Matchday 14: Valletta 0 Floriana 2
Floriana could have not wished for a better start to their new year after dispatching their rivals Valletta 2-0, thanks to a goal in each half from their two main forwards in Andrei Ciolacu and Eugeniu Rebenja.
It was Floriana’s second win over rivals Valletta in as many games this season, scoring five and conceding none in total – a testament to the technical upgrade that the Greens have made under the guidance of former Serie A coach Gianluca Atzori.
Valletta, on their part, lacked quality in the final third as, despite the number of box entries and opportunities they build up, they failed to capitalise on them. They slip into fifth with 20 points while Floriana move five points behind Hibernians, with the Paolites having a game in hand.
Valletta coach Toze Mendes deployed Michele Sansone as left back instead of the departed Joseph Zerafa while Canadian signing David Promise was handed his debut late in the game.
His midfield partner Eslit Sala had to be subbed off early in the game after picking up an injury.
The Citizens looked more aggressive early on with Lucas Campos firing a shot inside six minutes before Caio Prado letting fly another, but both chances were in vain.
On the other hand, Floriana were playing more cautious, looking to catch Valletta on the break.
Their tactic paid off on the 24th minute when the Greens pounced on a Valletta mistake in the middle, Jan Busuttil quickly sent a through ball towards Andrei Ciolacu who darted in between Enmy Pena Beltre and Ryan Camilleri and fired past Alessandro Guarnone.
Valletta’s reply came instantly through Triston Caruana just to see his long shot sail over the bar while Floriana tried to double their lead with Kristian Keqi but his effort went wide.
Guarnone came to Valletta’s rescue before the half-time whistle, denying a Brandon Paiber’s long-rage effort.
In search of an equaliser, Valletta came out all guns blazing in the second half with chances from Campos and Ivan Curjuric all but halted.
Caruana came closest with a well-struck first timer that glanced past Georgi Kitanov’s goal.
Floriana’s coach Gianluca Atzori opted for Daniel Agius and Eugeniu Rebenja upfront, taking off Ciolacu and Busuttil and his decision paid dividends when Agius whipped in a cross which Rebenja met with his header to double the Greens’ lead.
Campos almost pulled one back immediately for Valletta when his shot slipped from Kitanov’s hands, just for the Floriana custodian to grab instantly after.
Valletta coach Mendes tried to shake up things with the entrance of forward Haris Dilaver but the Floriana backline was smothering every offensive play towards them, keeping the Citizens at bay.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: A. Guarnone; J. Borg; R. Camilleri; T. Caruana (61 R. Muscat); S. Dimech ; M. Sansone; E. Pena Beltre; E. Sala (23 I. Curjuric); C. Prado (85 D. Promise); M. Fontanella; L. Campos (61 H. Dilaver).
FLORIANA: G. Kitanov; O. El Hasni; Z. Cassar; K. Keqi (55 E. Rebenja); J. Arias (77 B. Sciberras); A. Ciolacu (90 N. Cassar); B. Paiber (90 M. Micallef); E. Callegari; J. Busuttil (55 D. Agius); A. Garzia; R. Camenzuli.
Referee: T. Farrugia Cann
Yellow Cards: A. Ciolacu, R. Camenzuli, Z. Cassar (F).
Man of the Match: A. Ciolacu (F)