Day 16 Valletta 2 Birkirkara 0
Valletta scored two second-half goals as they overcame Birkirkara and go top of the Premier League standings alongside rivals Hibernians.
Birkirkara created the first chance after 10 minutes when Maurizio Vella hit a curling drive that forced Henry Bonello to push to a corner.
Valletta soon responded and were unlucky not to take the lead on 18 minutes.
Mario Fontanella did well to create space for himself on the right and he sent a low cross towards the sprinting Bojan Kaljevic who saw his shot coming off the upright with Naumovski beaten.
At the other end Jorginho made his way into the area but was denied by the alert Bonello.
Valletta gradually started to take control of proceedings and on 20 minutes Piciollo hit a curling drive that was pushed away by Naumovski.
Two minutes later wingback Eduardo came to Birkirkara’s rescue when he showed great positioning to block Kaljevic’s thumping drive from inside the area and the Brazilian again denied the Montenegrin from the rebound.
On 27 minutes, Johann Bezzina threatened with a shot across the face of goal which found no takers.
Eleven minutes from the break, Alba fed Piciollo who saw his volley flash wide.
On 37 minutes, Birkirkara were awarded a corner, taken by Bezzina, and Daniel Chapoval’s backheader was pushed around the post by Bonello.
On the restart, Riise withdrew Vella and roped in Marcelinho as he looked to add more pace and flair to his team’s forward line and at the same time contain the incursions of Valletta wing back Joseph Zerafa.
Birkirkara tried to take the initiative on the restart. On 51 minutes Bezzina’s delivery from a corner was met by Chapoval who headed over.
The Stripes continued to be dangerous from set pieces seven minutes later Chapoval headed just over from another Bezzina corner.
Still it was Valletta who broke the stalemate just past the hour. They were awarded a free-kick and Alba’s delivery was poorly punched away by Naumovski. In came Santiago Malano who blasted the ball home.
More woes followed for Birkirkara as two minutes later Kurt Zammit suffered an injury and was replaced by Clayton Failla.
Riise looked to add more physical presence upfront when he withdrew Mifsud and roped in Luke Montebello.
Twenty minutes from time, Rowen Muscat picked Piciollo but his thumping volley finished just wide.
Birkirkara laid siege to the Valletta goal in the closing stages but for all their pressure they rarely tested Bonello.
Instead it was Valletta who wrapped up their win with a second goal in the first minute of stoppage time.
Valletta were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area and Bogdan Gavrila, who had replaced Fontanella, let fly a spectacular dipping spot that flew into the far corner, leaving Naumovski rooted to the spot.
It was mission accomplished for the champions.
Valletta’s Miguel Alba was named BOV Player of the match.
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, S. Malano, M. Piciollo, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, R. Muscat, M. Alba (B. Gavrilla), B. Kaljevic (J. Borg), M. Fontanella (K. Nwoko).
BIRKIRKARA – K. Naumovski, D. Chapoval, M. Guillaumier, M. Andelkovic, M. Vella (H. Marcelinho), J. Bezzina, K. Zammit (C. Failla), E. Ferreira, M. Mifsud (L. Montebello), C. Attard, J. Da Silva Pereira.
Yellow Cards: E. Pena Beltre, M. Fontanella, B. Gavrilla (V), M. Guillaumier, C. Attard (B)
Scorers: S. Malano 61′ , B. Gavrilla 90′.
BOV Player of the Match: M. Alba (V)
Referee: F. Zammit