Telles inspires convincing win over ten-man Valletta
This rampant, incisive performance ensured Hibernians beat tenman Valletta to go in second place of the BoV Premier League standings and leave the champions with a worrying three-match streak without a win now.
Although Valletta played with ten men for more than an hour, having Uchenna sent off for a foul on Telles, Hibernians always looked the more enterprising side.
Valletta managed to hold on for the first 45 minutes but then collapsed to concede two goals in quick succession before the hour mark.
Both teams were trying to rediscover their winning form after suffering defeats in midweek. Valletta had lost the derby against neighbours Floriana while Hibernians lost to leaders Balzan depsite being the better team.
Hibernians had Andrew Hogg back in goal yesterday after recovering from back pain that kept him out of the match against Balzan, but otherwise they were an unchanged team.
Valletta, without the suspended defender Leandro Aguirre, also dropped Ryan Camilleri with the full backs Ian Azzopardi and Romeu Romao starting instead. Juan Cruz also got the nod ahead of Llywelan Cremona in midfield.
Valletta set up to stifle Hibernians’ runs from midfield plus the varying threats of Renan Telles and Jurgen Degabriele with Johann Bezzina behind them. They looked powerless on all counts, even with 11 men. The Paolites showed good understanding in the final third as Telles’ influence grew as the macth unfolded.
Degabriele had missed clear chances and hit the post before Valletta were reduced to ten men midway through the half.
Towards the quarter hour Bezzina put Degabriele through, bypassing teh onrushing keeper Bonello but his diagonal shot went wide. Degabriele was unlucky with his second effort. Again released into space by Bezzzina, the ball rebounded off the underside of the bar with the keeper beaten.
The much discussed episode, and the highlight of the first half, arrived on 24 minutes. Valletta had won a corner but it was taken badly by Jhonnattann and Hibernians could break away with Degabriele putting Telles clear. Challenged by Uchenna, with a push from behind, Telles fell just outside the Valletta area and the referee disimissed the Valletta player while awarding Hibernians the free kick which Lima shot straight on the keeper.
Down to ten men, Valletta were forced to defend deeper as Hibernians tried to exploit their numerical superiority. A Telles effort was blocked into a corner by defender Caruana and another Degabriele shot was also turned into a corner by the outstretched keeper Bonello.
But Valletta’s resistance lasted only nine minutes into the second period. Lima took a corner from the reight and the ball fell at the feet of Rodolfo Soares who was quick to shoot in from inside the area.
Another flowing, enterprising move ensured there was no way back for Valletta with almost an hour gone. Mbong lobbed the ball over Azzopardi from the right, sent a low cross for Telles who mishit, but the ball was good for Jurgen Degabriele to beat keeper Bonello with a low strike.
Disjointed Valletta were in damage-limitation mode and Hibernians were showcasing long before the end. It was a pleasure to see Jorginho making a return for Hibernians on 78 minutes although Failla, who most probably hurt his knee, was forced to make way.
On the very rare occasions that keeper Hogg was called into action, he parried Jhonnattan’s free kick and then blocked substitute Michael Mifsud on the rebound.
The comeback always seemed a far-fetched prospect for ten-man Valletta who endured further pressure as Degabriele hit the foot of the post after keeper Bonello had parried a Lima effort, but the game itself never looked in doubt for superior Hibernians.
Balzan Birkirkara Hibernians Valletta Floriana Gzira Hamrun Tarxien St. Andrews Sliema Mosta Pembroke P W D 5 4 1 5 4 0 6 4 0 6 3 1 5 3 0 5 2 2 5 2 1 6 2 1 5 2 0 6 2 0 5 1 0 5 0 0 L 0 1 2 2 2 1 2 3 3 4 4 5
F 10 13 9 10 7 7 9 5 6 5 5 4 APts 5 13 3 12 7 12 8 10 4 9 4 8 7 7 9 7 10 6
9 6 10 3 14 0
Jurgen Degabriele of Hibernians (centre) speeds away from Santiago Malano (left) and Umeh Uchenna Calistus (right) of Valletta