Day 5 Valletta 1 Naxxar L 0
Valletta came through a difficult match unscathed as Jonathan Caruana’s early goal gave them a 1-0 win over Naxxar Lions.
The Citizens were made to fight hard for the points by a dynamic Naxxar Lions side who caused their more-quoted opponents plenty of problems, especially in the second half.
In football, it’s the result that counts and Valletta were pleased and relieved at the same time to secure victory as they are now sharing top spot with Hibernians who meet champions Birkirkara today.
Valletta shaded the early exchanges but Naxxar Lions created the first chance after 11 minutes. Pablo Doffo’s corner from the left sailed into the six-yard box but Evaldo’s effort was wide.
The stalemate was broken on 14 minutes and it was Valletta who took the lead.
Nafti’s well-struck corner was met by the unmarked Jonathan Caruana whose powerful header gave Julian Azzopardi no chance.
Naxxar were still regrouping when Valletta scored with Ousseni Zongo having just entered the pitch after replacing the injured Andre Rocha Da Silva.
Gilmar, all pace and agility, won a free-kick after being obstructed by Ian Azzopardi. From Mattia Del Negro’s free-kick, Thiago headed wide.
Three minutes past the half-hour, Nafti’s free-kick sailed over the bar.
Seven minutes from half-time, Aud-Gustine Obaje released Nyang who set up Denni but the latter’s diagonal strike was off target.
Naxxar would have levelled in stoppage time when Doffo produced fierce free-kick but Pietro Marino, the Valletta goalkeeper, managed to tip the ball over the bar.
Six minutes into the second half, Marino punched away Gilmar’s cross-shot from a free-kick. The Lions were the more enterprising side after the changeover but in their first notable raid on Naxxar’s defence, Valletta should have doubled their lead.
Nafti drifted infield before passing to Denni whose first-time strike bounced wide of the far post.
Naxxar wre making life difficult for their opponents though.
Marlon Briffa’s central drive was easily blocked Marino but, on the hour, Naxxar missed a golden opportunity to equalise when Gilmar’s through-pass landed in the path of Daren Falzon who hammered wide with only Marino to beat.
The Valletta goalkeeper then saved Evaldo’s backheader from Del Negro’s free-kick.
Valletta threatened to put the game beyond Naxxar when Roderick Briffa supplied an excellent ball to Denni but the Brazilian’s effort skimmed the near post.
With 14 minutes remaining, Valletta’s Yessous Camilleri headed wide from Ryan Fenech’s free-kick.
Late in the game, Naxxar went close again when Thiago’s downward header from Doffo’s free-kick just missed the target.
In time added-on, Zongo threatened to punish his former team when running into the box from the left but his curling effort was deflected away for a corner by Caruana.
Naxxar’s Gilmar was voted BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – P. Marino, R. Fenech, R. Briffa, A. Corr Nyang, I. Azzopardi (D. Falzon), J. Caruana, A. Nafti (J. Vandelannoite), L. Dimech, A. Obaje (I. Zammit), D. Dos Santos, Y. Camilleri.
NAXXAR L. – J. Azzopardi, V. Bellia (L. Cutajar), M. Briffa, G. Da Silva Ribeiro, A. Decesare, M. Del Negro, P. Doffo, D. Falzon, T. Lopes De Souza, A. Rocha da Silva (O. Zongo), E. Silva Dos Santos.
Date: 22-09-13 Time: 19:15 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Yellow Cards: I. Azzopardi, D. Falzon, R. Fenech, J. Vandelannoite (V), E. Silva Dos Santos, M. Briffa (N)
Scorers: 14′ J. Caruana.
Man of Match: Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro
Referee: Philip Farrugiai