Matchday 08: Valletta 1 Sirens 1
Despite having the control of game for all 90 minutes, Valletta failed to make their pressure count as they had to satisfy with a point after their goalless stalemate against Gudja United.
The Citizens created numerous goalscoring chances, but their lack of precision combined with some Glenn Zammit’s fine saves, they could not break the deadlock.
Gudja, on their part, were wary of their opponents’ threat and opted for a more defensive approach which at the end paid dividends as they remain fifth on 14 points, two ahead of Valletta.
Wilfried Domoraud scored a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser as Sirens fought back to draw 1-1 against nine-man Valletta at the Centernary Stadium.
Just three days after being held to a goalless draw against Gudja, the Citizens suffered further ignominy as they failed to gain ground on pace-setters Gżira United and Hibs.
It looked as though, Jonathan Caruana’s 84th-minute opener had been enough to snatch the victory until Domoraud lashed in from close range to hand Sirens a point.
Stephen D’Amato rung the changes, making no fewer than four alterations following their 4-0 loss to Żejtun. The most notable was the omission of Brazilian midfielder Maxuell with Ryan Scicluna and Adrian Borg also losing their place as Romao Romeu was nowhere to be seen.
Valletta effected two changes from their match against Gudja, with Mihailo Jovanovic replacing Caruana and Miguel Alba starting ahead of Rowen Muscat who was not in the squad.
Their attacking trident made of Alba, Matteo Piciollo and Mario Fontanella put Sirens back four under pressure from the start.
The St Paul’s Bay side struggled to defend corners but Angel Bustos managed to make a crucial clearance from Alba’s inswinger after six minutes.
On 27 minutes, Alba’s outswinging corner was powerfully headed onto the bar by Jovanovic with Miguel Montfort watching on helpless in the Sirens goal.
Sirens’ trouble to deal with set-pieces was evident again two minutes from half-time.
The modus operandi was the same as another Alba corner soared towards the centre of the box, Santiago Malano hit the ball with a glancing header but Montfort pushed the ball onto the post.
D’Amato’s half-time talk clearly had some impact on his players and his side started the second half brightly.
On 52 minutes, a free-kick by Ryan Grech was headed just wide by Jonathan Pearson.
Minutes later, Samba Tounkara sped past Joseph Zerafa on the right flank and anticipated the onrushing Henry Bonello before flicking the ball to Michael Mifsud. The former Valletta striker hesitated in front of goal and Jovanovic duly dispossessed him.
Jesmond Zerafa’s thoughts on Valletta’s performance was reflected in his bold decision to make a double substitution on the hour mark when he replaced Shaun Dimech and Piciollo with Kyrian Nwoko and Ryan Fenech respectively.
They had little time to settle as Valletta were reduced to 10 men after Jovanovic was shown a straight red card for a wild challenge on Tounkara.
Nwoko carved out an opportunity for Enmy Pena Beltre but Montfort produced a crucial block for Sirens. The ball was moved quickly to substitute Maxuell who showed great skills to go past Sala but the Albanian defender brought him down to earn the second bookable offence and left Valletta with nine men.
With two defenders missing, Zerafa brought on Caruana.
Instead of pluging the gap at the back, Caruana went upfront to meet a cross by Zerafa with a trademark header to send the Valletta bench wild.
Sirens, though, were not to be denied when Maxuell teed up Domoraud who crashed the ball in from few metres out.
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, T. Caruana, M. Santiago, M. Piciollo (60 R. Fenech), S. Dimech (K. Nwoko), E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, E. Sala-, M. Alba (J. Caruana), M. Jovanovic, M. Fontanella (R. Tonna).
SIRENS: M. Montfort, J. Pearson (68 A. Borg), R. Grech, Raphael, M. Mifsud (76 Maxuell),W. Domoraud, J. Walker, S. Tounkara, T. Agius (85 R. Menezes), A. Bustos, T. Espindola.
Referee: I. Barbara
Scorers: 84′ J. Caruana (V), 90′ W. Domaoraud (S)
Yellow Cards: I. Sala, S. Malano (V), A. Bustos (S)
Red Cards: M. Jovanovic I. Sala (V)
BOV Player of the Match: S. Tounkara (S)