Moments of inattention prove costly.
It was the first time in over 17 months that fans were allowed into the stadium. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm and expectation, especially when considering that this was our first official game as reigning champions.
The game started off as a rather balanced affair and it seemed that both teams were trying to get accustomed to competitive football, bearing in mind that both teams did not partake in a competitive match for over 5 months. However, the Spartans started edging forward more convincingly after the initial period and went close on various occasions. As fans, we were sure that the opening goal was to be witnessed shortly. After missing a handful of goal scoring opportunities, the time for us to roar with excitement came in the 42nd minute, when Gojkovic headed the ball into the net following a well taken free-kick by Soares. The scenes of jubilation on and off the field were incredible. The first half ended shortly afterwards with the Spartan advantage being a true reflection of what was witnessed on the field of play.
The second half started in the same way as the first half had ended; with evident Spartan superiority. The game was played in the half-pitch defended by Valletta. Nevertheless, some slow decision making and lack of brisk team passing meant that the Spartans were not making the best of their territorial superiority. However, in the 58th minute, Soares was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a long-range shot. The territorial advantage continued although Valletta started coming out from their half more prominently. In the 69th minute, a very generous and dubious penalty was awarded to our opponents and after considerable protests from our players, Fontanella converted to equalise the proceedings. This seems to destabilise our team members as the Spartans suddenly seemed to lose the plot and Valletta were taking the upper hand. However, it was Hamrun who squandered an incredible goal scoring opportunity. Mbong won a contrast in midfield and immediately passed the ball to Soares, who advanced by dribbling through two defenders before chipping the ball narrowly wide from very close range with Guarnone visibly beaten. Evidently, this was not going to be the Spartans’ day as Fontanella scored once again in the 74th minute. Micallef committed a foul and our opponents took a quick free-kick which caught our entire rear guard off balance and distracted. Curjuric quickly delivered to Caio Prado who advanced and gave a low cross to Fontanella who put the ball at the back of the net. This was a 5-minute spell that turned the match on its head.
The remaining 15 minutes were a constant attack by the Spartans with the Valletta players trying to minimise the pressure and quickly clearing the ball up-field when given the slightest opportunity. However, the Spartans were never really dangerous in the closing stages as most of the play was confused and direct towards the opponent’s penalty area without much creativity in midfield.
People learn from mistakes and the Spartans are no different. Let us take what we can from this defeat and move forward with courage and determination. After all, the Spartans never ask who or how many the enemies are, but where they are.
Marcelina (85’ Oyama)
Lagzir (70’ El Bakhtaoui)
Photo Credit – Mark Mangion