Matchday 17: Valletta 0 Sliema W. 0
Valletta and Sliema gave life to a thrilling encounter but despite the numerous chances that the teams created, they had to settle with a point in each following a goalless draw.
For Sliema, this may look as a missed opportunity to cut the deficit with the top three after third-placed side Gżira United dropped two points against Gudja United earlier.
In fact, the Blues remain fourth on 32 points, three behind of their neighbours.
On the other hand, this was a much-needed point for Valletta after their two straight defeats to Ħamrun Spartans and Gżira United which saw them drop into 10th.
Despite failing to win this game, coach Toze Mendes will surely be pleased by his team’s reaction, in particular with his newcomers Wellington and Lucas Campos who were given the nod from the start.
Valletta took a different approach for this new game, with a high pressing system that was denying Sliema from their usual possession game.
The Citizens knocked on Sliema’s door after two minutes when Leonardo Aguirre let fly a first timer from the edge of the area which sailed over the bar.
However, Sliema started to inch their way up the field with Juri Cisotti letting fly a strike from outside the box, forcing Henry Bonello into a fantastic save.
Valletta coach Mendes was forced to replace captain Jonathan Caruana after 16 minutes, with Santiago Malano taking his place.
On minute 20, Mario Fontanella draw Jake Galea into action with a close-range strike that was blocked by the Sliema custodian.
Past the half-hour mark, Valletta had to endure another injury substitution, as Miguel Alba was dropped. Italian forward Matteo Piciollo took his place.
Moments later, Sliema thought they had forged ahead when Michele Sansone capitalised on a Cisotti cross, but the ‘goal’ was annulled for offside.
Just before the break, Fontanella attempted a thumping volley from outside the area, but missed the target.
At the restart, a Rowen Muscat’s shot finished wide past Galea’s goal as Valletta were looking to gain a foothold on this match.
The biggest chance of the game so far dropped on the header of Alex Satariano, but his close-range header was brilliantly parried by Bonello as the goalless stalemate was still prevailing.
Valletta were piling the pressure on the Blues and Brazilian forward Campos almost came close to to connect with a Joseph Zerafa cross, but missed it by just a few inches.
Mendes deployed youngsters Shaun Dimech and Kyrian Nwoko in the closing stages, in an attempt to shift the game in his favour.
Six minutes from time, Piciollo created space for himself before firing a close-range effort that failed to hit the target.
In the dying minutes, Nwoko almost won it for Valletta when he attempted a superb long-range volley, just to see Galea making an equal superb finger-tip save to end the match in a goalless draw.
Source: times of malta
VALLETTA: H. Bonello; J. Caruana (S. Malano); R. Camilleri; T. Caruana; J. Zerafa; Wellington(S. Dimech); R. Muscat; L. Aguirre; M. Alba (M. Piciollo); M. Fontanella; L. Campos, (K. Nwoko).
SLIEMA W: J. Galea; M. Sansone (R. Kakinuma); A. Satariano; K. Shaw; A. Milesi; J. Cisotti; E. Agius; D. Holla (G. Aquilina); R. Kisil; M. Beerman; D. Vukovic.
Referee: T. Farrugia Cann
Yellow cards: D. Holla, A. Milesi, M. Sansone (S), M. Fontanella (V).
BOV Player of the Match: J. Zerafa (V)