Matchday 01: Valletta 2 Hamrun S. 1
Mario Fontanella was the toast of the Valletta FC supporters as the Italian striker scored two quick-fire goals midway through the second half to stun champion Ħamrun Spartans at the National Stadium.
It looked as though the Spartans were set for a winning start to their title defence after Darko Gojkovic headed them ahead four minutes from the break.
But after the interval, Valletta had other plans and just past the hour mark they won a penalty when Corbalan fouled substitute Lucas Campos and Fontanella made no mistake from the spot on 68 minutes.
The goal hit hard the Spartans and the Citizens struck again five minutes later when Fontanella struck again from close in to hand Valletta a flying start to the campaign.
Ħamrun Spartans coach Mark Buttigieg had only one new signing in his starting formation as Henry Bonello was handed his full debut while Moroccan attacking midfielder Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Christian Mercieca were among the substitutes. Matthew Guillaumier and Luke Gambin were unfit for selection.
Valletta, on their part, handed a debut to goalkeeper Alessandro Guarnone, defender Christian Gauci and midfield duo Ivan Curjuric and Caio Prado.
The opening minutes were evenly balanced with the Spartans coming close on 14 minutes when Emerson Marcelina’s throughball put Ailton Soares, aka Dodo, clear but was denied by the onrushing Guarnone.
At the other end, Ivan Curjuric almost surprised Henry Bonello from a long-range free-kick but his effort just missed the upright.
On 22 minutes, Ailton Soares’ delivery from a free-kick was met by Darko Gojkovic who headed just over.
Eight minutes later Ailton Soares broke free on the right and tried to serve the unmarked Franklin Sasere but his low cross had too much pace for the Nigerian to make contact with the ball in front of a gaping goal.
The Spartans remained on top and on 37 minutes Lagzir created space for himself on the right and his thumping drive was deflected just wide. From the resultant, corner kick, Sasere fired over from routine distance.
Ħamrun finally found the breakthrough on 41 minutes when they were awarded another free-kick and Dodo’s delivery was met by Darko Gojkovic who headed firmly past Guarnone.
After the break, the Spartans kept up the initiative and on 57 minutes Dodo raced past his marker and hit a thumping drive that kissed the bar before finishing wide.
Valletta finally threatened on 65 minutes when Curjuric’s swerving free-kick finished just over.
The Citizens were handed a way back into the match on 65 minutes when Corbalan clipped Lucas Campos, who had just replaced Shaun Dimech, inside the area and from the spot the Italian striker fired home.
Ħamrun almost restored their lead immediately when Dodo raced past three defenders but he chipped the ball just wide.
However, it was Valletta who struck again when in a swift raid Caio served Fontanella who fired home from routine distance.
Ħamrun stepped up their efforts in search of an equaliser but Valletta held on for a very impressive win.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: A. Guarnone, R. Camilleri, T. Caruana, J. Arthur, S. Dimech (61 L. Campos), C. Gauci, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, I. Curjuric (90 M. Sansone), Caio (90 I. Micallef), M. Fontanella (82 I. Curjuric).
HAMRUN S. H. Bonello, D. Gojkovic, J. Mbong, S. Lagzir (73 F. El Bakhtaoui), J. Ailton Soares, F. Sasere-, J. Corbalan, P. Djordjevic, K. Micallef, C. Dielna, E. Marcelina (85 A. Oyama).
Scorers: 41′ D. Gojkovic (H), M. Fontanella 68′ (pen), 73′ (V)
Referee: P. Farrugia
Yellow Cards: Corbalan, Dielna, Sasere (H), Pena Beltre (V)
Man of the Match: M. Fontanella (V)