Day 27: Valletta 2 Pembroke 0
Two goals in the first half extended Valletta’s winning run as the leaders downed Pembroke Athleta.
Jhonnattann and Abdelkarim Nafti produced two fine strikes to keep Valletta on course to win the title as they restored their four-point gap on Hibernians with six games remaining.
The game was eight minutes old when Valletta came close to opening the scoring. Ryan Camilleri’s cross from the right was deflected towards Nafti at the far post and the Tunisian sent in perfect cross towards Federico Falcone who headed over from an inviting position.
Henry Bonello, the Valletta goalkeeper, then made a fine save as he beat away Paltemio Barbetti’s piledriver from the distance.
A brilliant pass from left-back Ian Azzopardi led to Valletta’s opener on 14 minutes as the ball landed at the feet of Jhonnattann who bursty past two defenders and drove the ball into the top corner.
Falcone had a header blocked by Mario Muscat after the Argentine met a cross from Camilleri midway into the first half but Pembroke refused to lie down.
Ariel Laudisi raced clear of his markers before hitting a fierce drive that was tipped away by Bonello.
Pembroke were seeing more of the ball as Valletta dropped back but their efforts were repelled by the City defenders.
Falcone almost increased Valletta’s advantage but his strike, from outside the box, flew over the crossbar.
That proved a temporary reprieve for Pembroke as, three minutes past the half-hour, Valletta moved 2-0 up.
Nafti, veering infield from the right, served Jhonnattann whose astute pass found the Tunisian unmarked and the next thing the ball was in the net.
Early in the second half, Jhonnattann was high with a rising effort.
Michael Mifsud, on for Ledesma, dragged in a cross from the left that just eluded Falcone.
The Malta captain than managed to anticipate the on-rushing Muscat as he ran onto a long pass but his effort was cleared by the Pembroke defenders.
The tempo of the game dropped in the second half but Valletta had two good chances to extend their lead.
With nine minutes remaining, Mifsud ran into the box from the left before cutting the ball back for Nafti whose high-riser crashed against the crossbar.
The ball landed in the six-yard box but Zoran Levnaic cleared the ball away for a corner.
Pembroke survived another scare when Roderick Briffa swapped passes with Jhonnattann who raced into the box but his effort was warded off by Muscat. The loose ball rolled to Mifsud but the striker was unable to conclude.
Jhonnattann, the Valletta striker, was voted BOV player of the match.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, J. Caruana, F. Falcone (J. Borg), J. Benites, R. Ledesma (M. Mifsud), R. Camilleri, J. Gill Cruz, C. Pani, A. Nafti, R. Briffa (L. Cremona), I. Azzopardi.
PEMBROKE. – M. Muscat, K. O’Brien, G. Villalobos, T. Agius (O. Obiefule), A. Laudisi, S. Arab (M.Attard), P. Barbetti, O. Bugeja, A. Cini, M. Micallef (T. Fenech), Z. Levnaic.
Scorers: 14′ J. Benites, 34′ A. Nafti
Yellow Cards: R. Ledesma, R. Briffa (V), A. Laudisi (P)
Man of Match: J. Benites (V)
Referee: Fyodor Zammit