GŻIRA UNITED 3
Samb 45 pen.
Davis 90, 90+
Martin Davis was Gżira United hero as the Jamaican striker scored two injury-time goals to hand his team a dramatic victory over Valletta at the National Stadium.
It was a stunning end to a match that looked set to finish in a draw after a low-key 90 minutes.
In fact, the match turned out to be a highly-tactical battle which saw play concentrated mostly in midfield with scoring chances few and far between throughout.
However, the match turned on its head in the dying stages when poor defending from Valletta were severely punished by Gżira with Davis grabbing two goals in stoppage to earn his team their first win of the season.
Valletta coach Jesmond Zerafa effected one change to the team that beat Balzan as Triston Caruana replaced the injured Eslit Sala.
Gżira, under the charge of Darren Abdilla, handed a first start of the season to Hamed Kone at the expense of Clyde Borg.
The match was evenly balanced for much of the opening 45 minutes with neither side managing to hold the edge even though Gżira enjoyed a higher percentage in terms of possession.
It was Gżira who created the first chance on 24 minutes when Riccardo Correia picked Amadou Samb who turned past Rowen Muscat but his low drive was kept out by Henry Bonello, the Valletta goalkeeper.
Valletta were unlucky not to take the lead on 29 minutes when Taylon stormed inside the area and his firm drive was palmed away onto the upright by Gżira goalkeeper Justin Haber.
Gżira again threatened seven minutes from the break when they were awarded a central free-kick but Hamed Kone’s inswinger flashed just wide.
It was Valletta who broke the stalemate a minute from the break when Santiago Malano sent a fine cross towards the sprinting Matteo Piciollo who headed the ball past Haber.
But Gżira refused to throw in the towel and they were handed an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Referee Trustin Farrugia Cann harshly adjudged that Mihailo Jovanovic fouled Samb inside the area, even though replays showed the contact between the two players happened just outside the box, and pointed to the spot.
Samb picked himself up to blast the ball past Bonello.
After the break, the match remained to be evenly balanced with Valletta this time holding much of the possession, but they rarely created any danger to the Gżira goal.
The first of the half arrived on 73 minutes, when from a Jackson Mendoza corner kick the ball fell to Steve Borg who pulled the trigger, but his shot was blocked by the excellent Jovanovic.
Gżira protested for a penalty on 79 minutes when Correia fell under the challenge of Jonathan Caruana but the referee waved play on.
Samb almost won it a minute from time when he connected to Correia’s cross but his conclusion finished inches wide.
When it looked as though the match would end in a draw, the Maroons were regaled with a winner when Jonathan Caruana sent a short back pass towards Henry Bonello, who under pressure from Omar Elouni, cleared the ball into the path of Martin Davis who blasted the ball home.
The Jamaican striker was not finished yet as deep into stoppage time he darted inside the area, turned past a Valletta defender and beat Bonello again with a rising shot to seal a morale-boosting win for Gżira.