Experience does it for City Published on: 15-04-2015

Derbies between Valletta and Floriana always generate great expectations and antagonism given the huge rivalry that exists between the two neighbouring clubs.
As expected, Sunday’s third clash of the season involving these two great sporting foes again turned out to be an absorbing affair but overshadowed by controversial referee decisions which lifted the atmosphere on the field to a boiling point and leading to a series of unnecessary confrontations on the pitch.
The Citizens, buoyed by Luke Dimech’s goal after only two minutes, held the edge for much of the opening 45 minutes.Floriana fought back after the interval but they could not breach the solid Valletta defence as City held on for three points that lifted them to second place in the standings,nine behind runaway leaders Hibs and one ahead of Birkirkara.
Skipper Ryan Fenech said the fans expect nothing less than a win when Valletta play Floriana.“Derby matches hold huge significance for our club and on Sunday nothing less than three points would have appeased the fans’expectations,” Fenech told Times of Malta.
“Floriana were hard to beat but we are a more experienced group and that played a huge part on us winning the match. “We started strongly but Floriana became more dangerous after the break. We closed all gaps in defence and also created enough chances to score a second goal and seal it before the final whistle.“At present, a few of us are not in the best physical condition but had to remain on the pitch as the coach was somewhat limited in terms of substitutions. We all kept running hard to protect our lead and in the end we are pleased to have beaten Floriana a third time this season.”
With the championship now all but heading to Paola after Hibs’ dramatic 3-2 win over Sliema Wanderers,Fenech admitted that Valletta’s goal should be to finish second in the standings.“Hibs seem to be out of reach at the moment,” Fenech conceded.“They are in a very strong position but we should seek to win our next matches and finish the season on a high… second place is our main goal and that will give us a timely lift ahead of the FA Trophy semi-finals.”
A series of incidents on the pitch marred the derby on Sunday.San Marino referee Luca Barbeno came under fire for failing to spot Amadou Samb’s elbowing on Valletta defender Ian Azzopardi and also Abdelkarim Nafti’s spat with Floriana striker Vito Plut.
The Greens had striker Matteo Piciollo dismissed late on. Times of Malta has learnt that the Malta FA is expected to issue charges against Samb for violent conduct. Fenech believes the MFA was wrong in handing such a high-profile match to a foreign referee.
“I think the San Marino officials were not suited for the occasion...this was one of the main matches in the competition,” Fenech said.“It was clear that they lacked authority to keep control on both teams. The referee’s failure to spot a number of particular episodes further complicated matters.“Top fixtures in our league should be given to Maltese refs. “They know exactly what is needed to run such delicate matches smoothly and ensure that both teams show respect and order.”
Fenech’s opinion was backed by Floriana defender Manolito Micallef.He believes that handling these kind of needle matches is also crucial for Maltese referees in their development process.“Sunday’s match was unfortunately characterised by a series of poor refereeing decisions that cost us a point,” Micallef said.
“Valletta were the better side at first but our second-half performance was far better and we also had a goal unjustly ruled out for a non-existent foul,” Micallef added in reference to team-mate Giovanni Galea’s disallowed goal in stoppage time.
“The referee was simply not up to the task and, hopefully, those responsible will learn from this mistake and in future appoint Maltese officials for top games. “We know what kind of tension such derbies generate so it was essential to have someone in full control… the referee on Sunday was far away from that.
“Added to that, I ask how can local referees continue to improve if they are not given the chance to officiate matches between the country’s best teams?” Away from the controversies,Micallef said that although defeats to Valletta are tough to fathom, Floriana still have a lot of positives to take from Sunday’s match. “I think we showed that Floriana are slowly closing the gap with the top teams in the Premier League,” Micallef said.
“We put Valletta under a lot of pressure but they have quality players and know what it really entails to win derbies.“Our players have come a long way and I’m sure that if the coach is given more time to work it will not be long before Floriana will be challenging for the honours.”

Source - Times of Malta