City prevail in the derby Published on: 10-12-2013
The onus was on Valletta to win this match against rivals Floriana and keep the pace with Birkirkara and Hibernians at the top of the standings.
A change in the Premier League fixtures, following the post-ponement of matches the week before due to waterlogged pitches, put Mark Miller’s team at a disadvantage as they have to face Hibernians next Wednesday after this derby which, no matter what the strength of the teams is, exerts extra pressure on players to deliver.
Valletta shrugged off all the tension, dominating this crunch match from start to finish.
They won with a two-goal margin but could have had more had it not been for goalkeeper Daniel Hanford who pulled off a string of fine saves to keep the Greens above the water.
In the end, Valletta succeeded in turning the pressure on the other league contenders following a five-star performance and three useful points as Floriana’s long sequence without a win over the Citizens goes on abated.
With Denni, Edmond Agius and Roderick Briffa at their best, Valletta were a well-oiled machine with all the components performing to maximum potential.
Perhaps the ribbon around their fine parcel was provided by a gem of a goal from Denni just five minutes before half-time that opened the way for the Lilywhites.
As for Floriana, they were non-existent as an attacking force and after some initial sparks their top marksman Igor Coronado faded away like the rest of his team-mates.
Ian Dawes sprung a surprise in his starting line-up by handing a debut to promising 17-year-old Darrell Baldacchino to replace the injured Sacha Borg.
Miller also handed a debut to former Real Madrid B team defender Oscar Sanchez. The Spaniard partnered the fully-fit Luke Dimech in central defence as Roderick Briffa manned the right flank and Steve Borg filled in at left-back.
Sanchez’s inclusion in the City side was one of two changes effected by Miller from the 6-0 thrashing of Mosta as Aziz Corr Nyang was also awarded a starting role.
Valletta favoured a straightforward 4-1-4-1 module with Gambian striker Nyang at the apex of Valletta’s formation and Raimi Bakare occupying the holding midfielder’s role.
Floriana were set up in a 4-1-3-2 module which had Coronado and Steve Pisani advanced in attack.
Ryan Fenech tested waters with a rising shot that was too central to trouble Hanford.
At the other end, Pisani was denied the opportunity to break the deadlock after capitalising on a defensive mix-up between Borg and keeper Yenz Cini. However, Briffa reacted immediately to spare his team-mates’ blushes.
Hansford pulled off a brilliant save to tip Denni’s inswinger over the bar.
On the counter-attack a few moments later, Coronado set Valletta’s pulses racing as Dimech resorted to a foul to tame the Brazilian, conceding a free-kick in a key area.
However, Gary Muir slipped as he planted his standing foot and the result was a miss of sky-high proportions.
With the match flowing from one end to the other, Denni renewed the duel with Hanford as the Brazilian showed great composure to hit an acrobatic kick but the keeper proved equal to task pulling off another top-drawer stop to tip the shot over the bar after 34 minutes.
Despite his diminutive stature Denni rose above the Floriana defence to give the illusion of goal as his header flashed against the side-netting.
But there was to be no such reprieve six minutes later as Denni, despite being sandwiched between Ibok Edet and Baldacchino, outmuscled his markers to slot the ball behind Hansford, emerging the winner in what developed into a personal duel with the Englishman.
The second half was five minutes old when Denni hit wide from outside the box.
Dawes instructed Diogo Pinheiro and Christian Caruana to move further upfield and improve their support for Coronado.
Yet, Valletta still remained the most dangerous outfit.
In the 59th minute, Briffa’s inswinging cross from the right found Abdelkarim Nafti umarked in the area but the Tunisian hit weakly into Hanford’s hands.
Three minutes later, Nafti atoned for his earlier lapse with an excellent deep cross that Borg headed goalwards but Hanford showed sound reflexes as he instinctively leapt to his right to parry the City man’s effort.
There was to be no Floriana comeback after 70 minutes when Valletta doubled their lead.
Denni floated a cross from the left, Nafti headed into the path of Edmond Agius who flashed in with a thunderous drive that gave Hanford no chance.
With an eye on Wednesday’s fixture, Miller made a double substitution, bringing on Ian Zammit and Shawn Bajada.
But this did not affect the flow of play as the two substitutes combined almost perfectly seven minutes from time when Zammit’s point-blank header produced ano-ther excellent save from Hanford.
Source - Times of Malta
Source - Times of Malta