ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 2
Duranovic 4, Jonny 27
J. Galea, E. Ruiz, O. Barrientos (82 K. Azzopardi Conti), A. Ferraris (82 J. Azzopardi), L. Susnjara (52 D. Garba), F. Falcone, D. Paiber, D. Quintero (32 C. Gauci), V. Filho, D. Vega (82 D. Cardoso), N. Micallef.
H. Bonello, S. Borg (30 J. Corbalan), L. Montebello (71 Eder), J. Mbong, R. Prsa, E. Freitas (79 N. Krstic), U. Duranovic (79 S. Paintsil), O. Bjelicic, E. Marcelina, R. Camenzuli, Jonny.
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Yellow cards: Freitas, Micallef, Bjelicic, Barrientos, Camenzuli, Vega, Ederson.
Missed penalty: Paiber (V) 48.
The rivalry that lit up the local football in the late eighties and early nineties rekindled yesterday when the Spartans rose above the tension suffocating this match to grab a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
This match, played before one of the biggest crowds ever at the Tony Bezzina Stadium, was always going to trigger mixed emotions.
However one cannot but question the wisdom of the MFA’s decision not to stage this match at the National Stadium.
Tension escalated at the end of the match when the Ħamrun fans pelted the pitch with bottles as they awaited their turn to leave the stadium.
Valletta enjoyed the better of the early exchanges but it was Ħamrun who drew first blood.
It was the fourth minute when Ryan Camenzuli whipped in an inviting cross from the right, Uros Duranovic flashed a header which Jake Galea appeared to have smothered. But the Valletta goalkeeper let it slip from his grasp before seeing the ball rolling over the line.
The Citizens opted for a more adventurous 4-1-3-2 formation that had Brandon Paiber assuming a central role in front of the back four, and Santiago Ferraris floating behind the two strikers.
The Lilywhites could have struck an instant equaliser but Enzo Ruiz’s header from a corner was hooked off the line by Luke Montebello.
From the possibility of regaining parity, Valletta suddenly found themselves facing a two-goal deficit.
Joseph Mbong, whose incursions down the right flank clearly caught the eye, played in a deep in a 5-4-1, a module that became a 4-3-3 to allow the Malta winger to push on extremely high up the pitch.
On 27 minutes, Mbong sliced open the Valletta defence with a through-pass for Jonny, who arrowed the ball past Galea and into the net.
Ħamrun coach Luciano Zauri was forced into an early substitution on 30 minutes as Steve Borg’s participation was ended by an injury. Juan Carlos Corbalan came on for Borg as Camenzuli moved to a central position alongside Marcelina.
Valletta may have got back in contention just after the break when Victor Luiz Filho was felled into the box by Mbong. From the ensuing spot kick, Paiber crashed his effort against the bar.
Trouble at the Tony Bezzina Stadium flared on the hour when Omar Barrientos fouled Luke Montebello in the middle of the park next to Ħamrun’s bench, the Argentine hit his opponent on his head.
Camenzuli retaliated and pushed the Valletta midfielder away and a scuffle ensued.
On 77 minutes, Ħamrun could have sealed the issue when substitute Eder jinked his way past a posse of Valletta players before squaring for Jonny but the latter’s shot finished wide.
Any hopes the Spartans might have had of a relaxing few minutes were dashed when Valletta pulled one back.
Federico Falcone headed Christian Gauci’s cross past Henry Bonello but that was too little too lates as the Spartans held on.
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