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Paiber’s controversial goal hands Valletta crucial point against Ħamrun Spartans

Valletta's Christian Gauci boots the ball away against Ħamrun Spartans. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Naxxar Lions boost survival hopes with Hibernians win

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS      1

Duranovic 45

VALLETTA           1

Paiber 57

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS

H. Bonello, E. Marcelina, S. Borg, R. Camenzuli, Elionay, R. Prsa (82 Y. Nenov), J. Mbong (73 J. Corbalan), Eder, U. Duranovic, Jonny, L. Montebello (73 S. Paintsil).

VALLETTA

Al. Guarnone, J. Bolanos, N. Micallef, E. Ruiz, B. Paiber (78 C. Gauci), F. Barrientos, J. Azzopardi (78 G. Vieira) S. Ferraris, A. Silas (67 D. Garba) , D. Cardoso (71 S. Dimech) , Jhonnattann (67 M. Jezdimirovic).

Referee: Philip Farrugia.

Yellow cards: Duranovic, Ruiz, Barrientos, Jhonnattann, Micallef, Ferraris.

Missed penalty: Paiber (V) 57.

A controversial Brandon Paiber goal handed Valletta a priceless point in their battle against relegation as they held leaders Ħamrun Spartans to a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium.

It was a morale-boosting result for the Citizens who headed into this fixture under severe pressure after slipping into the relegation zone after four successive defeats and the resignation of coach Enzo Potenza.

However, the Citizens produced a lion-hearted display as despite falling behind to Uros Duranovic’s first-half goal, they managed to fight back after the break.

In fact, they managed to level matters after they were awarded a dubious penalty as Cardoso looked to have been fouled by Steve Borg outside the area.

From the spot, Paiber saw his shot saved by Bonello and fired home the rebound.

Then, they almost snatched the win but Enzo Ruiz’s header came off the bar.

The final stalemate was a huge blow for Ħamrun’s title chances who while taking a four-point lead at the top, face prospect of seeing their gap cut to just one point if Floriana as expected overcome Gudja today.

On the other hand, Valletta remain third from bottom on 19 points, two away from safety.

The first 15 minutes of the match saw both teams vying for supremacy with the Spartans dominating possession but lacked the spark to threaten their opponents’ goal.

In fact, neither goalkeeper was called into action for much of the opening half hour as scoring chances were inexistent.

The first real chance arrived on 35 minutes and Ħamrun Spartans should have taken the lead.

Jonny broke free inside the area and his low cross was met by Luke Montebello who was denied by a fine save from goalkeeper Alessandro Guarnone.

Just before the half-time whistle, Eder stormed inside the area and his low cross was met by Ryan Camenzuli who fired wide.

But the Spartans pressure yielded an opener just before the break. Jonny fed Roko Prsa inside the area and the latter quickly set up Uros Duranovic who beat Guarnone with a low drive.

Valletta finally threatened seven minutes into the second half when Cardoso caught the Spartans on the counter and his low cross was providentially hooked away by Marcelina before Jhonnattann could prod home.

The Citizens managed to draw level ten minutes into the second half when Borg upended Cardoso on the edge of the area but the referee still pointed to the spot.

From the resultant penalty, Paiber saw his shot saved by Bonello but the Malta midfielder fired home from the rebound.

The goal stunned the Spartans and Valletta came close to take the lead when from a Paiber corner, Enzo Ruiz saw his header tipped by Bonello onto the cross bar before the Reds cleared.

At the other end, Marcelina failed to turn home Prsa’s delivery from a corner.

Six minutes from time, Steve Borg was at the end of Eder’s cross but his downward header just missed the upright as the stalemate prevailed.

Naxxar Lions distanced themselves from the relegation zone when they stunned Hibernians 2-0 at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

After a goalless first half, the Lions took the lead on 51 minutes when Pablo squared the ball to Maicon who tapped the ball home.

The Paolites failed to fight back and Naxxar sealed the points when Pablo’s shot was somehow kept out by Kone but in came the Brazilian to nod home.

HIBERNIANS   0

NAXXAR LIONS 2

Maicon 52; Pablo 63

HIBERNIANS

I. Kone, C. Bonanni, H. Alves (64 A. Radchenko), K. Shaw, G. Artiles, L. Caruana (64 F. Apap), M. Bagayoko (76 R. Antwi), A Bruno (76 B. Bairam), J. Degabriele, G. Bastianos, S. Zuzul.

NAXXAR LIONS

M. Debono, R. Cassar, J. Moura, Y. Ito, Maicon, N. Pace Cocks, F. Barbosa, T. Yamaguchi, Elizeu, Pablo, E. Farias.

Referee Andrea Sciriha.

Yellow cards Ito, Barbosa, Maicon, Bonanni, Shaw.

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