Matchday 09: Valletta 0 Floriana 1
Lorenzo De Grazia scored a late winner to hand Floriana a dramatic victory over neighbours Valletta and become the sole leaders of the Premier League.
The Greens have now opened a three-point lead at the top after capitalising on Ħamrun Spartans’ false step after losing to Birkirkara on Saturday.
Mauro Camoranesi’s side did not muster a lot of goal scoring opportunities but were always proactive in their performance, especially in the second half where they dominated proceedings before making their pressure count.
The Italian coach’s gamble to be more offensive in the final stages paid off having inserted wingback Lorenzo De Grazia as well as forwards Kyrian Nwoko and Mattia Veselji in an effort to clinch a precious win – their fifth in their last six league encounters against Valletta.
Meanwhile, Valletta remain 10th in the 14-team championship with 10 points after conceding their third defeat of the season – their second since coach Vincenzo Potenza took over from Thane Micallef in October.
Just before kick-off, the Valletta coach was forced to remove highly-experienced defender Enzo Ruiz from the starting line up and replace him with Maltese youngster Christian Gauci.
On the other hand, Floriana were missing defender Oualid El-Hasni due to suspension with former Italy international Camoranesi deploying Carlo Zammit Lonardelli in his absence.
The Citizens, looking to score their first league goal against Floriana in six games, threatened first through forward Federico Falcone with a brilliant long-range effort only to sail over the bar.
On the other hand, Floriana forced Jake Galea into action through a Jose Arias header from inside the penalty area, followed up by Owen Spiteri who tried to score his second straight goal from a set-piece after finding the net in last week’s Old Firm derby against Sliema Wanderers.
Valletta’s captain Shaun Dimech squandered a brilliant chance to put his side ahead when he missed the target from near the penalty spot after a Santiago Ferraris’ cutback.
Just before half-time, Valletta goalkeeper Galea made a crucial intervention to deny Kemar Reid after the Malta international forward try to lob a brilliant header over him.
After the change of ends, Floriana inched their way up the field to try and take control of the match while Valletta were now more compact, looking to catch their opponents on the break.
Yet, it was Valletta who produced a big chance – their only one in the second half – when Jhonnatthan hit a volley from outside the area but was not enough to beat Georgi Kitanov.
Despite their pressure, Floriana found it difficult to breakthrough Valletta’s organised backline with Maksim Valadzko trying to test Galea with a long strike.
With Camoranesi reshaping the attacking department, the Greens kept their feet on the gas pedal and there was huge delight among their fans when De Grazia converted into goal from point-blank range, handing Floriana a derby win.
Source: Times of Malta
Valletta: J. Galea, J. Bolanos (80’ J. Azzopardi), C. Gauci, S. Ferraris, S. Dimech (78’ A. Silas), F. Falcone, B. Paiber, V. Luiz, F. Vega, N. Micallef, J. Benites(89’ D. Cardoso).
Floriana: G. Kitanov, A. Magri Overend(78’ M. Veselji), J. Arias(L. de Grazia), K. Reid, M. Albuguerque de Sousa(78’ K. Nwoko), D. Vella, O. Spiteri, M. Garcia, C. Zammit Lonardelli, M. Valadzko, A. Kouro.
Scorers: 92′ L. de Grazia (F)
Yellow cards: G. Kitanov, O. Spiteri, C. Zammit Lonardelli (F), J. Bolanos, B. Paiber, N. Micallef (V).
Referee: Philip Farrugia
BOV Player of the match: Shaun Dimech (V)