FA Trophy – Valletta 2 Melita 0
For large parts of the match, it looked as if Melita, fifth in Division One, could ruffle the feathers of Valletta, the Malta champions and FA Trophy holders.
Although there was never any doubt as to Valletta’s technical supremacy over their modest opponents, the Citizens were left frustrated by Melita’s defending.
At one point, the Lilywhites’ complacent approach could have jeopardised their title defence as the spirited Melita went close to a shock lead just before the break.
Valletta soon restored order when netting two goals in the space of three second half minutes to ease their nerves.
Italian goalkeeper Pietro Marino, on his return with Valletta, was named in goal while Llywelyn Cremona and Luke Montebello were also handed starting berths by coach Ivan Zammit. With Lateef Elford-Alliyu out, Montebello occupied the central striker’s role with Abdelkarim Nafti and Hamza Barry on the wings and Cremona linking up through the middle.
Mindful of their illustrious opponents’ flair upfront, Melita coach Neil Zarb Cousin thought of tackling the match with equal weaponry with Alexander Eby spearheading the Amateurs’ attack with Jean Pierre Attard and Alan Borg Olivier supporting him from the flanks and Julian Galea playing just behind him.
In the opening minutes, Melita managed to defend stoutly whenever the likes of Nafti, Barry and Roderick Briffa ventured forward. Any attempt to carve an opening proved fruitless.
There was a ripple in the Melita goal area after 25 minutes when Nafti powered his way on the right flank before squaring the ball for the unmarked Montebello inside the area but the striker hit over from an inviting position.
Melita’s diligent approach was clearly unnerving their opponents but their growing optimism was almost undermined just before half-time.
Nafti’s dangerous cross from the right reached Luke Dimech, deployed at centre-half alongside Steve Borg, who headed home but his ‘goal’ was annulled after he was adjudged to have committed a foul.
Melita quickly moved the ball forward towards Galea who sliced open the Valletta defence with a lovely through-ball for Borg Olivier who forced a smart save from Marino.
Valletta lacked their usual fluency in the opening half but they began the second period in brisker fashion.
Seven minutes after the break, Montebello, with his back to goal, cushioned the ball for Briffa who shot wide.
Play was restricted within a 20-metre area in midfield in front of the Melita box where Zarb Cousin’s troops formed an impenetrable defensive wall, soaking up all the pressure.
After 67 minutes, Nafti’s cross from the left drifted towards Dimech whose back header finished just wide.
Somewhat short in strikers, Zammit, in a desperate move to break the deadlock, brought on Jonathan Caruana as a make-shift striker.
Zammit’s tactical plan bore fruit immediately.
Substitute Shaun Bajada’s teasing corner from the right arced towards the far post and in the direction of Dimech who nodded the ball towards Borg as the Malta defender headed the ball past Schranz.
Valletta eased their nerves with a second goal just three minutes later. Bajada showed excellent poise to lob the ball over the onrushing Schranz to ensure Valletta’s safe passage into the quarter-finals.
Source – Times of Malta
VALLETTA – P. Marino, I. Azzopardi, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, R. Fenech, H. Barry, R. Briffa, L. Montebello (J. Caruana), L. Cremona (S. Bajada), A. Nafti (S. Cassar), L. Dimech.
MELITA – P. Schranz, N. Micallef, R- Alhinho, L. Bianco, G. Gribbon, M. Fenech (K. Coleiro), F. Righini, J. P. Attard, J. Galea, A. Borg Olivier (T. Terpougoff), A. Eby (L. Mifsud).
Date: 20.01.15 Time: 20:15 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Scorers: 69′ S. Borg, 72′ S. Bajada
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Fyodor Zammit