Day 21: Valletta 1 Birkirkara 0 Published on: 05-03-2011
10-man Valletta overcome championsValletta made a significant step towards winning the title when they overcame champions Birkirkara 1-0.
Watched by a and colourful crowd, the match developed into a hard-fought encounter but Valletta showed great fighting spirit to protect the lead given to them by Andrade’s goal despite playing the entire second half with 10 men.
With this victory, Valletta have opened up a seven-point gap on rivals Floriana as Birkirkara slipped to fourth and virtually out of the title race.
Just over a minute from the start of the game had passed when Trevor Cilia received a long ball in the inside-right channel but his grounder was stopped by Andrew Hogg, the Valletta goalkeeper.
Terrence Scerri sent a good cross into the box and Denni hit a half-volley that cannoned off the underside of the bar and dropped behind the line but the Brazilian was offside.
The direct running of Cilia and Emiliano Lattes gave Birkirkara the edge over Valletta in the opening stages.
A fast counter-attack by Birkirkara unsettled the City defence as Michael Galea served Cilia who ran past Ian Azzopardi and centred for Galea but out came Hogg to avert the danger.
Valletta coach Jesmond Zerafa was forced into an early substitution on 16 minutes as Roderick Briffa’s participation was ended by a thigh injury. Brazilian defender Ramon came on for Briffa as Steve Borg moved to right-back.
On 18 minutes, Birkirkara protested for a penalty after Jonathan Caruana appeared to have pulled Agius in the box as the latter was latching on to Nikola Vukanac’s pass but referee Adrian Azzopardi waved play on, much to the frustration of the Stripes players and supporters.
The Citizens created a half-chance on 26 minutes when Gilbert Agius’s corner was palmed away by Michael Fraser but the ball flew to Andrade who scuffed his shot over the bar.
Valletta also had an unsuccessful penalty appeal when Vukanac appeared to clip the heels of the sprinting Denni but Azzopardi instead cautioned the Brazilian for simulation.
As the first half moved on, the leaders improved. Their progress reaped instant rewards as Valletta forged ahead eight minutes from half-time.
Agius played a key role as the captain swept past Agius in midfield and slipped a measured through-pass to Scerri who dashed into the box. Fraser managed to touch away Scerri’s shot but Andrade slid in to nudge the ball away from the dithering Borg and over the goal-line.
Valletta were over the moon but their joy dissipated as referee Azzopardi reached for his red card to send off Pace after the Valletta midfielder appeared to have hit Cilia in the face.
The Citizens preserved their lead until half-time but the introduction of Ibrahim Babatunde at the start of the second half highlighted Birkirkara’s determination to attack.
The champions were unfortunate not to equalise when, on 63 minutes, Galea flicked Lattes’s corner towards the far post where Babatunde was unmarked but the Nigerian’s rising flick came off the underside of the crossbar.
An angled drive by Cilia ended over.
Danger loomed for Birkirkara when Valletta pushed forward on the counter 20 minutes from time. Agius, one of Valletta’s better players, delivered a through-ball to Andrade who advanced unchallenged but Agius made a great tackle to take the sting out of the Brazilian’s shot.
Birkirkara survived another scare when Omonigho Temile, who had just replaced Scerri, raced into the box but his diagonal shot was touched away for a corner by Fraser.
Hogg denied the Stripes when pushing out Paul Fenech’s piledriver while Ramon blocked a dangerous attempt by Andrew Decesare.
In stoppage time, Valletta should have closed the issue when Denni burst through the Birkirkara defence but the Brazilian sent his shot wide.
|VALLETTA, A. Hogg, S. Borg, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, R. Briffa (R. Dos Santos), E. Agius, G. Agius (K. Sammut), T. Scerri (O. Temile), J. Pace, A. Anderson, D. Dos Santos.|
|BIRKIRKARA, M. Fraser, E. Lattes, S. Bajada, P. Fenech, N. Vukanac, P. Borg (I. Babatunde), J. Zerafa (A. Decesare), A. Agius, A. Buhagiar, M. Galea, T. Cilia (K. Pulo).|
BOV Premier 2010/11
Date: 05-03-11 Time: 16:00 Venue: National Stadium
Scorers: 37' A. Andrade Antunes
Yellow Cards: A. Antunes, S. Borg, G. Agius
Red Cards: J. Pace
Man of match: Gilbert Agius