Valletta scored twice in the final six minutes to come back from one goal down and beat ten-man Naxxar Lions 2-1 at the National Stadium. A win which puts them once again three points clear of second-placed Hibernians.
For Naxxar, this was the fifth consecutive defeat. Although they scored from the only goal-scoring opportunity they created during the first half, Naxxar could consider themselves unlucky to leave the pitch empty-handed.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit could not count on the suspended Ryan Camilleri and Claudio Pani. Naxxar, on the other hand, lacked Blazo Rajovic and Jose Angel Godar Pereira but had two new signings Ennio Hamutenya and Nikola Tasic making their debut.
Naxxar managed to take the lead on the 26th minute when a Demba Toure effort was blocked and Duane Bonnici headed the ball home from close range.
On the 75th, Valletta almost notched the equaliser but Jhonnattann’s goal-bound shot was cleared off the goal line by Andrew Scicluna.
Naxxar had Angus Buhagiar sent off after picking a second yellow card for time-wasting twelve minutes from time.
Valletta levelled matters on the 84th minute when off a cross from the left, Federico Falcone slotted the ball past goalkeeper Julian Azzopardi.
Four minutes later, the Citizens notched the winner when off a cross from the left by Uchenna Umeh, substitute Jurgen Suda slammed the ball home.
In added time, Jurgen Debono hit the crossbar for Naxxar with the ball bouncing on the goal line with the
NAXXAR Luke Pecorella (46′ Julian Azzopardi), Ennio Hamutenya, Demba Toure, Daren Falzon (67′ Thomas Sarina), Duane Bonnici (82′ Mark Fenech), Nikola Tasic, Jurgen Debono, Ishmael Grech, David Fenech, Angus Buhagiar.
Subs not used: Yaron Sammut, Joel Ellul, Ryan Mercieca, Adam Pace.
Coach: Clive Mizzi
VALLETTA Nicky Vella, Jonathan Caruana, Ian Azzopardi (82′ Jurgen Suda), Diego Balbinot (46′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Juan Gill Cruz, Roderick Briffa, Jean Borg (71′ Uchenna Calistus Umeh), Federico Falcone, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, Abdelkarim Nafti, Romeu Pericles Romao.
Subs not used: Henry Bonello, Daniel Camilleri, Russell Fenech, Nicholas Pulis.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Referee: Philip Farrugia
Assistant Referees: Thomas Debono, Peter Abela
Fourth Official: Matthew Degabriele
Yellow Cards: Azzopardi, Hamutenya, Buhagiar, Tasic, Grech, Suda
Scorers: 26′ Duane Bonnici, 84′ Federico Falcone, 88′ Jurgen Suda
BOV Player of the Match: Andrew Scicluna
At the Hibernians Stadium, Sliema Wanderers found no difficulty in beating bottom-placed St. Andrews 6-1.
The Wanderers managed to take the lead on the 2nd minute when Rafael Ledesma served Aiden Friggieri whose sent Michael Mifsud throughout and the latter hit low past Bugeja.
Sliema doubled the score on the 16th when Johann Bezzina sent Michael Mifsud through and the latter advanced into the area before hitting past the St. Andrews goalkeeper.
Eight minutes from the end of the first half, Aidan Friggieri served Michael Mifsud who dribbled the on-rushing goalkeeper before placing the ball at the back of the net.
One minute from the end of the first half, Eloy Edu Nkene brought Friggieri down inside the area and from the penalty spot, Michael Mifsud’s first attempt was neutralised by the goalkeeper but the referee ordered a re-take and this time, Mifsud made no mistake.
Eight minutes in the second half, goalkeeper Dorian Bugeja saved partially a corner by Gary Muir but Stefano Bianciardi slammed the ball home off the rebound.
The Saints pulled one back on the 77th when off a cross by Dale Camilleri, Michael Johnson headed the ball down for Joseph Farrugia whose shot on the turn beat Timothy Aquilina.
However two minutes from time, Rafael Ledesma sent Kyle Hendry through and the latter hit past the St. Andrews goalkeeper.
SLIEMA Timothy Aquilina, Alexander Muscat, Mark Scerri, Michael Mifsud, Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Aiden Jake Friggieri (46’ Benjamin Essel), Johann Bezzina, Gary Muir (56’ Kyle Hendry), Stefano Bianciardi (69’ Peter Xuereb), Luke Dimech.
Subs: Glen Zammit, Entonjo Elezaj, Marko Potezica, Michelle Sansone.
Coach: Stephen Azzopardi
ST. ANDREWS Dorian Bugeja, Jordan William (46′ Michael Grima), Dale Camilleri, Josh Parry, Sorin Oproiescu, Matthew Desira Buttigieg (73’ Jacob Walker), Joseph Farrugia, Wade Moodley, Kyrian Nwoko, Eloy Edu Nkene, Clyde Cumbo (46’ Michael Johnson)
Subs not used: Jake Galea, Nich Ghio, Liam Grech, Giovanni Cipolloni
Coach: Jose Borg
Referee: Sandro Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Jurgen Spiteri
Fourth Official: Malcolm Spiteri
Yellow cards: Moodley, Nkene
Scorers: 2′ Michael Mifsud, 15′ Michael Mifsud, 37′ Michael Mifsud, 44′ Michael Mifsud, 53′ Stefano Bianciardi, 77′ Joseph Farrugia, 88′ Kyle Hendry
BOV Player of the Match: Michael Mifsud
Renato Vella reporting from the Hibernians Stadium