Valletta clinch 25th championship in thrilling decider penalty shoot-out against Hibs

In a thrilling decider, Valletta retained the Premier League as they managed to defeat Hibernians 4-3 following a penalty shoot-out.

Photo: Dominic Borg
Photo: Dominic Borg

The last match of the season was a highly anticipated encounter between two excellent sides who won a lot in recent years.

Valletta had the title in their grasp; however, they failed to beat Hamrun and thus the championship had to be decided through a decider.

As expected, both teams had their supporters behind them as a record 9,544 spectators watched the match from the National Stadium.

Gilbert Agius was forced not to play Joseph Zerafa and Ibrahim Saleh as they were suspended. In addition, Matteo Piciollo is currently on Valletta’s injury list.

Meanwhile, Hibernians were without Jurgen Degabriele. The prolific striker is still recovering from a long term injury.

Hibernians made an excellent start to the match and forged ahead after 13 minutes. Isaac Ntow’s delivery from the left was met by Taylon Marcolino who headed the ball past Henry Bonello.

The Paolites were exhibiting better ideas and had a good opportunity to double their advantage on the 20th minute. Marcolino squared the ball for Jake Grech and the latter fired a shot from the edge of the penalty area that was parried by Henry Bonello.

Valletta replied a minute later through Kyrian Nwoko. The Maltese forward attempted to divert the ball inside the net following a long ball forward, but his effort was neutralised by Marko Jovicic.

Miguel Angel Alba lost a golden opportunity to equalise for Valletta two minutes from half-time. Following a long ball forward, Nwoko headed the ball towards the Argentine who finished well wide from close range.

Valletta missed another chance to score during the additional time prior to half-time. Santiago Malano’s free-kick stamped off the wall. The ball filtered through for Nwoko who was stopped by Jovicic.

Seconds later, Fontanella drilled a low shot that was well saved once more by Jovicic.

Jovicic saved Hibernians again on the 54th minute. Alba delivered the ball towards Bojan Kaljevic whose header from close range was tipped for a corner by the twenty-four year old goalkeeper.

Valletta finally equalised on the 59th minute. Alba’s delivery from a corner went into the path of Nwoko whose header was saved by Jovicic. Malano took the rebound, but was once more denied by Jovicic. Next it was Kaljevic who tried to score, but his header stamped off the upright. However, from the rebound, Jonathan Caruana made sure to score as he placed the ball inside the net to the joy of Valletta’s supporters.

Gilbert Agius’s men remained on the offensive and threatened Hibs again on the 71st minute. Substitute Bogdan Gavrila fired a powerful shot from distance that sailed marginally wide.

Hibs were fortunate not to suffer a late goal on the 90th minute. Rowen Muscat’s volley from distance nearly stunned Jovicic, but the latter managed to tip the ball behind him and thus the game went into the extra time.

Valletta’s efforts paid off on the 98th minute. Fontanella received the ball from Nwoko and went past Marcio Barbosa Da Silveira before placing the ball past Jovicic.

The Citizens kept on pushing forward and created another opportunity on the 105th minute. Gavrila’s diagonal effort ended up centimetres off target.

Hibernians had a rare chance on the 113th minute. Marcolino tried his luck from distance, but his effort ended up wide.

However, Valletta were superior. In fact, four minutes later, Nwoko went through past Andrei Agius, but failed to score from an angled position.

Despite this, when everything seemed lost for Hibs, Marco Sahanek made himself a hero for the Paolites on the 118th minute. The forward received a through pass from Dunstan Vella before slotting the ball inside the bottom corner.

Valletta didn’t have enough time to react as the scored remained 2-2 and so a penalty shoot-out was needed to determine the winners.

During the penalty shoot-out, Valletta were more precise and scored all penalties. Alba, Malano, Gavrila and Fontanella managed to score from the eleven metres mark. On the other hand, Grech and Fonseca scored for Hibs. However, Sahanek and Marcolino missed their penalties.

Valletta starting line-up: Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana (Ryan Camilleri-77), Steve Borg, Santiago Malano, Kyrian Nwoko, Jean Borg, Enmy Pena Beltre, Rowen Muscat (Antonio Monticelli-96), Miguel Angel Alba, Bojan Kaljevic (Bogdan Gavrila-67), Mario Fontanella

Hibernians starting line-up: Marko Jovicic, Nemanja Radojevic (Daneel Abela-117), Marcio Barbosa Da Silveira (Timothy Tabone Desira-100), Joseph Mbong, Jake Grech, Bjorn Kristensen (Dunstan Vella-68), Isaac Ntow, Taylon Marcolino, Marco Sahanek, Andrei Agius, Tiago Fonseca

Referee: Malcolm Spiteri

Assistant Referees: Roberto Vella, Duncan Sultana

Fourth Official: Stefan Pace

BOV Player of the Match: Taylon Marcolino (Hibs)

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