C. Formosa-6, E. Ruiz-6, S. Dimech-6 (76 W. Jebor), Niltinho, F. Falcone-6.5, S. Kamdem-5.5, B. Paiber-6 (67 T. Caruana), R. Muscat-7 (86 C. Gauci), J. Ngong-5 (46 E. Beltre), E. Sala-6, K. Bevis-5 (46 A. Zammit-6.5)
I. Akpan-7, R. Briffa-6.5 (82 N. Agius), C. Ememe-6 (82 F. Dore) L. Tenebe-6 (82 G. Eziefula), D. Bonnici-5.5 (60 M. Okoh), C. Failla-6, B. Diarra-6, M. Akrong, J. Vassallo-7, Z. Brincat-5 (71 T. Farrugia), R. Ekani-6.
Referee: Philip Farrugia.
Yellow cards: Sala, Bevis, Niltonho, Farrugia, Eziefula,
Red card: Akrong (M) 65; Niltonho (V) 68.
BOV player of the match: Shaun Dimech (Valletta).
Valletta and Mosta grinded out a goalless draw as both sides were denied by the woodwork in a match overshadowed by a goal-line controversy.
The biggest talking point was the officials’ failure to award Valletta’s Federico Falcone a goal on 52 minutes when his goal-bound header looked to have crossed the line but was not awarded.
Brandon Paiber looked particularly lively in midfield, as he shifted quickly from his defensive duties to support Rowen Muscat in a fluid Valletta formation that switched from 4-1-3-2 to 4-4-2.
Mosta retained their 4-1-4-1 module flirting between man-marking and zonal marking with Roderick Briffa and Martey Akrong shadowing Shaun Dimech and Federico Falcone respectively.
Mosta put pressure on Valletta early on and were rewarded with a couple of corners but it was Valletta who had the first noteworthy action of the game.
Falcone was crudely obstructed on the half hour mark and was awarded a free-kick. Up stepped Enzo Ruiz who struck a fierce shot that went well over the bar.
Thane Micallef’s thoughts on Valletta’s first-half performance was reflected in his bold decision to make a double substitution at half-time. He replaced Jean Marie Ngong and Kilian Bevis with Andrea Zammit and Pena Beltre. The changes necessitated some positional switches as the Dominican Republic player went to filled in at the right as Eslit Sala went on the left flank.
The dynamic of the game changed in the second half as Valletta, reinvigorated by Micallef’s switch to 4-3-1-2, broke free of their shackles.
On 54 minutes, Falcone appeared to have scored with TV replays showing the ball looked to have gone over the line before Ini Akpan clawed it away, but play was waved on.
All the Valletta players stepped up with Dimech finding his touch in midfield and Zammit hassling the Mosta defence with his direct running.
On 63 minutes, Zammit arrowed a menacing cross that was diverted onto the underside of the bar by Niltinho.
Mosta looked stunned but they created a great chance when Linus Tenebe hit a rasping shot against the crossbar.
The Lilywhites transferred the ball quickly upfront for Niltinho, who ran at the outnumbered Mosta defence. Akrong, guilty of a cynical foul on the Brazilian striker, received a straight red card.
The numerical advantage was enjoyed for three minutes as Niltinho picked up a second yellow card for simulation and was sent off.
Mosta had the opportunity to steal it at death when substitute Michael Okoh hit the upright after a solo move.
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