Valletta back on song as Hamrun fail the test
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