Day 27: Valletta 3 Mosta 1
Valletta maintained their pursuit of second-placed Birkirkara with a 3-1 win over Mosta.
It was mixed performance from the champions who looked disjointed for much of the opening hour but rediscovered their form in the final 30 minutes to outplay Mosta.
The game had just started when Mosta’s Haruna Babangida, pushing forward on the right, passed to Udo Fortune whose mishit shot glanced off Hillary with the ball twisting dangerously across the six-yard box.
Ryan Fenech hit wide from a long-range free-kick but it was Mosta who came close again on 12 minutes.
Gary Roberts made an intelligent run before hitting a reverse pass to Fortune whose angled drive was pushed away by Pietro Marino, the Valletta goalkeeper.
Roberts’ cross from the ensuing corner soared into the six-yard box but Fortune blasted high from underneath the crossbar.
Nafti was also high from the distance but Valletta could not settle into their usual rhythm.
Ikenna gave the Whites a boost on 28 minutes as the Nigerian drilled his shot past Omar Borg from the edge of the area.
With 11 minutes of the first half left, Zammit had to make his first substitution as Roderick Briffa, who had missed the 2-1 win over Pietà Hotspurs with a minor injury, was unable to continue. He was replaced by Llywelyn Cremona.
On the stroke of half-time, Ikenna, again pushing forward from midfield, freed Nafti who jinked his way into the box but his low strike was blocked by the alert Tyrone Farrugia.
Mosta almost punished Valletta’s slow start to the second half but Fortune nodded wide from point blank.
The City fans urged their team to increase their efforts.
Nafti set off on a good run through the middle before switching the ball to Shaun Bajada. The experienced midfielder cut inside from the right but drove high.
Mosta equalised on 58 minutes thanks to Roberts who was given space and time to control a pass before hitting past Marino after his shot had taken a deflection off Ian Azzopardi.
Valletta quickly re-established their one-goal lead thanks to Cremona who tapped the ball home after receiving from Fenech.
The Whites were now playing greater purpose.
Cremona’s long-range drive was off target and, with 18 minutes left, Bajada’s curling corner sailed towards the far post but Borg was alert to the danger.
Borg was prominent again with another fine save from Fenech’s screamer as Valletta turned the screw. The show from the Mosta goalkeeper continued as he produced another close-range save after Bajada’s corner appeared to come off Roberts in the six-yard box.
Bajada’s shot landed on the roof of the net but Barry sealed Valletta’s win, finishing off a solo move with a clinical finish.
Nafti, the Valletta forward, was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – P. Marino, R. Camilleri, H. Barry, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, A. Nafti (K. Borg), I. Hillary, R. Briffa (L. Cremona), S. Bajada (L. Dimech), S. Borg, R. Fenech.
MOSTA: O. Borg, T. Farrugia, R. Grech, I. Zammit, F. Udo, D. Fazlon, K. Magro (A. Darbo), H. Babangida (A. Sammut), O. Koli, G. Roberts (G. Saliba), M. Brincat.
Scorers: 28′ I. Hillary, 65′ L. Cremona, 84′ H. Barry (V), 59′ G. Roberts (M)
Yellow Cards: none
Man of Match: A. Nafti (V)
Referee: A. Arciola