Day 9: Valletta 2 Qormi 1
Argentine striker Federico Falcone scored an outstanding goal early in the game but Valletta really had to fight hard to dismiss the bold challenge of strugglers Qormi.
Johann Scicluna, the new Qormi coach, will have been pleased with his team’s gritty display as the Yellow-Blacks not only defended well but also created a host of chances on the counter after Terence Vella had cancelled out Falcone’s opener butAbdelkarim Nafti’s late goal, from a free-kick, handed the points to Valletta.
With this win, Valletta go top of the standings, one point clear of Balzan who take on Floriana tomorrow.
Falcone’s outstanding goal lit up an entertaining first half but Valletta were pegged back by Qormi despite creating more attacks.
The game was 11 minutes old when Falcone swivelled to produce an amazing acrobatic volley that soared past the helpless Jean Mathias Vella, the Qormi goalkeeper.
Falcone’s goal was greeted with loud applause from the Valletta fans. The Argentine striker came close to doubling Vella’s lead but his close-range header, from Njongo Priso’s cross, was kept out by Vella.
Vella then pushed away Claudio Pani’s bold drive after the Italian had been teed up by Falcone. Qormi had been second best in the opening 20 minutes but they began to carry an attacking threat on the counter.
They levelled midway into the first half. Carlo Monti advanced on the left, held off Romeu Romao and cut the ball back to Vella whose strong drive from outside the box had the better of Henry Bonello, the Valletta goalkeeper.
The Citizens sought to regain the initiative. On 32 minutes, Vella kept Qormi in the game when palming away Cremona’s shot. The Qormi goalkeeper made another fine intervention two minutes from half-time as he sprinted off his line to keep out Falcone’s flick after the Argentine had been released by Cremona.
Five minutes into the second half, Priso sprinted into the box from the right but his cross was cut out by Vella. Cremona hit over from the rebound.
Qormi, looking compact in all departments, remained dangerous on the counter.
Romau’s sizzler, from a wide position, was high and Monti did likewise for Qormi.
Nafti sent his shot against the side-netting after receiving from Romao and, on another occasion, the Tunisian’s curler was again parried away by Vella.
As in the first half, Qormi had a great chance to score from a counter-attack as Monti embarked on powerful run on the left before serving Nilsson who was unmarked but his attempt was somehow blocked by Bonello.
The game remained entertaining.
Nafti sped past a clutch of Qormi players before passing to Priso who evasded his marker but his shot was again beaten away by Vella. Qormi could not believe their eyes when Noah Ojuola lifted his shot over from underneath the crossbar after connecting with another Monti assist.
Qormi paid dearly for this miss as Nafti finally broke Vella’s resistance as his brilliant free-kick cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and landed behind the goal-line.
Vella, the Qormi goalkeeper, was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, C. Pani, J. Cruz Gill, I. Azzopardi, A. Nafti, L. Cremona (J.P. Mifsud Triganza), R. Camilleri, F. Falcone (J. Borg), R. Romao, N. Priso (J.Suda) , A. Bruce
QORMI- J. Vella, A. Cassar, O. Sidibe, N. Ojuola, B. Velo Berntsson, S. Agius (E. Vella), C. Gauci, K. Magro (S. Oproiescu), C. Monti, T. Vella (R. Micallef), G. Nilsson Likourentzos.
Scorers: 11′ F. Falcone, 82′ A. Nafti (V), 24′ T. Vella (Q)
Yellow Cards: L. Cremona (V), B. Berntsson, K. Magro (Q)
Man of Match: J. Vella (Q)
Referee: F. Zammit