Day 3 Valletta 2 Floriana 0
Valletta registered their first win as two second-half goals enabled them to beat eternal rivals Floriana 2-0.
It was far from a comfortable success for the Citizens though. Again, they looked on their way to another frustrating result after struggling to break down a compact Floriana defence.
However, the second-half introduction of Lateef Elford-Aliyu swayed the match in City’s favour as he took just three minutes to put them ahead with his first touch of the ball before Abdelkarim Nafti sealed the points with a late second.
The result is a huge confidence boost for coach Gilbert Agius who was under pressure after seeing his charges failing to muster a win from their opening five competitive matches of the season.
Agius still has lots of work to do to see his team firing on all cylinders but, no doubt, this victory will enable the new City coach to go into the international break in a more tranquil mood and even more determined to bring the best out of his team before the league resumes in a fortnight.
Agius had one change from the team held by Tarxien on Saturday as Christian Caruana was handed his first start for the Citizens against his former employers. He was preferred from Luke Montebello who started on the bench.
Giovanni Tedesco, the Floriana coach, kept faith with the same players that battled for a point against Sliema last weekend.
Valletta were soon on the offensive and went agonisingly close to an opener when Hugo Faria nodded the ball towards Raphael Kooh-Sohna whose first-time shot came off the upright.
Floriana’s response came on 22 minutes but Brooke Farrugia’s drive was stopped in two attempts by goalkeeper Nicky Vella.
The match remained evenly balanced.
Then, on 33 minutes, Ryan Fenech won a free-kick on the edge of the area and from the set-piece Shaun Bajada’s effort was blocked by the alert Valerio Senatore in the Floriana goal.
At the other end, Marco Piciollo launched a quick foray inside the City half and fed Vito Plut whose grounder was stopped by Vella.
Eight minutes from the break, Senatore had to dive to his right to push away Fenech’s menacing shot.
The Italian goalkeeper was again alert a minute later to keep out Abdelkerim Nafti’s long-range shot.
The match was devoid of any entertaining fare after the interval as both teams were guilty of poor distribution of the ball with the result that both sets of forwards were cutting a frustrated figure at either end.
Agius was clearly unhappy with the proceedings and on 61 minutes he withdrew Caruana and Kooh-Sohna and introduced Zahra and Elford-Aliyu as he looked to infuse some fresh ideas upfront.
That proved to be a masterstroke as Elford-Aliyu was soon on the mark when he was put clear by Bajada’s defence-splitting pass to coolly slot past Senatore.
The English striker almost struck again a minute later when he was put through, this time by Nafti. However, he was denied by Senatore.
The Citizens were now in complete control and 18 minutes from time Fenech unleashed a powerful drive from outside the area that whizzed past the upright.
Tedesco tried to reinvigorate his forward line when he introduced striker Giovanni Galea.
However, any hopes the Greens might have had of rescuing the match were all but extinguished five minutes from time when in a swift break Fenech powered forward before teeing up Nafti whose drive wrong-footed Senatore.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, S. Borg, L. Dimech, R. Fenech, H. Faria, R. Kooh Sohna (L. Elford), C. Caruana (A. Zahra), S. Bajada (L. Cremona), A. Nafti.
FLORIANA: – V. Senatore, D. Moreira Cobo, E. Marcelina, S. Pisani, C. Borg (G. Galea), V. Plut, M. Piciollo, E. Briffa, B. Farrugia (I. Galea), S. Farrugia, S. Bonnici.
Date: 26.08.14 Time: 20:30 Venue: National Stadium
Scorers: 65′ L. Elford Alliyu, 85′ A. Nafti
Yellow Cards: E. Marcelina, M. Piciollo, (F), S. Borg, S. Bajada (V)
Man of Match: Ryan Fenech (V)
Referee: Alan Mario Sant