Day 26 Valletta 3 Balzan 1 Published on: 15-03-2014

Valletta had to fight hard to see off the challenge of Balzan but a superb goal from midfielder Edmond Agius in the closing minutes handed them a 3-1 win which keeps their title hopes alive.

It was a must-win affair for Valletta after Birkirkara had opened a five-pointed gap. The Citizens were far off their best in a boring first half but played much better in the second to secure a boost ahead of their clash with Birkirkara next weekend.

A dull first half produced few scoring chances.

It was Valletta who created the first opportunity through Brazilian Alan Da Silva Souza whose diagonal drive from the right was wide.

Valletta took the lead on 21 minutes. Denni's cross, following a corner, sailed into the area and Jonathan Caruana headed past Manuel Bartolo.

Balzan threatened to equalise when they won a free-kick in a dangerous position after Irakli Maisuradze brought down Pedrinho outside the box. Pedrinho swerved his shot beyond the wall but his effort shook the crossbar.

Maisuradze nearly made a more significant contribution at the other end but his dipping volley from the distance was high.

Ten minutes from half-time, Valletta created a good move when Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza passed to Edmond Agius who released Denni but the latter's angled drive was pushed away for a corner by Bartolo.

Denni's cross from the corner sailed towards the far post but Steve Borg's flick was wide.

Inside the opening minute of the second half, Valletta's Lateef Elford-Alliyu turned well inside the box but his shot flew wide of the far post.

The English striker then missed a great chance to double Valletta's lead, failing to connect with Denni's perfect pass in the six-yard box. But, two minutes later, Elford-Alliyu made amends, firing past Bartolo after Denni's strike had been deflected by Andrew Scicluna.

Dylan Grima temporarily broke Valletta's dominance as the Balzan captain controlled well outside the box but drove high and wide..

Three minutes past the hour, Valletta were unlucky not to increase their advantage. Running on to Agius's through-ball, Elford-Alliyu sprinted into the box but his looping effort glanced off the crossbar.

The loose ball fell to Denni whose grounder was parried away by Bartolo but only far as Elford-Alliyu whose drive came off Scicluna's elbow but the match officials ignored Valletta's penalty appeals.

At the other end, Pedrinho sent a fine pass to the incoming Mark Spiteri whose low strike hit the side-netting.

Balzan made a late reaction. They revived their hopes when Micallef's accurate shot from just outside the box rolled into the net via the post.

The pressure was now on Valletta.

Elford-Alliyu missed after receiving from substitute Llwelyn Cremona before Balzan threatened when Spiteri cut the ball back to Zarate who slipped as he was about to shoot.

The Whites would have sealed it but for a good save from Bartolo who pushed away Mifsud Triganza's drive after the latter had been released by Denni.

A minute from time, Valletta wrapped up the points thanks to a brilliant shot from Agius that soared into the top corner.

Elford-Alliyu, the Valletta striker, was named BOV player of the match.

Source: times of malta
VALLETTA - Y. Cini, J. Caruana, S. Borg, E. Agius, J.P. Mifsud Triganza, R. Briffa, O. Reyes Sanchez, L. Elford Alliyu, A. Da Silva Souza (L. Cremona), D. Dos Santos, I. Maisuradze

BALZAN  - M. Bartolo, K. Magro, S. Bezzina, A. Scicluna, R. Dos Santos, F. Vignaroli, D. Grima (M. Spiteri), E. Zarate Bilbao, P. Dos Santos Calcado, L. Micallef, J. Armario Negrin (R. Darmanin).

Date: 15.03.14     Time:  16:00    Venue: Hibs Ground

Yellow Cards: K. Magro, D. Grima, P. Dos Santos Calcado (B), I. Maisuradze (V)

Scorers: 21' J. Caruana, 55' L. Elford Alliyu,  83' L. Micallef, 89' E. Agius

Man of Match: Lateef Elford Alliyu (V)

Referee: Mario Apap