Day 24 Valletta 1 Birkirkara 1 Published on: 17-03-2012

Birkirkara scored a late equaliser to hold champions Valletta to a 1-1 draw in a tight match that produced some late drama at the National Stadium.

After a goalless first half, Valletta took the lead through Denni 19 minutes from time but their victory hopes were dashed when Spanish striker Moises Avila-Perez, who had come on as a substitute, hit home from the penalty spot to earn Birkirkara a point.

The draw prevented Valletta from reclaiming top spot as the Citizens are now level with Hibs after the latter beat Floriana 2-0 in the opening match.

Birkirkara created the better scoring chances in a tight first half.

Their first opportunity came after eight minutes when Brazilian winger Jorge attacked the open space on Valletta's right to advance on before crossing towards the far post where Fenech was unmarked. The Birkirkara captain tried to send the ball into the goalmouth but his cross was cut out by Ian Azzopardi before Valletta cleared the ball away for a corner.

Shaun Bajada's dipping cross-shot from the corner was tipped over by Valletta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg who was prominent again moments later with another timely intervention to keep out another dangerous corner by the Birkirkara midfielder.

The industrious Stripes relied on hard work and intelligent movement to deny their opponents space and time on the ball.

Fenech's diagonal shot was deflected past the far post and, from the ensuing corner, taken by Bajada, Rodrigo Pereira's header was cleared away by Roderick Briffa.

Valletta were so disappointing in the first half-hour that they didn't produce a single scoring opportunity before Ousseni Zongo headed wide from Edmond Agius's free-kick.

At the other end, Hogg fisted away Bajada's shot from an angled free-kick. Minutes later, Hogg was prominent again, this time pushing the ball over the bar from Bajada's inswinger, from a corner.

City coach Jesmond Zerafa introduced Nigerian striker Alfred Effiong for Aleksandrs Cekulajevs at the start of the second half.

After just two minutes, Valletta threatened to go ahead but Denni's dipping shot came off the far post. Briffa then made a good run into the box from the right but his curling drive was wide.

It was not long before Zerafa effected his second substitution, Gilbert Agius replacing Roderick Bajada. Three minutes past the hour, Valletta won a free-kick in a dangerous position outside the box after William Barbosa had been fouled by Nikola Vukanac. The Brazilian took the free-kick but his shot was wide.

The Citizens were now pushing on with menace. Midway into the half, they had a greta opportunity to break the deadlock when Effiong headed the ball to Denni who chipped the ball past Reuben Gauci but Pereira was on the right spot to clear.

Three minutes later, Valletta took the lead. Edmond Agius laid the ball to Denni on the edge of the box and the Brazilian fired a first-time shot past Gauci.

As the match entered the final 10 minutes, Valletta looked well-placed to preserve their lead but it was not to be as, six minutes from the end, they conceded a penalty after Borg was adjudged to have pushed Shodiya in the box. Moises Avila-Perez, who had just replaced Jorge, powered his shot into the right-hand corner to bring Birkirkara level.

Valletta's disappointment intensified when, two minutes from time, Effiong was sent off after he nearly came to blows with Vukanac.

Denni, the Valletta forward, was voted BOV player of the match.


VALLETTA - A. Hogg, R. Briffa, E. Agius, D. Dos Santos, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, O. Zongo (S. Panandetiguiri),  W. Barbosa, A. Cekulajevs (A. Effiong), S. Borg, R. Bajada (G. Agius).

BIRKIRKARA -  R. Gauci, R. Pereira, N. Vukanac, S. Bajada, R. Scicluna (J.P. Mifsud Triganza), J. Santos Silva (M. Avila Perez), A. Buhagiar, P. Fenech, G. Sciberras, J. Zerafa, S. Shodiya Haruna (R. Muscat)

BOV Premier League
Date: 17-03-12     Time: 16:00    Venue: National Stadium

Scorers: 71' Denni Dos Santos, 86' Moises Avila Perez

Yellow Cards:  R. Bajada, S. Borg, J. Zerafa, N. Vukanac, Rodrigo Pereira, Moises Avila Perez
Red Card:  A. Effiong
Man of Match: Denni Dos Santos (V)

Referee: Glenn Tonna