Matchday 14: Valletta 2 Santa Lucia 2
Mario Fontanella saved Valletta from another shock defeat at the hands of Sta Lucia as the Italian striker converted a 86th-minute penalty to earn the champions a 2-2 draw.
The early exchanges were bereft of excitement with Valletta labouring to settle into their usual rhythm and Santa Lucia struggling to make headway in attack.
So it came as a surprise to some when Santa Lucia found the opener on 23 minutes. From the corner, Camilo Escobar’s inswinger rolled into the net after the ball appeared to have eluded Henry Bonello at the near post when Kyrian Nwoko headed into his own net.
Ineffective for most of the first half, Alba and Fontanella finally put some pressure on the Santa Lucia defenders with Gabriel Bohrer Mentz and Escobar showing impeccable positioning to close them down.
Abdilla tried to change his team’s fortunes at half-time by roping in Bojan Kaljevic in lieu of Nwoko.
But Santa Lucia struck again and it came as a cold shower for Valletta when Diego Mendoza profited some hesitant defending from Valletta to burst clear and lob over Bonello, only to be brought down by the Valletta goalkeeper in the box. Escobar made no mistake from the spot.
Soon after Valletta were handed a lifeline. Bohrer allowed a long ball to bounce past him to Kaljevic to score.
Valletta’s afternoon took a turn for the worse past the hour mark when Borg collected his second booking for a foul on the Santa Lucia goalkeeper and was dismissed.
The longer the game went, the bolder Santa Lucia became. Their menace on the counter was not to be ignored as Valletta threw caution to the wind in search of a breakthrough.
Valletta’s vulnerability at the back was further exposed when Mendoza and Escobar combined to regain possession in midfield and the latter had a clear run at goal. With no Valletta player in sight, the Colombian defender carried the ball forward as he entered the box, his pass being too long for Kevin Ante Rosero. A golden chance was squandered as Valletta sighed with relief.
The shower turned to be lukewarm for Valletta when they drew level six minutes from time when Jamie Zerafa was adjudged to have blocked the ball with his hands. From the spot, Fontanella despatched the ball into the net. Santa Lucia finished with ten men after Mendoza received his second yellow card but held on for a point.
Camilo Escobar of Sta Lucia was named BOV Player of the Match.
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, J. Caruana, S. Borg, K. Nwoko (B. Kaljevic), J. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, R. Muscat, M. Alba (M. Piciollo), T. Caruana (K. Tulimieri), M. Fontanella.
SANTA LUCIA: R. Caruana, G. Bohrer Mentz, K. Correia, J. Mendoza, D. Segura (N. Micallef), K. Ante Rosero, J. Walker, J. Zerafa, C. Escobar, L. Galea (D. Agius), R. Tachikawa (J. Magri Overend)
Yellow Cards: M. Alba, S. Borg, H. Bonello (V), J. Mendoza, C. Escobar (S)
Red Card: S. Borg (V) J. Mendoza (S)
Scorers: 23′ K. Nwoko (og), 49′ C. Escobar (S) 51′ B. Kaljevic, 86′ M. Fontanella (V)
BOV Player of the Match: C. Escobar (S)
Referee: S. Pace