Plucky Saints hold cham­pi­ons to goal­less draw

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Cham­pi­ons Val­letta dis­ap­pointed their fans yes­ter­day as they were sur­pris­ingly held to a goal­less draw by a plucky St An­drews side.

Al­though the cit­i­zens can­not be said to have played badly, their in­sis­tence failed to pro­duce the de­sired re­sult as the Saints fought gal­lantly all the way.

It was a case of two missed points for the cit­i­zens in their ti­tle chal­lenge and an im­por­tant one ob­tained by the Saints in their fight to stave off rel­e­ga­tion.

Val­letta now oc­cupy third place on 18 points, one ahead of Hiber­ni­ans, four be­hind league lead­ers Balzan and one be­hind sec­ond placed Birkirkara. Of course, Hiber­ni­ans, Birkirkara and Balzan have a match in hand.

The Saints re­mained in eighth place, but now they have 10 points, one be­low Ham­run and one ahead of Gzira and Tarx­ien.

Val­letta dom­i­nated for most of the time as they had con­trol of mid­field right from the very first whis­tle.

St An­drews’ plan was ob­vi­ous – de­fend with cau­tion and op­er­ate on the break. At the back they were well or­gan­ised and on most oc­ca­sions, they man­aged to keep the cit­i­zens at bay. Che, Pena Bel­tre and Kesinovic proved to be tough nuts to crack as most of City’s at­tacks fell apart in their do­main.

In their few counter-at­tacks, the Saints never made an im­pact on City’s de­fence and Lithua­nian goalie Dz­i­u­gas Bartkus was never tested, so su­pe­rior were the City de­fend­ers.

On the 4th minute, Mif­sud set Fal­cone with an in­tel­li­gent pass, but the lat­ter’s an­gled ef­fort went wide.

Two min­utes later, a fine move be­tween Alinho, Malano and Mif­sud ended with the lat­ter shoot­ing well over the bar from an ideal po­si­tion.

St An­drews replied through a Bel­tre cross from which an Ivan Paz first timer was well saved by Bartkus.

In the 14th minute, as Val­letta in­sisted, from a Mif­sud cross, it was Ben­ites who set the com­pletely un­marked Malano in the cen­tre of the area, but the City mid­fielder com­pletely mis­kicked the ball and a good chance went beg­ging.

In the 23rd minute, Saints goalie Jake Galea ex­cel­lently saved a Ben­ites first timer. And mo­ments later, it was Pani who went close with a 20-me­tre scorcher which just missed the tar­get.

Early in the sec­ond half, the Saints threat­ened through Pena Bel­tre who ad­vanced into the City area, but goalie Bartkus rushed out of his charge to save.

In the 52nd minute, from a Pani free­kick, Fal­cone’s neat header just missed the tar­get.

The match de­gen­er­ated and Val­letta could not find a way past a packed St An­drews de­fence.

In added time, Aguirre had a free­kick blocked by the Saints de­fence and his shot from the re­bound went well over the bar.

San­ti­ago Malano of Val­letta (left) about to be chal­lenged by Dale Camil­leri of St. An­drews (right) Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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