Day 12 Valletta 1 Floriana 0
A Matteo Piciollo goal ten minutes from time handed Valletta a 1-0 win over neighbouring rivals Floriana to rejoin Balzan at the top of the Premier League standings.
Both teams went for a brisk opening but scoring chances were few and far between.
Shy the half hour mark, Maurizio Vella created space for the Mario Fontanella on the right flank.
The Italian striker moved sideways before hitting a low drive which was blocked by Henry Bonello in two attempts.
Pisani scythed down Ibrahim Saleh to end Valletta’s first venture towards the Floriana penalty area after the break.
Claudio Pani’s free-kick was met by Kyrian Nwoko who ably controlled the ball but his effort was weak.
Valletta redoubled their efforts in the second half but not before Vella had seen a teasing cross headed to safety by Juan Cruz Gill.
The pressure on Floriana’s fort was mounting even if confidence at the back never really deserted them.
This was the cue for Popovic to add fresh legs up front with the introduction of Malano for Mifsud.
On 66 minutes, Nwoko rose to meet Pani’s free-kick but his header finished over the bar.
Valletta now pushed forward more vehemently.
Pani lofted the ball towards Juan Cruz Gill whose close-range header drew a smart save from Ini Akpan.
Floriana’s reaction was spontaneous. Varela’s venomous shot was blocked again by Cruz Gill.
But Popovic’s team drew deserved dividends at last.
Piciollo outpaced Floriana central defenders Enzo Ruiz and Enrico Pepe to latch on to a fine through ball from Malano before racing into the area and slide a rising shot with outside of his right foot past Akpan.
At death, a long range shot from substitute Umeh Calistus sailed over the bar.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, R. Camilleri, K. Nwoko (R. Muscat), J. Cruz Gill, R. Saleh, J. Borg, S. Borg, M. Piciollo (U. Calistus), M. Mifsud (S. Malano), J. Zerafa, C. Pani.
FLORIANA – I. Akpan, E. Pepe, E. Ruiz, S. Pisani, C. Borg (D. Grima), I. Varela, M. Vella, A. Cini (L. Grech), A. Oyama, M. Fontanella, E. Marcelina.
Scorers: 80′ M. Piciollo.
Yellow Cards: M. Fontanella, E. Ruiz, I. Varela, S. Pisani (F) S. Borg, M. Piciollo, K. Nwoko.
Man of Match: J. Cruzz Gill (V)
Referee: T. Farrugia Cann