Day 16 Valletta 3 Sliema W 1
Valletta put their upset to Hibs behind them as they produced a clinical performance to beat Sliema Wanderers 3-1.
Hamza Barry took centre-stage for the champions after the Gambian scored a brace, his second all but sealing the points as it gave the champions a 3-0 advantage by the 55th minute.
It took Valletta three minutes to take the lead.
Llywelyn Cremona picked up a pass inside the Sliema box and lifted his shot past Glenn Zammit, the Sliema goalkeeper.
Valletta were dominant in the early stages.
On six minutes, Ryan Camilleri squared to Lateef Elford-Alliyu in the box but the English forward lifted his shot over the bar.
The champions increased their lead on 20 minutes. Abdelkarim Nafti masterminded the move as his incursion through the middle opened up the Sliema defence before the Tunisian set up the unmarked Barry who curled his shot past Zammit.
With Sliema setting out to defend, Valletta remained on top.
On 26 minutes, Luke Dimech picked out Nafti who swept past Clive Psaila. The Tunisian’s cross was deflected into the path of Cremona but his strike came off Andrea Scozzese.
Ian Azzopardi, pushing forward on the left, crossed for Luke Montebello but the latter’s first-time volley was high.
Sliema had not created a single chance but they went close to narrowing the deficit on the half-hour when Andrea Pisanu’s cross from a free-kick flew into the box and Guy Kassa Gnabouyou’s header was saved by Nicky Vella, the Valletta goalkeeper.
The lively Cremona then produced a powerful shot that hit the top of the crossbar.
With eight minutes of the first half remaining, Sliema gained a lifeline as they were awarded a penalty by referee Claytoin Pisani for Cremona’s charge on Mark Scerri, much to the dismay of the City fans.
Pisanu’s shot from the spot came off the base of the far post.
Valletta wrapped up their win 10 minutes into the second half. Another flowing move had Sliema on the backfoot as Roderick Briffa delivered a measured pass to Montebello who pulled the ball back to Barry whose fierce shot went in via the upright.
As Valletta eased their pressure, Sliema finally made a reaction.
On 63 minutes, Friggieri did well to squeeze in a shot from a tight angle but his effort was off target.
Fabio Mangiacasale, who had come on for Pisanu, whipped in in a dangerous cross-shot from a corner but Vella was alert as he pushed the ball away.
Bianciardi, racing into the City box after Sliema were awarded a free-kick, blasted over after Scozzese had headed Scerri’s cross.
Ten minutes from time, Christian Caruana, a late substitute for Barry, had a central shot saved by Zammit.
In the closing stages, Vella, who had a good match, saved Marko Potezica’s free-kick and Nafti hit wide from the distance.
Valletta almost added a fourth when Elford-Alliyu’s cross dropped to Caruana but his effort was deflected away for a corner.
Nafti’s cross from the resultant corner sailed into the goalmouth and Caruana’s header looked destined to find the back of the net but Mintoff cleared the ball off the line.
In stoppage time, Sliema scored a consolation goal. Gnabouyou veered into the box from the left before supplying a low cross that was turned in by Potezica.
Hamza Barry was voted BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, R. Camilleri, S. Borg (H. Al Kamali), H. Barry (C. Caruana), L. Elford, L. Cremona, I. Azzopardi, R. Briffa, A. Nafti (I. Montanaro), L. Dimech, L. Montebello.
SLIEMA W. – G. Zammit, L. Martinelli, K. Guy Gnabouyou, A. Scozzese, J. Mintoff, M. Scerri, A. Pisanu (F. Mangiacasale, C. Psaila (P. Xuereb), A. Jake Friggieri (C. Cassar), M. Potezica, S. Biancardi.
Date: 21.12.14 Time: 16:00 Venue: National Stadium
Scorers: 4′ L. Cremona, 20′ 55′ H. Barry, 91′ M. Potezica
Yellow Cards: S. Biancardi (S), R. Briffa, N. Vella (V)
Man of Match: Hamza Barry (v)
Referee: Clayton Pisani