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Rabat increase City's gloom

Photo: Jason Borg

Photo: Jason Borg

RABAT AJAX-1, VALLETTA-1

Valletta's difficulties persisted this evening after they were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom side Rabat Ajax, just five days after the champions suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Melita.

Without a win in 15 games, Rabat Ajax looked set to break their jinx as they were 1-0 up with four minutes remaining but substitute Joseph Jojo Ogunnuppe rescued a point for Valletta who have only won once in their last eight games.

Rabat Ajax stunned Valletta as they took a ninth-minute lead. Manuel Bartolo rushed out of his goal to anticipate Jose Luis Armaro Negrin, who was chasing a through-pass by Manuel Fuster, but the Valletta goalkeeper's clearance hit Rabat's Spanish striker and the ball rolled back into the net.

Moments later, Valletta were again caught off balance at the back as Fuster released Negrin but the latter failed to control the ball.

On 15 minutes, Valletta protested for a penalty when Shaun Bajada's shot came off Patrick Borg's hand but referee Fyodor Zammit ordered a free-kick just outside the box.

It was Rabat who threatened again when Fuster played Negrin through but the Spaniard was foiled by Bartolo. Borg skied his shot after getting on the end of Fuster's corner.

Valletta duly regained the initiative but they were unable to breach Rabat's defence.

Denni was wide with a dipping free-kick and, late in the first half, Jonathan Azzopardi, the Rabat goalkeeper, effected good saves to deny Denni and Bajada.

Two minutes from half-time, Valletta looked set to equalise when Bajada advanced on the left and crossed for Denni but the latter's header was over.

Early in the second half, Azzopardi did well to stop Gabriel's grounder.

Ian Azzopardi then had a point-blank effort cleared away by David Azzopardi but in their first attack of the second half, Rabat nearly doubled their lead. Negrin's cross from inside the box found Joseph Caruana who headed goalwards from close in but Bartolo just managed to keep the ball out. Azzopardi's ensuing clearance came off the far post.

Close to the hour, Miller introduced Gilbert Agius, their long-time stalwart who took up the post of assistant coach, for Edmond Agius.

Borg denied Valletta an equaliser when heading away Denni's goalbound attempt from Agius's cross. At the other end, Negrin burst through but his strong drive was pushed away by Bartolo.

With 13 minutes remaining, Leandro missed a great chance when curling his shot over after receiving from substitute Joseph Jojo Ogunnuppe.

Bartolo did well to keep out debutant Diego Carrillo Pendas's shot as Valletta levelled three minutes from time. Agius aniticipated goalkeeper Azzopardi to head a cross into the goalmouth and Ogunnuppe flicked home.

In stoppage time, Valletta goalkeeper Bartolo was sent off for pushing Negrin to the ground after the latter had been flagged offside. Gabriel guarded Valletta's goal in the final minutes of stoppage time.

Negrin was named BOV player of the match.

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