Val­letta back on song as Ham­run fail the test

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Some old ri­valry was ig­nited with this clash be­tween two for­mer heavy­weights of lo­cal foot­ball in the eight­ies and the colour­ful and noisy at­mos­phere from both sets of sup­port­ers at Ta’ Qali brought some nos­tal­gia.

Not the qual­ity of play though. This was hardly ever a con­test as Val­letta were the bet­ter team through­out. Ham­run’s too laid back ap­proach ren­dered them in­fe­rior, moreso af­ter hav­ing a man sent off with a quar­ter of an hour left.

Val­letta were en­joy­ing a nar­row ad­van­tage but two late goals, when in nu­mer­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity, wrapped up the points they richly de­served.

A penalty on the stroke of half­time gave Val­letta a de­served lead in a half they com­pletely dom­i­nated but lacked the re­quired pen­e­tra­tion.

Ham­run were pushed back in­side their own half against an at­tack-ori­ented Val­letta, with Fed­erico Fal­cone, Michael Mif­sud and Jhon­nat­tan as their ful­crum, and huffed and puffed, chas­ing their op­po­nents.

Val­letta, who had cen­tral de­fender Jonathan Caru­ana miss­ing, made most of the run­ning, cre­ated some anx­ious mo­ments to the Spar­tans’ rear­guard, es­pe­cially when Jhon­nat­tan’s free kick was cleared fre­net­i­cally off the line by Raphael on 22 min­utes.

The penalty in­ci­dent came af­ter Jhon­nat­tann was felled by the Ham­run keeper as he darted in­side the area on a Fal­cone pass and the same Val­letta for­ward tucked it away.

Ham­run be­gan with more en­ergy af­ter the in­ter­val. On 54 min­utes Tex­eira’s cross shot af­ter go­ing through on the right, took a wicked de­flec­tion off Camil­leri but found keeper Bark­tus alert enough to block into a corner.

De­spite re­gain­ing a mea­sure of con­trol, Ham­run’s de­fence re­peat­edly strug­gled against Val­letta’s fast-mov­ing for­ward line.

Ham­run put in Mas­si­m­il­iano Giusti and Val­letta in­tro­duced Jean Borg for Fal­cone.

The mo­men­tum kept build­ing with ev­ery tackle from steel in mid­field.

There was a twist to the match on 74 min­utes. Ham­run’s cen­tral de­fender Neto re­ceived his march­ing or­ders for a se­cond cau­tion and hardly a minute later, Val­letta dou­bled their lead. Wide back Le­an­dro Aguirre ran down the left and beat keeper Tabone with a low di­ag­o­nal shot.

With Val­letta all over their op­po­nents Ham­run lacked com­po­sure and a grow­ing frus­tra­tion crept in. Sub­sti­tutes Pulis and Suda crafted a good move that shoukd have ended with an­other goal for the Cit­i­zens as the for­mer’s cross beat the keeper but Pulis shot against the foot of the post with a gap­ing goal at his mercy.

There was still time for Val­letta to make them three how­ever. Jhon­nat­tann fin­ished off the move at the end of a game that they dom­i­nated, both in terms of pos­ses­sion and chances.

Ham­run were left feel­ing the chill.

Val­letta’s Michael Mif­sud (right) shields the ball away from the chal­lenge of Luis Miguel Ver­dara Ro­drigues of Ham­run Spar­tans (left). Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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