Ten-man Floriana hold their nerves to win
Playing with only ten men for almost the entire match, Floriana kept their nerves to beat bottom team Pembroke by two second half goals.
Although made to sweat harder than expected, after their striker Mario Fontanella was sent off in the opening seven minutes, this win was a deserved one for superior Floriana.
Amadou Samb made his mark on the team with his inclusion as a substitute at halftime. He played an assist to Varela in Floriana’s first goal and then scored the second himself to seal victory for the Greens.
Floriana not only recorded their third win in four matches but hauled Pembroke back into deep trouble at the foot of the standings.
Pembroke were a disppointing lot. Despite periods of good play and passing, they struggled to really trouble Floriana. Their best chances of a goal both came in the final five minutes.
The match was hardly seven minutes old when Floriana were on the backfoot. They had striker Mario Fontanella sent off for elbowing Adrian Borg as the two players were involved in a tussle in midfield.
Despite their numerical superiority, Pembroke hardly looked like troubling keeper Matthew Grech, who yesterday replaced Justin Haber, in the Floriana goal.
Chiesa, wearing the captain’s arm band yesterday,looked particularly classy in midfield, but Floriana, and especially Varela, were found wanting in the final third.
All the ball hogging merely produced any chances, although Pembroke might well have had a penalty when Jurgen Pisani charged into Mariano, sending the forward crashing inside the Floriana penalty area.
The sending off was the only noteworthy episode of a mundane first half.
Floriana put in Amadou Samb for Borg at halftime to give the Greens some impetus in attack. On the hour, the former beat the Pembroke offside trap, rounded the goalkeeper but Pembroke defender Djeljilj managed to block him with a neat tackle.
Djeljilj later clipped the bar with his cross shot from the left before Floriana went in front past the hour.
Ignacio Varela ran to Samb’s forward pass from the right and beat keeper Calleja Cremona with a diagonal shot.
Then Amadou Samb added a second on 75 minutes.
Even if two goals down, Pembroke kept trying. They were denied five minutes from the end when Ruiz cleared Barbetti’s effort on the line after keeper Grech failed to hold the ball.
But in added time, Pembroke managed to get a consolation goal. Shodiya’s cross from the left fell to Adrian Borg who headed in from close range. But that served only for statistical purposes. Balzan Hibernians Valletta Birkirkara Floriana Sliema Hamrun St. Andrews Tarxien Gzira Mosta Pembroke P 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 W 8 8 7 6 6 5 4 4 3 2 2 2 D 3 2 3 3 3 2 2 2 4 3 2 1 L F A Pts 1 23 13 27 2 18 10 26 2 20 11 24 3 27 10 21 3 14 10 21 5 15 14 17 6 19 24 14 6 12 17 14 5 12 17 13 7 11 21 9 8 10 22 8 8 14 26 7
Photo: Mike Camilleri