Plucky Spartans hold on for a draw
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