Day 9 Valletta 2 Naxxar L 0
Valletta returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Naxxar Lions.
Hardly seven minutes from the start had elapsed when Camilleri had a chance to put Valletta ahead when his goalbound cross-shot was cleared away from Ibok Edet.
Valletta quickly established control of possession but it was the Lions who almost broke the deadlock in the 12th minute. Racing onto Daren Falzon’s long pass, Gilmar galloped towards goal before curling his shot just wide of the far post.
Few minutes later, Hugo Faria floored Gilmar to concede a free-kick in a central position some six metres away from the edge of the box. The Portuguese midfielder got booked and Gilmar’s shot was too central to trouble Vella.
On 26 minutes as Azzopardi served Kooh Sohna but the striker was thwarted by Julian Azzopardi who blocked his first-time effort.
Not before long, Naxxar served up a reminder of their counter-attacking threat as Falzon forced his way through on the right flank before crossing for the unmarked Gueye whose point-blank effort drew a top save from Nicky Vella.
Valletta would have opened the score past the half hour mark, were it not for Azzopardi who touched Kooh Sohna’s looping header over the bar. But the Lilywhites were not to be denied three minutes later. The modus operandi was the same as Nafti’s delivery soared towards the far side of Naxxar’s box and the laky striker lobbed the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Valletta suffered unexpected setback just after the break when Furia was given the marching order as the midfielder naively hooked down Gilmar near the halfway line and the referee rightly booked again the Valletta player.
Soon after, Ryan Cassar launched a cross forward towards Gueye who had the better of the Valletta before miscuing his shot from an angled position.
Sensing his opponents’ difficult moment, Zerefa made a double substitution with Nevi da Silva and Vella making way for Victor Bellia and Uchenna Eminike.
Eleven minutes from time, Steve Borg did well to block Eminike’s shot on goal as Naxxar surged forward with renewed zest. Apprehension gripped Valletta when, in a swift attack, David Alejandro Reano ran into the box only to see Vella tipping his effort over the bar. The rising tension prompted the erstwhile calm Agius to stand up, gesticulating angrily from the technical area.
At death, Reano scythed down Bajada to end his first serious venture towards the Naxxar area. Bajada picked himself up to smash home a stunning 20-mentre free-kick with a delightful left-foot strike that bent away from Azzopardi’s despairing dive to ease the Lilywhites’ nerves.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, R. Fenech, A. Nafti, J. Caruana, R. Camilleri, R. Briffa, I. Azzopardi, S. Borg, H. Faria, H. Barry, R. Kooh Sphna
NAXXAR L. – J. Azzopardi, I. Edet, S. Nevi Da Silva, T. Vella, M. Del Negro, P. Gueye, D. Falzon, G. Da Silva, R. Cassar, A. Buhagiar, D. Reano.
Date: 26.10.14 Time: 15:00 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Scorers: 40′ R. Kooh Sohna, 92′ S. Bajada
Yellow Cards: H. Faria, R. Fenech (V) D. Reano (N)
Red Cards: H. Faria (V)
Man of Match: Roderick Briffa
Referee: Mario Apap