The Malta Independent 17 January 2020, Friday

BOV Premier League: Mario Fontanella header keeps champions in the hunt

Chris Cassar Sunday, 15 December 2019, 20:05 Last update: about 2 months ago
Photos: James Galea
Photos: James Galea

Hamrun S            0
Valletta                 1

Hamrun S: E. Bartolo, A. Capitelli, T. Caruana, J. Soares Ailton, W. Domoraud, C. Failla, N. Leone, D. Borg (R. Darmanin 56'), M. Criaco, K. Micallef, M. Cinquini.

Valletta: H. Bonello, J. Caruana, S. Borg, M. Piciollo (K. Nwoko 66'), J. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, R. Muscat, I. Dzaria, M. Fontanella (N. Pulis 88'), K. Tulimieri (S. Dimech 66')

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Referee: Ishmael Barbara

Ass. Referees: Roberto Vella, Luke Portelli

Fourth Official: Trustin Farrugia Cann

Scorer: M. Fontanella 45+'

Yellow cards: J. Zerafa 6', H. Bonello 21', R. Muscat 63', N. Leone 84', M. Fontanella 86'

Player of the match: Mario Fontanella (Valletta)

TMI Best Three: 1. M. Fontanella, 2. H. Bonello, 3. N. Leone

Attendance: 2,018

Mario Fontanella scored his eighth goal of the season to hand champions Valletta a hard earned win over Hamrun Spartans yesterday, a results that puts the local champions in second place on a par with Gzira United, six points behind leaders Floriana.

As expected Hamrun proved to be a hard nut to crack for Valletta as these two great rivals of Maltese football clashed to end the first round on a top note. In the end Valletta had the last laugh but Hamrun Spartans gave their all especially in the second half.

Valletta coach Daren Abdilla started with the same formation as the one against Hibernians in their last outing, except for Kevin Tulimieri who played instead of Nwoko. It was a special match for Tulimieri who tried his best against his former club. However the Italian failed to make an impact.

Piciollo had a good start but faded away whilst Mario Fontanella once again proved to be vital for the champions. Pena Beltre and Zerafa were rather subdued on the flanks, even though from a Pena Beltre cross Fontanella scored the winner.

For the champions goalkeeper Henry Bonello had another very good match. He was practically a spectator in the first half, but then rose to the occasion in the second half with excellent handling of the ball in his sorties, and with some great saves that secured Valletta's victory.

For the Spartans it was another good performance, but in the end they had nothing to show. Too defensive in the first half, where they however contained majestically Valletta's territorial superiority, but very aggressive and determined in the second half in search of the equaliser.

The inclusion of Ryan Darmanin added the much needed punch for the Spartans, where star striker Domoraud once again left much to be desired, even missing a glorious header in front of goal in the second half.

Captain Triston Caruana played another great match for the Spartans, who need to look around to find his replacement as he confirmed after the match that yesterday's match was probably his last with the red and black strip.

The first half had nothing spectacular to offer with Valletta having a Rowen Muscat goal disallowed for a Tulimieri handling infringement, and with the Spartans appealing for a penalty late in the first half. In stoppage time Valletta scored what proved to be the winner when Pena Beltre's inch perfect cross from the right was met by Fontanella who headed home past Bartolo who partially saved but could not stop the ball from finishing at the back of the net.

Hamrun went all out for goal on the resumption, but Valletta were the more dangerous with shots from Tulimieri and Fontanella going wide. On 50 minutes Fontanella tried a lob from the half way line with the ball almost deceiving Bartolo who fumbled the ball which luckily for him and the Spartans went just wide.

Sixty seconds later Hamrun had a very good opportunity when Soares ran through in open space but his shot was brilliantly blocked by Bonello.

This was Hamrun's best patch and on the hour Domoraud missed a sitter heading wide all alone in front of goal following a Failla cross from the left. On 62 minutes another near miss for the Spartans with Ryan Darmanin's close range effort missing the base of the upright by a whisker.

Darren Abdilla changed the cards on the table and the inclusion of Nwoko and Dimech gave the Citizens more stability. Joseph Zerafa hit the side netting on 73 minutes, and three minutes from time Henry Bonello made his final save blocking a Criaco dipper from the edge of the area.

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