Day 31 Valletta 1 Balzan 0
Denni’s solitary goal kept Valletta within touching distance of leaders Birkirkara ahead of Saturday’s ‘title showdown’.
Balzan began the game confidently, threatening to take the lead as early as the 11th minute. A perfect pass from Pedrinho reached Dylan Grima who strecthed his leg to reach the Brazilian’s inswinger but Nukri Revishvili, the Valletta goalkeeper leapt to left to push the ball around the post.
Labouring to overcome their inauspicious start to the game, Valletta mustered their first geniune attempt after 21 minutes with Steve Borg directed a header from Abdelkarim Nafti’s flighted ball towards goal only to see his attempt finish just over the bar.
Denni combined well with Alan da Silva Souza but the latter ran himself into a wall of Balzan defenders.
A long-range drive from da Silva Souza signalled after 14 minutes from half-time signalled the first spell of sustained pressure from the Lilywhites.
The Valletta team that came out of the dressing room after the interval was more aggresive than the version seen in the first half. Their tactical module was 4-1-2-3 with Denni and da Silva Souza playing either side of Luke Montebello.
Paus’s troops were winning a number of flag-kicks from the right where Balzan looked vulnerable. And it seemed just a matter of time until Valletta made the breakthrough and their opening duly arrived after 50 minutes. Denni met da Silva Souza’s teasing from the right with a first-time flick that beat Emanuel Bartolo, the Balzan goalkeeper via the base of the far post.
The Lilywhites continued to be the better side, Ryan Fenech passed to Montebello whose drive was deflected away for a corner.
In the 78th minute, Shawn Bajada made an intelligent run on the left run before trying his luck with a delicate lob over Bartolo which finished just wide.
Five minutes from time, Agius ran menacingly towards goal, using all his power to outmuscle Aboulezz and Ramon only to flick the ball wide when well-position in front of Bartolo.
Amid Valletta’s insistent pressure, Balzan managed only a single attempt on goal in the second half, when an innocent Steve Bezzina cross-cum-shot flew harmlessly into Revishvili’s hands.
Balzan finished with ten men as Pedrinho was sent off at death after earning his second yellow card for pushing Fenech in an off-the ball action but that little matter as seconds later, referee Paul Caruana sounded the final whistle to initiate Valletta’s celebrations.
Valletta midfielder Alan Da Silva Souza was voted as the BOV Player of the match.
VALLETTA – N. Revishvili, S. Borg, J. Caruana, S. Bajada, L. Montebello (E. Agius), R. Fenech, A. Da Silva Souza (L. Elford), I Maisuradze, A. Nafti, D. Dos Santos, L. Dimech
BALZAN – M. Bartolo, J. Grioli, S. Bezzina, A. Scicluna, R. Dos Santos, K. Magro, D. Grima (R. Darmanin), E. Bilbao Zarate, P. Dos Santos Calcado, L. Micallef (F. Aboulezz), J. Luis Armario Negrin.
Date: 21.04.14 Time: 20:00 Venue: National Stadium
Scorers: 51′ D. Dos Santos
Yellow Cards: J. Grioli, K. Magro, P. Dos Santos Calcado (B) L. Dimech (V)
Red Card: P. Dos Santos Calcado
Man of Match: Alan Da Silva Souza (V)
Referee: Paul Camera