Matchday 21: Valletta 1 Santa Lucia 0
Valletta picked up an important victory in their quest of closing the gap with top placings in the standings when they edged past Santa Lucia at the National Stadium.
Enmy Pena Beltre struck the all-important goal a minute into the second half to hand Valletta FC a deserved victory over the in-form Sta Lucia side to further rubberstamp their recent progress under new coach Antonio Jose Cardoso Mendes.
In fact, the Valletta players displayed a lot of energy throughout the 90 minutes as their high-pitch pressure continuously left the Sta Lucia defence on its toes.
Added to that, Valletta showed remarkable improvement in their defensive play as the returning Ivan Maric and Ryan Camilleri gave much-needed solidity to the back-line against one of the most prolific sides in the top flight.
With this win, Valletta have leapfrogged Santa Lucia into sixth place on 30 points, one clear of the Saints.
Valletta started brightly and inside the first minute Matteo Piciollo raced into space and served Triston Caruana who fired just over.
A poor clearance from goalkeeper Yenz Cini almost proved costly for Valletta as Alan seized possession and his thumping just missed the upright.
The Valletta goalkeeper was alert on 15 minutes to push away Kevin Ante Rosero’s shot.
The match remained a lively affair even though scoring chances dried up.
Five minutes from the break, Valletta should have been awarded a penalty when Andre Prates seemed to have floored Mario Fontanella inside the area but referee Stefan Pace waved play on.
Three minutes later, Fontanella was denied by a fine one-handed save from goalkeeper Miguel Montfort.
On the restart, Valletta enjoyed a dream start as inside the first minute, Piciollo picked Enmy Pena Beltre in space and the Dominican Republic wingback brilliantly placed the ball into the far post.
Seven minutes later, Eslit Sala came close when he connected to Pena Beltre’s pass but his thumping volley finished just wide.
From then on, Sta Lucia stepped up their ante but they struggled to create any clear-cut chances as the Valletta showed great solidity at the back to return home with an important victory.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: Y. Cini, R. Camilleri, T. Caruana, S. Malano, M. Piciollo (90 K. Scerri), S. Dimech (78 R. Tonna), E. Pena Beltre, E. Sala, L. Aguirre, I. Maric, M. Fontanella.
SANTA LUCIA: M. Montfort, T. Tabone Desira (71 M. Camilleri), A. Prates, K. Correia, A. Magri Overend, N. Pulis (87 K. Xuereb), Alan , K. Ante Rosero , J. Zerafa , A. Caseres , R. Tachikawa (65 L. Motta).
Scorers: 46′ E. Pena Beltre
Referee: S. Pace
Yellow Cards: A. Prates, J. Zerafa, N. Pulis (S), S. Malano, L. Aguirre (V)
BOV Player of the Match: E. Pena Beltre (V)