Matchday 12: Valletta 0 Hamrun S. 1
Ħamrun Spartans maintained their good form of late when they edged past Valletta at the National Stadium.
It was a deserved victory for the Malta champions who for the majority of the match were clearly on top but needed an own goal from Harris Dilaver to clinch a vital victory that lifts them to second place in the Premier League standings on 21 points, seven adrift of Hibernians.
For Valletta, it was a disappointing outcome to a match that saw them struggle to break the Spartans’ passing play and it was only in the final stages that they forced a reaction but in the end, the Ħamrun held on for the win.
It was the Spartans who threatened first after 13 minutes when Luke Gambin stole the ball from the Valletta defenders but Darko Gojkovic fired over.
The Valletta defence passed some anxious moments on 24 minutes when Gojkovic connected to Guillaumier’s free-kick and his headed effort was deflected just over the bar by Ryan Camilleri with Guarnone beaten.
The match remained evenly matched with Ħamrun showing more attacking intent but their decision-making in the final third left much to be desired. On the other hand, Valletta were too sloppy with their passing play with the result that they were not creating much trouble to the Ħamrun defence.
Three minutes from the break, Camilleri came to Valletta’s rescue when in a quick transition from Ħamrun winger Gambin, the City defender did well to intercept the latter’s cross from reaching the unmarked El Bakhtaoui.
After the break, Ħamrun again remained on the front foot and on 48 minutes Mbong sped clear on the right but his cross-shot was pushed away by Guarnone.
Valletta finally threatened on 55 minutes when Caio Prado raced past two defenders and hit a firm drive that flew just wide.
At the other end, Gambin raced towards the Valletta goal and hit a firm shot that was pushed away by Guarnone.
From the resultant corner, El Bakhtaoui’s delivery was deflected by Dilaver past Guarnone and into the net to put the Spartans ahead.
Valletta tried to hit back and their response was to bring in experienced duo Enmy Pena Beltre and Joseph Zerafa as they looked to add more guile to their play.
Here, Valletta started to put more pressure on the Ħamrun defence with the Reds forced to defend in numbers but scoring chances remained rare for the Citizens.
Six minutes from time, Valletta were unlucky not to draw level when Campos hit a thumping drive that came off the upright with Bonello beaten.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: A. Guarnone, J. Borg, R. Camilleri, T. Caruana, J. Arthur-5 (69 J. Zerafa), H. Dilaver, S. Dimech, R. Muscat, E. Sala-6 (77 L. Campos), C. Prado-6 (65 E. Pena Beltre), K. Tulimieri.
HAMRUN S. : H. Bonello, D. Gojkovic, M. Guillaumier, J. Mbong, F. Sasere-6 (90 J. Corbalan), L. Gambin, K. Micallef, I. Ntow, C. Dielna, E. Marcelina-6.5 (72 P. Djordjevic), F. El Bakhtaoui.
Referee: G. Tonna
Yellow Cards: J. Arthur (V), L. Gambin, K. Micallef (H)
Man of the Match: F. El Bakhtaoui (H).