Matchday 18: Valletta 1 Birkirkara 4
A sparkling Birkirkara side produced some champagne fare to cut Valletta down to size and add the scalp of the Malta champions to their growing list of glamorous victims.
After laying down Floriana and Sirens in the past weeks, Birkirkara maintained their moment of grace to plot to the perfection the downfall of the erstwhile in-form Valletta team.
With this victory, Birkirkara blew the title race wide open, with five teams now grouped in just three points at the top of the table as they ended Valletta’s 11-match unbeaten streak.
Andrè Paus’s side oozed discipline at the back where Enrico Pepe and Claudio Bonanni yielded nothing infront of Andrew Hogg.
Yannick Yanham and Matthew Guillaumier combined perfectly to add graft in deeper conditions with Oscar Carniello turning out to be a brick wall against which Valletta’s attacks floundered.
In front none played better than Caio Henrique with his low centre of gravity which helped him to beat opponents with amazing ease.
However, the match seemed to take a different twist early on as hardly 36 seconds from kick-off had elapsed when Valletta took the lead.
Making headway on the right, Bojan Kaljevic drifted the ball into the path of Miguel Alba whose volley took a wicked bounce infront of Andrew Hogg and went over the diving goalkeeper.
Birkirkara looked undeterred, and they managed to level matters four minutes later.
The goal came from an unlikley source with defender Enrico Pepe showing excellent poise in latching on to a deflected ball by Federico Falcone and hit his shot past Henry Bonello.
It was touch and go at this point even if the Lilywhites were slightly more insistent. On 18 minutes, Matteo Piciollo took a free-kick, opting to curl the ball towards the centre but, incredibly, Kaljevic stood motionless infront of Hogg, allowing the ball to bounce in front of him before finishing wide.
The Stripes appealed for a last-man foul on Yannick Yankam when the youngster ended on the turf after being challenged by Steve Borg but referee Fyodor Zammit saw nothing wrong.
The Valletta skipper was at times forced to contend with the incisive running of Paul Mbong as the young striker kept shifting flanks with Falcone.
The Birkirkara young striker left his mark seven minutes from the break.
A slick move between Falcone and Yankam had Mbong running through to touch the ball over the goalline with Bonello looking helpless.
Birkirkara were now stroking the ball better and they went two up a minute later. Matthew Guillaumier had done all the spadework on the right before interchanging with Falcone as the Argentine striker was through to plant past Bonello.
The cold shower for Valletta came in after the break when one minute into the second half, Oscar Carniello ghosted his way to cash in on a hesitant clearance by Jean Borg to chip into the net.
That early second half strike was the final nail in Valletta’s coffin as try as they might the Citizens never seemed capable of coming back into the match with Birkirkara strolling to victory.
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, S. Malano (K. Nwoko), B. Kaljevic, M. Piciollo (S. Dimech), J. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, M. Alba (J. Moise Barrios), T. Caruana, M. Fontanella.
BIRKIRKARA: A. Hogg, E. Pepe, M. Guillaumier, P. Mbong, Y. Yankam (R. Fenech), F. Falcone, C. Attard, C. Bonanni, H. Caio (M. Mifsud), M. Carniello, I. Ntow.
Yellow Cards: M. Alba (V), Y. Yankam (B)
Scorers: 1′ M. Alba (V), 5′ E. Pepe, 38′ P. Mbong, 39′ F. Falcone, 46′ M. Carniello (B)
BOV Player of the Match: M. Guillaumier (B)
Referee: F. Zammit