Plucky Spar­tans hold on for a draw

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Flo­ri­ana could man­age only a draw against res­o­lute Ham­run Spar­tans although the Greens dom­i­nated most of the game.

Helped by a penalty in the open­ing half, Ham­run held on to de­fend a point af­ter Flo­ri­ana had lev­elled mat­ters soon af­ter the restart. Flo­ri­ana re­main in fifth place on equal points with Val­letta, while Ham­run move into sev­enth, above Tarx­ien Rain­bows and level with Gziar United on eight points.

For the most part, Flo­ri­ana were the bet­ter, stronger smarter and largely dom­i­nant team but failed to take three points, credit also to Ham­run’s de­fend­ing, es­pe­cially from stal­wart Ser­gio Raphael and keeper David Cas­sar.

The bite of the Flo­ri­ana mid­field was too much for Ham­run, who were over­awed by the mag­nif­i­cent Ni­co­las Chiesa, un­doubt­edly the man of the match.

Flo­ri­ana coach Gio­vanni Tedesco kept the same play­ers who beat Val­letta in the derby ex­cept for Mario Fon­tanella start­ing in­stead of Amadou Samb.

Ham­run’s coach Steve D’Amato started with Jean Pierre Mif­sud Tri­g­anza to sup­port Haruna Garba in at­tack, re­placed Chris­tian Mal­dini with Glenn Az­zopardi in de­fence and gave a start to Satur­day Nanapere in mid­field as Guisti was rel­e­gated to the bench.

The match was off to a cagey start with many passes go­ing astray. Af­ter 18 min­utes, Ham­run threat­ened when Nanapere lofted the ball over the Flo­ri­ana back­line for Garba to con­trol in­side the area. But keeper Haber blocked at his feet.

On the half hour Grech’s free kick from out­side the area was han­dled by the Flo­ri­ana wall and the Spar­tans were awarded the penalty which Jake Grech him­self tucked away to put Ham­run in the lead.

Af­ter that, both teams con­tin­ued to find mo­men­tum elu­sive, con­tribut­ing very lit­tle in the fi­nal third.

Aware that Flo­ri­ana needed a spark, coach Tedesco put in Samb for Vella at half­time.

Within five min­utes, Flo­ri­ana were level. Ni­co­las Chiesa nipped in from be­hind to meet Steve Pisani’s cross from the right and hit low past keeper Cas­sar.

Ham­run tried to re­act. Mif­sud Tri­g­anza had a shot well saved by Flo­ri­ana keeper Haber.

And as both sides be­came stretched, with too much space in mid­field, Chiesa’s shot on the turn from in­side the area was cleared off the line by Az­zopardi.

Ham­run re­treated in­side their own half, de­fend­ing grimly and foot­ing the ball up­field by de­fault, in the hope of reach­ing Garba.

The Ham­run for­ward was of­ten shack­led by Ruiz or Mon­ti­celli.

Ham­run needed re­in­force­ments and put in Dar­ren Fal­zon for Mif­sud Tri­g­anza on 74 min­utes.

In a fran­tic fi­nale, Flo­ri­ana were all over their op­po­nents in search of a win­ner. The Ham­run de­fence looked in dis­ar­ray, tr­ty­ing to hold wa­ter.

Sus­bti­tute Brooke forced keep­erCas­sar him­self and palm grounder.

Ham­run, now strug­gling to get the ball for­ward, found space to counter. On 86 min­utes, af­ter good work by Giusti, Grech shot slightly wide.

On the other end, Chiesa brought an­other smart save from keeper Cas­sar.

Flo­ri­ana con­tin­ued to de­liver a se­ries of men­ac­ing crosses mostly through Chiesa and Steve Pisani with­out manag­ing to pick Samb and Fon­tanella as Ser­gio Raphael was a tow­er­ing fig­ure in the air.

Hard as Flo­ri­ana fought for a win­ner, Ham­run stood tall to sal­vage a point that looked beyond them for all Flo­ri­ana’s ef­forts in the sec­ond half. Far­ru­gia to stretch out his

Philip Chir­cop of Ham­run Spar­tans (right) clears away ahead of Mario Fon­tanella of Flo­ri­ana (cen­tre) Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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