A goal three minutes from time enabled Valletta to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw with Rabat Ajax.
It was a brave performance by the Magpies who controlled their opponents well after taking an early lead, operating on counter-attacks. On the other hand, for the Citizens, it was yet another disappointing result as they have won just one game out of the last eight matches, collecting only four points from the last four games.
Rabat were once again a depleted side due to the absence of Chris Schembri, Ryan Micallef, Adam Smeir, Clive Brincat and the suspended Ivan Carapic. However Spanish midfielder Diego Carrillo Pendas made his debut when he was included as a substitute. Valletta, on the other hand, lacked Steve Borg, Ricardo Filho, William Barbosa and Michael Mifsud.
The Magpies managed to take the lead on the 9th minute when Manuel Moral Fuster sent Jose Luis Armario Negrin through and goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo, in an attempt to clear the ball into safety, was unlucky to see the ball bounce on the Rabat striker and end at the back of the net.
A freekick by Edmond Agius ended just over the bar on 17 minutes. Two minutes later, Negrin concluded a good run on the right flank with a good shot which was blocked into a corner by the Valletta goalkeeper. A freekick by Denni from the right ended just wide on 32 minutes. One minute from half-time, Denni headed high off an inviting cross by Shaun Bajada.
One minute in the second half, Gabriel tried his luck with a low shot from the edge of the area which was neutralised by Jonathan Azzopardi. An Ian Azzopardi effort was cleared off the goal line by a defender on the 51st minute. On the other side of the pitch, off a cross by Fuster, Joseph Caruana’s fine header was partially saved by Manuel Bartolo and in an attempt to clear the ball into safety, Ian Azzopardi almost committed an own goal, hitting the upright.
Patrick Borg came to the rescue on 62 minutes clearing off the goal line a header by Denni following a cross by substitute Gilbert Agius. Two minutes later, Manuel Bartolo performed a great save on a powerful drive by Negrin from the right.
Debutante Diego Carrillo Pendas tried his luck with a powerful shot from the right five minutes from time but Manuel Bartolo neutralised his attempt.
Valletta levelled matters on 87 minutes thanks to a goal by Joseph Jo Jo Ogonuppe who tapped the ball home from close range when served by Gilbert Agius who anticipated the goalkeeper following a long cross.
Two minutes in added time, Manuel Bartolo was sent off for Valletta following an incident in which he retaliated on Negrin. Since Valletta had already made the three substitutions, Gabriel took the goalkeeper’s role for the final two minutes of added time.
Jose Luis Armario Negrin was voted BOV Plyaer of the Match.
RABAT Jonathan Azzopardi, Gaetano Gesualdi (88’ Kurt Muscat), Joseph Caruana, Justin Felice, Jose Luis Armario Negrin, Manuel Moral Fuster (77’ Wayne Borg), Dylan Falzon, Patrick Borg (65’ Diego Carrillo Pendas), Yan Cauchi, David Azzopardi, Clifford Gauci.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Kurt Muscat, Wayne Borg, Luke Cauchi, Chris Vella, Shaun Gauci.
Coach: Silvio Vella
Asst. Coach: Joseph Galea
VALLETTA Manuel Bartolo, Ian Azzopardi, Edmond Agius (58’ Gilbert Agius), Roderick Briffa, Ian Zammit (67’ Joseph Jo Jo Ogonuppe), Leandro da Silva Almeida (81’ Dyson Falzon), Jonathan Caruana, Denni Rocha dos Santos, Shaun Bajada, Ryan Fenech, Joao Gabriel da Silva.
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Kurt Magro, Llywelyn Cremona, Glenn Cassar.
Coach: Mark Miller
Asst. Coach: Keith Fenech
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Thomas Debono, Luke Portelli
Fourth Official: Andre Arciola
Yellow Cards: Agius, Borg, Gesualdi, Fuster, Leandro, Briffa, Dylan Falzon
Red Cards: 92′ Manuel Bartolo
Scorers: 9’ Jose Luis Armario Negrin, 87’ Joseph Jo Jo Ogonuppe
Meanwhile after beating Valletta last week, Melita earned another precious point as they held Sliema Wanderers in a goalless draw.
The Blues therefore missed the opportunity to join Birkirkara and Valletta in second place but join Tarxien in fourth place.
The Wanderers had one change from the team which defeated Qormi as Alain Faccini replaced Ariel Laudisi with Henry Bonello and John Mintoff both ruled out injured. Melita lacked the suspended Nigel Rizzo and Michael Valenzia but Matthew Borg was back after serving a one-match ban.
There was no goal-mouth action during the first half with the only attempt at goal being a freekick by Manuel Ramon Sierra Camacho which was parried by Glenn Zammit on the 23rd minute.
After a quiet start for the second half, Julian Galea tried his luck with a cross shot from the right which was parried by the Sliema goalkeeper on 66 minutes. Three minutes later, Ivan Woods hit the crossbar with a header off a cross by Alain Faccini. Substitute Miguel Ciantar then had a shot from the left blocked by Gabilondo on 72 minutes.
Manuel Ramon Sierra Camacho was voted BOV Player of the Match.
MELITA Guillermo Gabilondo Garcia, Jovan Vukanic (80’ Daniel Cabanillas Ayllon), Manuel Ramon Sierra Camacho, Ivan Tufegdzic, George Gribbon, Michael Martin, Andrew Caruana Scicluna (87’ Jean Pierre Attard), Luke Micallef, Julian Galea, Luke Sammut (80’ Marc Attard), Matthew Borg.
Subs not used: Andrew Abela, Antoine Attard, Rudi Alhinho.
Coach: Patxi Salinas
Asst. Coach: Alejandro Martinez Lopez
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Alex Muscat (13’ Miguel Ciantar), Luca Martinelli, Paltemio Barbetti, Mark Scerri, Luigi Ruggiero (60’ Ariel Laudisi), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Ivan Woods, Alain Faccini, Beppe Muscat, Stefano Bianciardi.
Subs not used: Keane Cutajar, Omar El Ghaouti, Andrew Decesare, Marlon Briffa, Matias Muchardi.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Asst. Coach: JoJo Bajada
Referee: Glenn Tonna
Assistant Referees: Duncan Sultana, Eman Grech
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: Gribbon, Vukanic, Barbetti, Borg, Laudisi