Matchday 18: Valletta 1 Birkirkara 1
Two goals in the first half saw Valletta and Birkirkara cancel each other in a 1-1 stalemate produced at the National Stadium on Sunday.
A point that leaves the Birkirkara camp unhappy as the Stripes now slip to three points behind second-placed Gżira United – on 35 points after 18 games, with a three-point lead above Mosta who sit fourth.
Valletta, on their part, might have welcomed this point in a more pleasant manner having lost to the same opponents 3-0 in the reverse fixture.
However, the Citizens see their gap from European places remain at ten points with the same Stripes, who are third, and seven behind fourth-placed Mosta.
Former Birkirkara player Federico Falcone scored his second Valletta goal since joining them in January, having kickstarted this campaign with the Stripes.
On the other side, Birkirkara handed a first appearance to Andrei Ciolacu who was their marquee signing in the winter transfer window.
The opening stages did not produce any goalscoring opportunities, with Birkirkara trying to implement their game while Valletta waited to catch them on the break.
The Stripes registered the first chance of the game when defender Alessandro Coppola forced goalkeeper Cain Formosa into a brilliant save on his long-range freekick.
They forged ahead when an unmarked Yannick Yankam capitalised on Matteo Fedele’s corner and beat Formosa, after 19 minutes.
Alex Alves tried to double Birkirkara’s lead when he fired a low drive from a tight angle but Formosa was alert to avert the danger.
Despite Birkirkara’s persisting pressure to double their lead, it was Valletta who found the net.
A well-combined build-up concluded with Shaun Dimech delivering a perfect through ball onto the feet of forward Falcone who calmly beat Giacomo Nava.
Birkirkara’s custodian Nava was forced into action by Kilian Bevis when the French player hit a strike straight into the Italian goalkeeper.
After the exchange of ends, it was Valletta who created the first attempt towards Nava’s goal when Bevis tried his luck with a long-range effort but failed to hit the target.
Giovanni Tedesco revamped his attacking front with the inclusions of Paul Mbong, Osvaldo Iorio, and debutant Ciolacu, who joined from Floriana on Deadline Day.
However, Valletta were resilient enough to keep them at bay while looking to exploit Birkirkara in transition.
Paiber came close to putting Valletta ahead when he let fly a strike from the edge of the area, but once again could find the back of the net.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: C. Formosa; E. Ruiz, A. Zammit (84 T. Caruana), S. Dimech, E. Pena Beltre, F. Falcone (91 W. Jebor), B. Kamdem, B. Paiber, E. Sala, J. Willy, K, Belvis.
BIRKIRKARA: G. Nava; E. Pepe, A. Alves (66 P. Mbong), Y. Yankam, K. Zammit, M. Fedele (60 O. Iorio-6), C. Attard, E. Cabrera, S. Zibo, A. Coppola, K. Tulimieri(60 A. Ciolacu-6).
Referee: M. Spiteri.
Scorers: 19′ Y. Yankam (B). 34′ F. Falcone (V).
Yellow Cards: Y. Yankam, A. Alves (B), Andrea Zammit (V).
Man of the Match: Joseph Willy (V).