Day 19 Valletta 1 Bkara 0
Valletta grabbed three important points at the expense of their arch-rivals Birkirkara, to stay in the title race.
With leaders Balzan having opened up a five-point gap with Valletta, the onus was on the champions to keep up their pursuit of the leaders. True to their never-say-die attitude, Valletta responded to latest adversity with a resolute performance against Birkirkara.
Valletta made a brisk start. In the 13th minute, Santiago Malano slipped an excellent ball from free-kick to Romao who darted into the box but his low strike was saved by Henry Bonello, playing for the first time against his former club.
After 27 minutes, Malano was quick to pounce on some hesitant defending by Muir on the left wing, who moved into the box before let fly a pulverising drive into the far post.
Birkirkara were stung into action. In 39th minute, Vito Plut charged clear on the right before finding with a cut-back Matthew Guillaumier in a penalty area, whose shot-on-the-turn whizzed wide of the far post.
Gonzalo Malan then flashed his shot against the side-netting as the Stripes finished the opening period on the offensive.
Birkirkara’s attacking threat had been negligible for much of the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Uchenna briefly interrupted a lull in scoring chances with an incursion into the box but his rising shot finished off target.
The match was littered by a series of miscued passes and scrappy touches amid another Uchenna’s rising effort which continued to pile the pressure on their arch-rivals.
On 78 minutes, Romao exchanged the ball with substitute Luke Montebello, before swinging in a teasing cross from the right and Jean Borg who came in for Uchenna, had to exercise his neck muscle to reach the ball but failed to trouble Bonello.
Five minutes from time, Birkirkara would have made it 1-1 were it not for the woodwork. Malan passed to Srdan Dimitrov who ran inside the box but his scorcher crashed against the post.
The better team, however, won.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – D. Barktus, R. Camilleri, S. Borg, R. Romao, J. Caruana, S. Malano (N. Pulis), L. Aguirre, U. Calistus (J. Borg), L. Cremona, C. Pani, T. Radzinevicius (L. Montebello).
BKARA – H. Bonello, C. Bubalovic, G. Sciberras, M. Guillaumier (R. Scicluna), M. Andelkovic, S. Dimitrov, G. Malan, V. Plut, N. Vukanac, C. Attard, G. Muir (J. Zerafa).
Scorers: 28′ S. Malano (V)
Yellow Cards: C. Pani, L. Aguirre (V), G. Malan, G. Muir (B).
Man of Match: S. Malano (V)
Referee: M. Spiteri