Day 18 Valletta 1 Birkirkara 0 Published on: 12-01-2013

Ten-man Valletta took control of the Premier League title race thanks to a hard-fought victory over rivals Birkirkara.

The goal from Ian Zammit on the verge of half-time was a shock as he rose unchallenged above Zach Muscat to head in a Gabriel cross and then they hung on despite playing the second half with 10 men to open a third-point gap at the summit of the table - albeit this could be cut to just one point if Hibernians beat Sliema tomorrow.

In a game of few chances, Valletta were the more positive side and deserved the three points.

In the 11th minute, Hernandez sent Briffa crashing to the ground in Valletta’s first venture towards the Birkirkara penalty area. The free-kick was awarded in perfect Barbosa territory. However, the Brazilian’s sweetly-struck effort came off the crossbar with Reuben Gauci rooted on his spot.After 37 minutes, Denni had a shout for a penalty turned down for atug by Zach Muscat. And three minutes later, Valletta were dealt an unexpected blow when the Brazilian, perhaps still nervous over the previous refereeing decision was shown a straight red card by referee Alan Mario Sant for retaliation when he kicked Muscat while lying on the ground, striking him on the calf muscle.

Although Valletta knew the odds were stacked against them, the Lilywhites seized the lead in their next foray forward, three minutes later. The Stripes were having trouble coping with Gabriel’s intelligent movement on the right.

Danger loomed when the Brazilian sidestepped his marker before dispatching an excellent ball that drew central defender Muscat out of position for Zammit to head home after44 minutes.

The two teams were unchanged after half-time but Birkirkara took awhile to get going after Zammit’s opener.

Birkirkara tried to impose themselves, forcing a series of flag-kicks which however failed to yield anything tangible. Miller responded by bringing on Michael Mifsud for Zammit in a bid to offer a constant threat on the counter as Valletta who switched to 4-4-1 stood firm.

In the 65th minute, Cini distinguished himself with a flying save topush Paul Fenech’s rising shot around the post.

The introduction of a fresh forward in Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza,who took over from Hernandez in the 75th minute was inevitable but as Zammit switched to 4-2-4 but that still demanded that stripes established better lines of communication with their forward line.

Miller replied by introducing Kurt Magro for Falzon. And although it was a conservative step, Valletta refused to settle for the one-ni and were the most interested side in scoring again.

In the dying minutes, Barbosa’s free-kick finished just over the bar. A few moments later, substitute JoJo Ogunuppe pounced on a 90-th minute defensive error, out-jumped Zach Muscat but he was thwarted by the onrushing Gauci as Mark Miller’s side ended the game in attacking mode.

Valletta's Gabriel Da Silva was named BOV player of the match.


VALLETTA - Y. Cini, J. Caruana, J. Vandelannoite, D. Falzon (K. Magro), I. Azzopardi, R. Briffa, L. Dimech, D. Dos Santos, W. Barbosa, I. Zammit (M. Mifsud), J. Gabriel (J. J. Ogunuppe).

BIRKIRKARA  - R. Gauci, R. Scicluna, A. Mendoza, R. Muscat, J. Zerafa, E. Herrera, P. Fenech, Y. Hernandez (J. P. Mifsud Triganza), S. Haruna Shola, Z. Muscat, J. Benites.

Date: 12-01-13     Time:  16:00    Venue: National Stadium

Scorers: 44' I. zammit.

Yellow Cards: D. Dos Santos, W. Barbosa (V), R. Scicluna, Z. Muscat, P. Fenech.

Red Cards: 41' D. Dos Santos (V)

Referee: Alan Mario sant