Matchday 23: Valletta 2 Gudja 4
Valletta have taken a backward step after slumping to a woeful display against Gudja.
The Lilywhites, on the back of four wins in five matches, looked to have turned the tide lately but Gudja pierced their optimism with a devastating attacking display to earn a vital win in their bid to avoid the drop.
José Cardoso Mendes opted for a three-man defence with Ryan Camilleri, Eslit Sala and Ivan Maric at the back as he organised his Valletta rearguard in absence of Jonathan Caruana. The Portuguese coach recalled Wellington in attack.
Jesmond Zammit had begun the match with a major revamp of the attack.
James Brincat, Terence Vella and Llywelyn Cremona made way for Elton, Aidan Friggieri and Patrick Silva Mota.
Despite their wholesale changes, Gudja made the more coherent start with Elton almost opened the score after 11 minutes with a firm strike but Henry Bonello got down well to his left.
Valletta looked dangerous, however, and it was no surprise when Santiago Malano opened the scoring, stealing a march on Imanol Gonzalez to poke in Triston Caruana’s teasing low free-kick from the right.
Gudja responded positively to that setback, with Friggeri and Gabriel Mensah involved in most of their brightest moments. The nippy midfielder unleashed a swerving ball that had Bonello desperately backpedalling to tip over.
Just before half-time, Gudja had a strong shout for a penalty turned down after Mensah went down under Camilleri’s challenge in the box. Instead referee Emanuel Grech booked the Ghanaian striker for simulation.
At the break, Zammit introduced Cremona in lieu of Justin Grioli, slotting in on the left flank in midfield. It seemed to have done the trick as Gudja restored parity immediately. Cremona was instrumental as he played in Mensah to fire past Bonello.
Elton almost added a third soon after. The Brazilian’s whipped shot had plenty of power behind it, but it was gathered by Bonello in two attempts.
Gudja kept their opponents at arms’ length but a clever flick from Shaun Dimech sent Malano clear on the left but the Argentine’s header was turned around the post by Zammit.
But any thoughts of a Valletta comeback were ended seven minutes from time.
Gudja continued to look dangerous, although the Blues would not have expected to be handed their third goal by their opponents. There was no apparent danger when Ivan Maric came out with the ball but the defender let the ball run loose and Vella stole in to beat Bonello with a clever chip.
Valletta’s worrying vulnerability at the back was exposed again after 51 minutes. Juan Bolanos floated a ball next to the penalty area. The ball dropped to Mensah who drilled the ball behind Bonello with a rising shot.
The end got worse for Valletta when Vella was hauled down in the box by Eslit Sala. The Valletta defender was given his marching orders as Mota sent Bonello the wrong way.
Fontanella scored from the spot in injury time for Valletta but the Gudja players had long been celebrating a vital victory.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, R. Camilleri, T. Caruana, S. Malano, M. Piciollo, S. Dimech (80 R.Tonna), E. Pena Beltre, E. Sala, Wellington (67 R. Fenech), I. Maric, M. Fontanella.
GUDJA U.: G. Zammit, J. Friggieri (89 J. Farrugia), G. Mensah (82 T.Vella), F. Pankatican, I. Gonzalez, A. Micallef-, Elton (70 J.Brincat-5), T. Veronese , J. Bolanos , J. Grioli (46 L. Cremona), P. Mota.
Scorers: 70′ S. Malano, 90′ M. Fontanella (V), 49′ 51′ G. Mensah, 83′ T. Vella, 88′ P. Mota (G)
Referee: E. Grech
Yellow Cards: G. Mensah (G), R. Fenech, E. Sala (V)
Red card: E. Sala (V)