Premier League Champions 2017-2018
Valletta were crowned Premier League champions for the 24th time in history as they collected the three points they needed from the clash with Gżira United while Balzan, with whom they shared the top spot before the final round of fixtures, suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Hibernians.
Before the start of the season, both Valletta fans and club officials hoped to celebrate the city’s crowning as European Capital of Culture –Valletta 2018 with the Premier League crown.
However, things seemed not going in the right direction as the team sometimes stuttered. Since the appointment of Danilo Doncic as the new coach in December, replacing Zoran Popovic whose contract was terminated by mutual consent, Valletta maintained an unbeaten record until the end of the season and surely that consistent run was decisive in this latest triumph.
Yesterday, Valletta showed great determination right from the start. They took an early lead and stayed in control, doubling the score midway through the second half.
Although Gżira pulled a goal back late on there was never any doubt on who would take all three points, and City’s celebrations reached a peak when Ryan Camilleri lifted the coveted trophy after the final whistle.
Following last week’s draw with Floriana, Doncic made one change as Joseph Zerafa replaced Jean Borg.
On the other hand, Gżira, after securing a return to European football after 45 years by finishing third, were only hoping to give their opponents a hard time.
Coach Darren Abdilla was without three key players as Amadou Samb was recovering from injury while Sacha Borg and Ndubisi Okoye had to serve a one-match ban.
Kris Thackray, Antonio Macedo Neto, Nikolai Muscat, Juan Corbalan and Karl Pulo were drafted in the starting line-up while Edison Bilbao Zarate and Prince Mambouana had to settle with a place on the bench.
Valletta could not have hoped for a better start as they drew first blood in eight minutes.
Kryian Nwoko advanced on the right before serving Raed Ibrahim Saleh who tried to avoid Roderick Briffa’s marking. The ball reached Matteo Piciollo who slotted past Anthony Curmi.
The Italian striker could have grabbed a second on 29 minutes. Saleh advanced on the right and entered the penalty area before serving Piciollo who, however, failed to connect from an ideal position.
Four minutes later, Miguel Angel Alba tested Curmi with a fine freekick from the left but the Gzira custodian turned the ball into a corner.
Five minutes in the second half, Valletta went close to doubling the score when Piciollo’s effort from the left was blocked by a defender with the ball reaching Alba who rounded a defender before hitting low but the ball scraped past the post.
News of Clayton Failla’s goal at the Hibernians Stadium reached the Valletta supporters sending them into ruptures as they knew that the 24th title was closer than ever.
Buoyed by this news, the Citizens took little time to double the score on the 64th minute.
Santiago Malano rounded Gatt Baldacchino and served Saleh who controlled the ball before hitting past Curmi.
At the other end, Haruna Garba tested Henry Bonello with a shot from the left on the 70th minute but the Valletta goalkeeper saved without particular difficulty.
However, Gżira managed to reduce the gap nine minutes from time. Juan Corbalan was brought down inside the area by Ryan Camilleri. Referee Clayton Pisani ordered a penalty and Andrew Cohen duly converted.
But that came too little too late to spoil Valletta’s title party which kickstarted at the final whistle.
Source – timesofmalta.com
BOV Super Cup 2018
After winning the double at the end of last season, Valletta crowned a successful 2018 by lifting the BOV Super Cup after defeating Balzan by the odd goal in three.
This was the 12th Super Cup win for the Citizens, who are currently sharing second place with Gżira United in the BOV Premier League, two points behind leaders Hibernians.
Balzan, who were contesting the final of the Super Cup for the first time in their history, continue to chase their first major honour.
After conceding an early goal, they managed to level matters but during the second half, struggled to create any goal-scoring opportunities.
Coach Marko Micovic preferred Dale Camilleri to Sean Cipriott as one of the defensive midfielders along with Nenad Sljivic.
Justin Grioli and Ivan Bozovic were employed on the flanks with Michael Johnson and Elkin Serrano Valero as the two central defenders.
Kadu along with the two wingers – Alex Alves and Uros Ljubomirac assisted Alfred Effiong in the attack.
Valletta, on the other hand, had one change from the team which hammered Tarxien Rainbows as Miguel Alba was preferred to Jean Borg.
With Ryan Camilleri and Joseph Zerafa both unavailable, Doncic deployed Steve Borg and Jonathan Caruana as central defenders with Enmy Pena Beltre and Raed Saleh on the flanks.
Alba, Mario Fontanella and Piciollo supported Bojan Kaljevic in a 4-2-3-1 formation Valletta went in search of an early goal but Balzan goalkeeper Steve Sultana performed a good save on a cross from the right by Alba after just four minutes.
The Citizens drew first blood on nine minutes when off a cross by Alba from the right, Johnson committed an own goal as he could only deflect the ball into the net.
On 22 minutes, Valletta could have doubled the score but Kaljevic failed to connect off an Alba freekick.
Six minutes later, Alba’s freekick ended just over the bar. Balzan levelled matters in the 36th minute.
Alves took full advantage of an erratic pass by Pena Beltre, when pressed by Ljubomirac, and beat Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello with a fine shot from inside the area.
Valletta’s response arrived two minutes later with a cross from the right by Alba, two but Steve Sultana neutralised his attempt.
For the second half, Micovic was forced to replace Grioli with Steve Bezzina as the former sustained an injury just before the end of the first half.
