The Malta Independent 16 January 2018, Tuesday

Fontanella goal enough to give Floriana Super Cup win

Silvio Vella Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 23:17 Last update: about 2 months ago
Photos: Domenic Aquilina
Photos: Domenic Aquilina

HIBERNIANS 0

FLORIANA 1

Hibernians: A. Hogg, D. Vella, M. Kreuzriegler, R. Gomes, M. Dias, J. Degabriele, B. Kristenesen (M. Sahanek), C. Failla (J. Elias), J. Bezzina (J. Lima), A. Agius, J. Mbong

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Floriana: I. Akpan, E. Pepe, E. Ruiz, S. Pisani, C. Borg (A. Oyama), M. Vella (L. Grech), J. Cabral, A. Cini, D. Grima, M. Fontanella, E. Marcelina

Referee: F. Zammit

Asst.refs: L. Portelli, T. Debono

Additional asst.refs: M. Degabriele, S. Pace

4th official: P. Apap

Scorers: M. Fontanella 37

Yellow cards: E. Ruiz, E. Pepe, M. Dias, E. Marcelina

Attendance: 1,241

Floriana won the Super Cup, beating champions Hibernians, thanks to Mario Fontanella’s only goal of the match in the final at Ta’Qali yesterday afternoon.

Floriana thus ended the year on a high, with a second honour, after their FA Trophy win back in May. They even put their name on this trophy for the second time in the club’s history, since their first triumph 24 years back.

Both teams’ recent turmoils on and off the field might have suggested that Hibernians and Floriana went into this final with some appetite.

The Greens were the better, more purposeful team, aside from the final half hour when they retreated too much and had to absorb plenty of Hibernians pressure.

In the late stages, when Hibernians created their best chances, but were thwarted by keeper Akpan and some own profligacy, the feeling nagged that Floriana could live to regret their failure to capitalise more fully on their early purple patch, but with an impeccably-drilled back line, they held on for this win and make up for their recent disappointing exit from this season’s FA Trophy.

Both teams took the field slightly changed tactically. Floriana’s back four included Enrico Pepe alongside Enzo Ruiz, with Dylan Grima prefereed to Arthur Oyama as left back. Coach Chiesa put two holding midfielders, Emerson Marcelina and Clyde Borg behind a three-man midfield of Mario Fontanella, Maurizio Vella and Steve Pisani, with Juninho Cabral their most advanced man. It took a while for the Greens to adjust to the injured Ignazio Varela’s absence. But Hibernians were reduced to merely bystanders once their opponents  got into their smooth, attacking stride.

Coach Miller rested Jorge Elias and Jackson Lima, and presented his team in a 4-1-4-1 initial formation. Dunstan Vella played in front of a four-man rearguard, with Clayton Failla, Bjorn Kristensen, Johan Bezzina and Jurgen Degabriele in midfield behind surprise pick Joseph Mbong as their main striker.

Hibernians needed to bounce back from that Balzan league defeat. They had spelled out the importance of a fast and focused start. The message did not get through. They were unable to show enough cohesion in the firts half, lacking pace and creativity. Their only chance came after nine minutes, when Kristensen pounced on a short Clyde Borg awkward back-pass, avoided the keeper but could not finish off when blocked by an opponent.

On the other end, another defensive lapse almost brought an own goal for the champions. Dias put his goalkeeper Hogg under slight pressure with a back header and he had to throw himself back to save.

Gradually Floriana started to find some rhythm of their own and made the breakthrough on 37 minutes. Cabral beat Failla for a cross from the byeline on the right and Mario Fontanella beat the static keeper Hogg with a free header to give the Greens the lead by halftime.

Hibernians looked livelier after the interval, and especially after Jackson Lima went in for Bezzina on the hour. Kreuzriegler’s glancing header, on a Faila free kick, was turned into a corner by keeper Akpan.

Dias held the ball from the byeline, on a Lima cross, as Degabriele’s overhead effort was kept out by another smart save form Akpan.

Hibernians were irked but continued to apply the pressure as they replaced both Kristensen and Failla with Marco Sahanek and  Jorge Elias.

The latter was the culprit of his side’s easiest chance of an equaliser four minutes from time. Unmarked inside the Floriana area, he contrived to head wide, connecting to Mbong’s flick after good work by Sahanek.

In all fairness, Floriana should have closed the tie a minute earlier  when Vella made progress inside the Hibernians’ half, played the ball to the advancing Cabral whose low curling shot was superbly turned around the post by keeper Hogg.

But if Hibernians had hoped to beat Floriana on an off-day they were sadly mistaken.

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