The Malta Independent 22 November 2019, Friday

BOV Premier League: Valletta struggle to beat lowly Gudja for third seasonal win

Henry Brincat Sunday, 20 October 2019, 17:05 Last update: about 2 months ago
Photos: James Galea
Photos: James Galea

Gudja U.        0
Valletta         1

Gudja: T. Aquilina, J. Bondin, R. Winchester, C. Santana (J. Brincat 62), A. De Barros, MA Jimenez (Z. Cassar 86), H. Vella (T. Al Mahrooqi 79), L. Cremona, JA Bolanos, J. Grioli, AR Miranda

Valletta: H. Bonello (Y. Cini 46), S. Borg, R. Camilleri, B. Kaljevic (M. Piciollo 69), E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, D. Packer, R. Muscat, I. Dzaria, M. Fontanella, K. Tulimieri (N. Pulis 82)

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Referee: D. Agius

Asst refs: L. Portelli, T. Debono

4th official: F. Zammit

Scorers: M. Fontanella 22

Yellow cards: J. Zerafa 39, AR Miranda 41, MA Jimenez 81

BOV Player of the Match: M. Fontanella

TMI Top 3: 1. M. Fontanella, 2. AR Miranda, 3. R. Muscat

Champions Valletta struggled much more than expected to overcome lowly Gudja in yesterday's first match at the Centenary Stadium.

A solitary goal by Mario Fontanella on 22 minutes proved to be the winner in a match they were expected to win comfortably.

Instead, Gudja offered very stiff resistance and, at the end, Valletta should have considered themselves lucky to have gone home with all the three points.

The champions were a superior side but in the first half, they were made to suffer by an aggressive Gudja side.

Valletta seemed to be well in command when they opened the score and also contrived to miss some good chances, before Gudja threatened seriously to get back on level terms.

Gudja lamented near the end of the half - perhaps quite rightly - that the official failed to whistle for a foul in their favour when City goalie Bonello seemed to have floored their striker Jimenez.

It could have also been a red card for Bonello as the incident occurred outside the area with a gaping goal. But the goalie received no card; instead the foul was whistled in his favour.

Before the start of the second half, Bonello was replaced by Yenz Cini.

Valletta were simply a shadow of the team that won the championship last season in the second half.

In fact, Gudja made a very strong reaction and were absolutely unlucky to have suffered their third consecutive defeat.

They certainly deserved better, having also been denied what appeared to be a penalty in the second half.

Valletta threatened to open the score on 7 minutes when Irakli Dzaria sent a long ball forward. Mario Fontanella outsped his direct opponent but his effort was turned to corner in style by goalie Timothy Aquilina.

In the 15th minute, from a Pena Beltre cross, Tulimieri hit the ball badly from an ideal position, and immediately after, Fontanella set Pena Beltre on the edge of the Gudja area, but the latter's effort hit the crossbar with goalie Aquilina beaten.

The citizens opened the scoring on the 22nd minute when Fontanella received a good ball from Douglas Packer, went past his opponent and beat Aquilina with a low shot.

Gudja also had a good chance to level matters, but a close range shot from Rundell Winchester was well saved by goalie Henry Bonello.

Three minutes later Valletta's Kaljevic missed a glaring opportunity to increase his side's tally. A shot by Tulimieri was only partially saved by Aquilina. Kaljevic, all alone in front of the goalkeeper, shot weakly and straight into the grateful goalkeeper's hands.

In the 42nd minute, Bonello had to rush out of his charge to clear before Miguel Jimenez could get to the ball with a gaping goal.

In the 45th minute, Bonello was a protagonist when he lost the ball to Winchester and on trying to win it back, he seemed to have floored the Gudja striker. Mr Agius whistled for a foul in favour of the City goalie, when it could have been otherwise, considering that the Gudja man had the ball at his feet and Bonello was completely out of position, well outside the area.

At the start of the second half, Gudja went close to an equaliser when off a Winchester cross, Carlos Santana lifted the ball over the bar from three metres.

At the other end, following a cross from the left and a bad sortie out of goal by Aquilina, Kaljevic's header hit the upright with the ball being eventually cleared.

In the 61st minute, it was substitute goalie Cini who saved City's fort, blocking a close range shot from Ricardo Miranda.

In the 71st minute, Gudja were denied a penalty when Ryan Camilleri pulled down Jimenez when the latter was on the point of shooting at goal, but the official, close to the action, waved play on to the City clan's relief.

In the 80th minute, Fontanella advanced on the right and let loose a good shot which was well saved by Aquilina.

In added time, Fontanella again went close for Valletta

but his angled shot went wide.

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