came close to an equaliser. They were awarded a free-kick and Cohen’s delivery was met by Mengolo but the Cameroon striker was denied by a fine one-handed save from Bonello.
On the restart, Gżira continued where they left off and on 46 minutes, Mengolo raced into the area but his shot was deflected into the sidenetting by Rowen Muscat.
At the other end, Nwoko nodded the ball towards Fontanella but his shot was too central to trouble Haber.
Gżira had a perfect opportunity to restore parity when Garba fell under the challenge of Jonathan Caruana with referee Zammit pointing to the spot a second time. Cohen took responsibility but saw his low shot saved by Bonello.
The Maroons refused to let that miss derail them as three minutes later they equalised.
Zarate played in Mengolo who raced clear, dribbled past Bonello and hit into an empty net.
Now it was an open game with both sides trying to push for a winner.
Nwoko finally threatened for Valletta on 64 minutes when he connected to Zerafa’s cross but his header was pushed away by Haber.
Both teams continued to push forward but chances were few and far between.
In stoppage time, Garba almost won it for Valletta, but his low drive whizzed the upright with Bonello beaten as the stalemate prevailed.
Justin Mengolo was voted as the BOV Player of the Match.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, J. Caruana, S. Malano, M. Fontanella (B. Kaljevic), K. Nwoko, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa (J. Borg), S. Borg, I. Saleh (A. Monticelli), R. Camilleri, R. Muscat.
GZIRA U. – J. Haber, R. Soares, A. Cohen (N. Muscat), J. Corbalan, E. Zarate Bilbao, R. Briffa, G. Conti, S, Borg, J. Mengolo (Z. Scerri), F. Barbosa, H. Garba.
Yellow Cards: J. Corbalan, H. Garba (G) J. Caruana, R. Camilleri, S. Borg (V)
Scorers: 4′ S. Borg (V), 57′ J. Mengolo (G)
BOV Player of the Match: J. Mengolo (G)
Referee: F. Zammit