10-man Val­letta back to win­ning form, move into sec­ond place

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Val­letta were back to win­ning form yes­ter­day as they beat Gzira United by the odd goal in three to move sec­ond in the stand­ings ahead of today’s top clash be­tween Balzan and Birkirkara.

Goals from Ben­ites and Fal­cone (from a penalty) gave them a healthy cush­ion, but Gzira fought back gamely in the sec­ond half dur­ing which they man­aged to get back into the game soon af­ter miss­ing a penalty, scor­ing a goal through Machedo Neto.

Yes­ter­day’s per­for­mance in the first half must rank among the best of Paul Zam­mit’s side this sea­son but in the sec­ond, City left much to be de­sired as they al­lowed Gzira back in the match, risk­ing an equaliser be­fore they even­tu­ally sealed the is­sue with a third goal in added time.

Val­letta now have 14 points from eight matches, five be­hind lead­ers Balzan. Gzira are now in eighth place af­ter Sliema de­feated Ham­run in an ear­lier match.

Val­letta dom­i­nated the first half an al­most one-way traf­fic af­fair. It was ev­i­dent that the cit­i­zens were all out for a win hav­ing missed out on that in their last four en­coun­ters.

And af­ter tak­ing the lead early, they never looked back and penned Gzira in their own half for long stretches.

Only in the fi­nal mo­ments of the half one saw Gzira hav­ing a pot at goal, but that was cer­tainly not enough to trou­ble Val­letta.

In the sec­ond half, the Ma­roons launched sev­eral at­tacks as they took over the mid­field sec­tor, but Val­letta were also some­what dan­ger­ous in their fewer counter at­tacks through Fal­cone and Ben­ites.

Gzira came back into the game af­ter Bonello was sent off in the 82nd minute. Though miss­ing a penalty, they scored a goal soon af­ter, but they failed to get an equaliser de­spite fin­ish­ing the match in nu­mer­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity. In fact, Val­letta went on to score a third goal to as­cer­tain them­selves of the three points.

Val­letta took the ini­tia­tive right from the start but Fal­cone’s low ef­fort in the sec­ond minute was well saved by

to clear and the ball went to Jhon­nat­tann Ben­ites who beat goalie Az­zopardi with a neat shot to the left.

Two min­utes later, it was Clau­dio Pani who tested Az­zopardi se­ri­ously, but the goalie man­aged to palm the ball away. goalie Az­zopardi.

It was no sur­prise that they took the lead on the sev­enth minute. From a good Fal­cone pass, the Gzira de­fence failed

In the 22nd minute, from a Malano cross, Fal­cone headed the ball down in the path of Ben­ites, but the lat­ter hit high from an ideal po­si­tion.

Val­letta in­sisted on at­tack and in the 24th minute, they were awarded a penalty when Fal­cone was floored by Di­amoutene in the area. From the spot­kick, Fal­cone made no mis­take send­ing the goalie the wrong way.

In the 38th minute, it was Az­zopardi who de­nied Val­letta a third goal when fol­low­ing a fine run down the left flank by Ben­ites, his cross was first timed by Fal­cone but Az­zopardi some­how man­aged to save.

In the 42nd minute, Gzira fi­nally tested Bonello through Conti, but the City goalie punched the ball away.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, at the other end, Fal­cone scored with a header off a Cal­is­tus cross but the Ir­ish of­fi­cial had whis­tled for an in­fringe­ment.

Just be­fore the in­ter­val whis­tle, Ben­ites even went round goalie Az­zopardi in the area, but his ef­fort from the an­gle hit the side rig­ging.

At the start of the sec­ond half, Gzira protested for a penalty when Juan Car­los Cor­bolan fell in the area, but the of­fi­cial, close to the ac­tion, ig­nored their protests.

In the 57th minute, Ya­nis Tonna tested Bonello with a good shot from 20 me­tres.

The Ma­roons went clos­est to scor­ing on 61 min­utes. From a Tonna cor­ner­kick, it was Avila Perez who saw his first timer hit­ting the cross­bar and end­ing over.

On the 77th minute, Bonello was a pro­tag­o­nist twice. First he turned to cor­ner in style a Ledesma free­kick and sec­onds later, he re­ceived a di­rect red card, when fol­low­ing a cor­ner, the Ir­ish of­fi­cial no­ticed some­thing un­to­ward near the City goalline where Zachary Scerri fin­ished on the ground. The end re­sult was a red card for Bonello. Mav­er­ick Buha­giar took Bonello’s place in goal and quickly be­came a great pro­tag­o­nist as he saved Avila Perez’s penalty kick. But from the cor­ner, it was Macheda Neto who headed into the net fol­low­ing a cross from the right.

How­ever, it was not over as Val­letta, de­spite play­ing with a man less, still man­aged to score a third goal through sub­sti­tute Jean Borg to seal their victory.

Gzira’s Jonathan Bondin and Val­letta’s Steve Borg

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