Three minutes on the restart, Balzan threatened with a Kadu free-kick from the left but Jonathan Caruana headed the ball into a corner.
Sultana came to his side’s rescue nine minutes later with a good save on a cross-shot from the right by Steve Borg.
With Dale Camilleri also having to abandon the field of play injured, the Balzan coach included another striker – Andrija Majdevac.
However, Valletta regained the lead in 77 minutes. Piciollo served Alba on the right and off the latter’s cross, Mario Fontanella flicked the ball home past Sultana.
In the remaining minutes, the Citizens controlled their opponents without particular difficulty to secure victory and lift the trophy for the 12th time in the club’s history.
Source – timesofmalta.com
FA Trophy 2017 – 2018
Champions Valletta ended the season in style as they won the FA Trophy thanks to a 2-1 win over Birkirkara to notch the double. This was the second double for Valletta since Victor Sciriha took over as president just over a decade ago.
Against Birkirkara, the Citizens were clearly the better side. They had the lion’s share of ball possession and created several scoring opportunities but had to wait almost till the end of the first half to take the lead. Birkirkara showed some signs of improvement during the second half, but Valletta still continued to hold the initiative and doubled the score.
However, with three minutes to go, Birkirkara pulled one back, and the Stripes then went all out in search of the equaliser, but the Citizens held on to the narrow lead to claim victory.
Following their 2-1 win over Balzan in the semi-finals, Valletta coach Danilo Doncic was forced to make one change as Juan Cruz Gill was drafted in for the suspended Steve Borg.
Gill joined Ryan Camilleri at the centre of the Valletta rear-guard with the usual Enmy Pena Beltre and Joseph Zerafa on the flanks. Rowen Muscat, Santiago Malano and Raed Saleh had their usual roles in midfield with Alba started on the right flank and Piciollo on the left.
However midway through the first half, Doncic switched Alba with Saleh. Kyrian Nwoko was the main striker.
Meanwhile, Paul Zammit opted for two changes from the team which defeated Sliema Wanderers on penalties as Nikola Vukanac replaced Lucas Maia while Carlos Alberto was preferred to Ognjen Rolovic.
The back-four was made up of Cain Attard, Nikola Vukanac, Fernando Barbosa and Kurt Zammit; Mislav Andjelkovic and Ryan Scicluna as defensive midfielders with Edward Herrera, Jake Grech and Carlos Alberto playing in midfield, supporting Waldemar Acosta in the attack.
Right from the start, Valletta made their intentions clear and Malano had a freekick from the right ending high on the 4th minute.
Muscat’s powerful shot on the 18th minute was parried by Kristijan Naumovski. Two minutes later, Matteo Piciollo received a cross from the right by Miguel Alba; the Italian pulled to a more central position, to avoid Herrera’s marking and tried his luck with a shot that ended just over the bar.
Valletta maintained the pressure and on the 21st minute, Scicluna failed to control a pass by Zammit just outside the Birkirkara area, Alba pounced on the ball and advanced into the box but his conclusion was neutralised by the Birkirkara custodian.
Kyrian Nwoko then failed to connect off an inviting cross from the left by Zerafa on the 24th minute. Four minutes later, Pena Beltre sent Malano through on the right but his conclusion was turned into a corner by Naumovski. The Macedonian goalkeeper – undoubtedly the best player for Birkirkara – came to the rescue once again on a shot from outside the area by Nwoko and then on a Saleh effort from the right.
On the 37th minute, Piciollo dashed past Attard on the left flank and crossed with Pena Beltre’s volley neutralised by Naumovski.
Valletta finally managed to break the deadlock on the 41st minute when off a Miguel Angel Alba corner from the right, Kyrian Nwoko headed home past the surprised Naumovski.
Birkirkara’s reaction consisted of a fine cross by Carlos Alberto from the left but Henry Bonello rose high to anticipate Acosta.
The first half was not over yet as Joseph Zerafa almost scored with a shot from outside the area but was unlucky to hit the foot of the upright with the goalkeeper beaten.
Enjoying a narrow lead, the Citizens knew that it was not enough and therefore kept pushing for more. On the hour, Alba threatened with a freekick from the left but Acosta came to the rescue for Birkirkara heading the ball into safety.
Paul Zammit opted to make two substitutions, including Rolovic and Agius for Carlos Alberto and Grech. A good move as the Stripes seemed to gain more confidence. Valletta went close once again with a Piciollo diagonal shot from the right ending just wide but Birkirkara replied with an Acosta effort from the edge of the area which was parried by Henry Bonello.
The game seemed dead and buried on the 78th minute when Malano advanced on the left, entered the penalty area and rounded Vukanac before slotting past the helpless Naumovski to put Valletta two goals ahead. Six minutes later, Saleh went close when he advanced on the right but his conclusion was blocked by the Birkirkara custodian into a corner.
However three minutes from time, Birkirkara were awarded a freekick just outside the area for a foul by Gill on Acosta and Rolovic’s freekick was deflected by a defender past Bonello, ending at the back of the net.
The fourth official signalled five minutes of added time and the Stripes started believing more in themselves. Rolovic had another opportunity when Birkirkara were awarded another freekick but this time, his conclusion went over the bar.
The final whistle saw scores of jubilant Valletta supporters jump onto the field of play. The pitch invasion delayed the presentation of the trophy but eventually, the Valletta players climbed the steps where captain. Ryan Camilleri was presented the FA Trophy by MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo.
Source – timesofmalta.com