Day 15: Valletta 2 Balzan 1
First-half goals from Claudio Pani and Abdelkarim Nafti ensured a return to the top position for Valletta alongside Hibernians.
Having struggled to find their consistency in the opening part of the season, Valletta are now finding their feet claiming their fourth successive for the first time this season after overcoming Balzan.
At first, Valletta struggled to tame the agile movement and pace of the Balzan duo. Mensha in particular was proving quite a handful for Valletta, supplementing his intelligent movement with some agile dribbling.
Although Valletta were pegged back by Balzan’s fluid football, they deserve credit for always dangerous with their counter approach. Their approach produced the first notable chance past the 20th minute when Nafti’s swerving shot was pushed over the bar by Cassar.
This proved to be the prelude to Valletta’s first goal which came against the run of play. The goal came from an unlikely source with hard-working Claudio Pani showing excellent composure to swivel before ramming a first-time shot past Cassar after good work on the flank by Uchenna.
Valletta were now stroking the ball better and it just look as though it was only a matter of when not if the Lilywhites would extend their lead. Nafti saw to that three minutes from half-time when Falcone served the Tunisian midfielder, who shrugged off the close marking of Clive Brincat to arch the ball over the despairing hands of Cassar.
The game remained lively after the break. Fifteen minutes from time, Balzan introduced also Ryan Fenech after a long lay-off, believed to be the last trump card up Oliver Spiteri’s sleeve to add thrust in midfield.
Fenech made an instant impact on an absorbing match when he swung in a cross which Effiong headed slightly to surprise Vella and bridge Balzan’s gap on Valletta to just one goal but their fightback was cut short.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, R. Camilleri, J. Gill Cruz, R. Briffa, N. Priso (L. Cremona), U. Calistus (I. Azzopardi), C. Pani, J. Caruana, A. Nafti (J. Suda), R. Romao, F. Falcone.
BALZAN- C. Cassar, M. Focsa, J. Grioli, G. Mensha, L. Micallef (R. Darmanin), C. Brincat, A. Effiong, S. Arab (D. Grima), E. Zarate (R. Fenech), E. Serrano, L. Sciberras.
Scorers: 36′ C. Pani, 43′ A. Nafti (V), 77′ A. Effiong (B)
Yellow Cards: F. Falcone, R. Camilleri, N. Vella (V), M. Focsa, E. Serrano (B)
Man of Match: Abdelkarim Nafti (V)
Referee: A. Azzopardi