The Malta Independent 6 August 2020, Thursday

BOV Premier League: Valletta and Hibernians distance themselves from the top

Chris Cassar Sunday, 8 December 2019, 19:27 Last update: about 9 months ago
Photos: James Galea
Photos: James Galea

Valletta-Hibernians         1-1

Valletta: H. Bonello, J. Caruana (R. Camilleri 90'), S. Borg, M. Piciollo, K. Nwoko (B. Kaljevic 72'), J. Borg, E. Pena belter, J. Zerafa (K. Tulimieri 76'), R. Muscat, I. Dzaria, M. Fontanella

Hibs: M. Jovicic, F. Apap, L. Da Silveira, E. Mbong, J. Grech (J. Wemmer 89'), B. Kristensen, A. Izquier, A. Agius, L. Nanni (J. Degabriele 79'), I. Iriberri (T. Groothusen 79')

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Referee: Malcolm Spiteri

Ass.referees: Jurgen Spiteri, Theodore Zammit

Fourth Official: Matthew Degabriele

Scorers: M. Fontanella 41', L. Nanni 63'

Yellow cards: S. Borg 30', L. Nanni 30', G. Izquier Artiles 64', T. Groothusen 94'

Player of the match: Matteo Piciollo (Valletta)

TMI Best Three; 1. M. Piciollo 2. H. Bonello 3. L. Nanni

Attendance: 2,238

Six months ago Valletta and Hibernians fought a titanic battle in a decider for the title, yesterday they crossed swords again to try remain in the title race. They gave their best, but in the end they both distanced themselves from the top places, with teams like Floriana, Gzira and the ever surprising Sirens, taking full advantage from this result.

It was an intense match, with practically all the national team players on the field of play. The result was a just one. Valletta were the better team in the first portion of the match, but Hibernians fully deserved the point earned with a very good second half performance.

Hibernians in fact had the most shots on target with Valletta custodian Henry Bonello surely one of the best players on the field of play. Matteo Piciollo played a blinder for the champions and was rightly selected as the player of the match.

Nwoko also had a very positive response, playing a very good game winning many balls for the Citizens before tiring out. Mario Fontanella was always menacing and made no mistake with the only clear cut chance that came his way.

Hibernians had a rather slow start, leaving the initiative to their opponents, but rose in composure, and had an impressive reaction after going behind. They had almost four clear cut chances against Valletta's only chance, but found in Bonello a difficult obstacle to beat.

When Hibernians obtained the equaliser, they turned the game around and were the side that came closer to snatching the three points. The introduction of Jurgen Degabriele in the final minutes of the match created some anxious moments in the City rearguard, but the score remained unchanged.

Valletta held territorial superiority in the opening stages but at shots at goal were nowhere to be seen. Dunstin Vella tried his luck from a distance but the ball was well over the bar and on the other Rowen Muscat did practically the same.

On 15 minutes a Steve Borg header was easily saved by Jovicic and on 26 minutes Hibernians had a golden opportunity when Iriberri all alone in front of goal was hypnotised by Bonello who managed to block.

On 43 minutes Valletta took the lead when Piciollo's overhead kick unmarked Mario Fontanella who coolly slotted the ball home for his seventh goal this season. Hibernians pushed immediately forward in the dying minutes of the first half with a Nanni effort going wide, and with Henry Bonello saving his side when he blocked Andrei Agius' point blank shot, with the latter well served by Mbong.

On the resumption Hibernians had more of the ball but Valletta were always in control until the 63rd minute when Hibernians drew level almost by surprise. An Izquier cross from the left caught Jean Borg on the wrong foot with Nanni caoming from the blind side to first time home, giving Bonello no chance to save.

Valletta suffered the blow and were in apparent difficulty for the rest of the game. Kaljevic's inclusion did not make an impact, the same applies to Kevin Tulimieri's late appearance. On the other hand Jurgen Degabriele immediately made his presence felt and he prove to be vital for Hibernians in the second part of the season.

Till the end Henry Bonello made another two good saves to keep the champions in the game, he saved off a Jake Grech shot from the edge of the area, and off an angled drive by the inspired Degabriele. 
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