Day 22 Valletta 1 Balzan 0
Aziz Corr Nyang was Valletta’s hero as the Gambian came off the bench to score the winning goal in a 1-0 defeat of Balzan.Nyang’s strike brought joy and relief to the Valletta fans but Balzan were also a happy lot at the end of their game as, despite their defeat, they still managed to claim the final Championship Pool spot after seventh-placed Naxxar Lions lost 3-0 to Hibernians.
Valletta had a good chance to take the lead on 10 minutes but were denied by Balzan goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo who dived to his right to parry Hamza Barry’s close-range header from Abdelkarim Nafti’s cross.Bartolo was one of five former Valletta players in Balzan’s first team, the others being Dylan Grima, Kurt Magro, Ramon and Justin Grioli.
Barely two minutes later, it was Balzan who threatened when Pedrinho dispossessed Steve Borg with Jose Luis Amario Negrin swooping onto the loose ball to burst past the on-rushing Nukri Revishvili but the Spaniard’s miscued his shot.Edison Bilbao Zarate fired wide after connecting with Grioli’s cross.The game remained interesting.
A flowing City move had Barry passing to Abayomi Owonikoko but Ramon slid in to push the ball away from the Nigerian.
The woodwork denied Valletta a goal on 22 minutes. Borg made a strong overlap on the right after exchanging passes with Mifsud Triganza before hitting a low cross that teed up Barry whose low drive hit the foot of the post.Valletta protested for a penalty when the ball appeared to come off Magro’s hands as he made a tackle in the box. Referee Adrian Azzopardi waved play on.
Late in the first half, Bartolo again thwarted Valletta when he produced another great save to keep out Mifsud Triganza’s header from Nafti’s cross.Valletta held the initiative after the change of ends but Balzan were solid at the back.
A minute past the hour, Revishvili, the Valletta goalkeeper, blocked Micallef’s low shot.With the game heading for a goalless draw, Corr Nyang broke the deadlock with a perfectly-struck shot from the edge of the area six minutes from time.
Ryan Fenech, the Valletta captain, was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – N. Revishvili, J. Caruana, S. Borg, R. Fenech, E. Agius (L. Montebello), R. Briffa, H. Barry, A. Nafti (A. Corr Nyang), S. Bajada, O. Abayomi Seun, J. P. Mifsud Triganza (I. Masuradze).
BALZAN – M. Bartolo, J. Grioli, K. Magro, R. Dos Santos, D. Grima, L. Sciberras, L. Micallef (R. Darmanin), G. McKay (A. Firas), P. Dos Santos Calcado, E. Bilbao, Zarate, J. Armario Negrin.
Date: 08.02.14 Time: 16:00 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Yellow Cards: S. Borg, J. P. Mifsud Triganza (V), L. Micallef , K. Magro, R. Dos Santos, E. Bilbao Zarate, P. Dos Santos Calcado, L. Sciberras.
Scorers: 84′ A. Corr Nyang
Man of Match: Ryan Fenech (V)
Referee: Adrian Azzopardi