The Malta Independent 18 January 2020, Saturday

BOV Premier League: Citizens snatch point with late penalty equaliser

Henry Brincat Saturday, 11 January 2020, 16:04 Last update: about 7 days ago
Photos: James Galea
Photos: James Galea

Sta Lucia  2

Valletta    2

Sta Lucia: R. Caruana, G. Bohrer, K. Correia, J. Mendoza, D. Segura (N. Micallef 79), K. Ante Rosero, J. Walker, J. Zerafa, C. Escobar, L. Galea (D. Agius 88), R. Tachikawa (J. Magri Overend 90)

Valletta: H. Bonello, J. Caruana, S. Borg, K. Nwoko (B. Kaljevic 46), J. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, R. Muscat, M. Alba (M. Piciollo 71), T. Caruana (K. Tulimieri 76), M. Fontanella

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Referee: S. Pace

Asst refs: D. Sultana, C. Francalanza

4th official: I. Barbara

Scorers:  K. Nwoko (own goal) 22, P. Escobar 48 pen, B. Kaljevic 49, M. Fontanella pen 87

Yellow cards: J. Mendoza 26, M. Alba 32, C. Escobar 35, S. Borg 45, H. Bonello 48, D. Segura 72, J. Zerafa 86, B. Kal;jevic 90.

Red cards: S. Borg 63. J. Mendoza 90.

BOV Player of the match: P. Escobar

TMI Top 3: 1. J. Mendoza, 2. E. Beltre, 3. R. Tachikawa

Champions Valletta received a setback to their hopes of maintaining their challenge to Floriana for the title when they could only draw 2-2 against relegation-haunted Santa Lucia.

The point keeps Valletta five points adrift of the Greens who hav e today's match against Birkirkara in hand.

On the other hand, the draw was a bonus point for the Saints in their fight to avoid relegation. Also, the Saints remained unbeaten against Valletta this season, having won the first round encounter 3-2.

Valletta paraded newcomers Triston Caruana and Miguel Alba in midfield. Both players joined the champions earlier this month, the former from Hamrun and Alba from Birkirkara.

The first half started on a quiet note, and only came to life (and how!) soon after Sta Lucia took a surprise lead midway through an unfortunate Kyrian Nwoko own goal.

From that point onwards the match became fiery. It culminated in an incident in the 38th minute. The match was stopped after Sta Lucia player Escobar made an obscene gesture towards the Valletta fans in front of the linesman. The enraged City fans protested hotly and at one time, some of the players of both teams almost came to blows, and referee Pace was seen picking up a plastic water bottle from the pitch. Somehow or other, order was restored after a few minutes, though there were no sanctions from the official.

In the second half, the match took a turn to the worse for Valletta when the Saints added a second goal from a penalty after just three minutes.

But the champions managed to pull one back immediately after. When Steve Borg was shown a red card it became difficult again for Valletta and, in fact, they had to wait till the 87th minute to get their equaliser.

Santa Lucia should have made certain of the three points before City scored that late penalty as they were very dangerous in their counterattacks, though missing some easy chances, especially through Kevin Ante Rosero and Diego Segura.

The first action arrived on 14 minutes. Jacob Walker crossed into the City area and Kevin Ante Rosero headed the ball over the bar.

Sta Lucia took a surprise lead in the 22nd minute when from a Camilo Escobar cornerkick, it was Kyrian Nwoko who headed into his own net despite goalie Bonello's attempt to push the ball out.

Soon after, the Saints appealed for a penalty when City defender Steve Borg might have handled the ball in the area, but referee Pace, close to the action, ignored their protests.

In the 38th minute came the incident already mentioned above. When the match resumed, Valletta finally managed their first attempt, but Rowen Muscat's effort from the edge of the area finished well over the bar.

Deep into first half added time, from a Fontanella cross, it was Escobar who cleared in extremis to corner, although the ball from his clearance, almost ended at the back of his own net.

Three minutes into the second half, Sta Lucia were awarded a penalty when City goalie Henry Bonello rushed out of his charge and floored Diego Segura. From the resultant spotkick, Camilo Escobar made no mistake to give his side a double goal lead.

But their joy was shortlived as Valletta reduced the arrears immediately after when substitute Bojan Kaljevic made the most of a defensive lapse, and rounded goalie Caruana before planting the ball into an empty net.

Valletta now forced the pressure and on 58 minutes, goalie Caruana did well to turn to corner an Alba 20-metre rising shot.

In the 61st minute from a Fontanella cross, Kaljevic hit over the bar, but he was ruled offside.

Two minutes later, Valletta ended in 10 men when following a cornerkick action, defender Steve Borg received a second yellow card for a bad foul on goalie Caruana and was given marching orders.

In the 71st minute, Sta Lucia threatened again through a Segura low shot which, however, finished wide.

In the 83rd minute, Sta Lucia missed a good chance of scoring a third goal when Escobar lobbed over Bonello, but Rosero missed with his conclusion into an empty goal.

Valletta levelled the score on 87 minutes when they were awarded a penalty for a handling infringement by Jamie Zerafa. Mario Fonatanella made no mistake from the spotkick.

Sta Lucia also ended in 10 men on the 90th minute when Jackson Mendoza was shown a second yellow card and was therefore dismissed.

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