Day 31: Valletta 2 Birkirkara 1
Valletta were back to winning ways when they needed a late Hamza Barry goal to overcome Birkirkara 2-1 at the National Stadium.
The Citizens made all the early running and on 16 minutes they were awarded a corner kick from which Nafti’s inswinger was misjudged by goalkeeper Justin Haber and in came Steve Borg to head the ball into the net.
On 26 minutes Roderick Briffa’s delightful chip released Abdelkarim Nafti whose attempted lob over the onrushing Haber finished just wide.
Seven minutes later, Valletta almost caught Birkirkara napping when in a swift break, Nafti put Elford Alliyu clear but the English striker was thwarted by a fine tackle from Zerafa who cleared the danger.
Birkirkara’s first attempt at goal arrived on 36 minutes but Rafael Ledesma’s low shot lacked power to trouble Vella.
A minute from half-time Birkirkara protested for a penalty when Camenzuli was brought down in the area by Dimech. However, Adrian Azzopardi deemed that Dimech did not make contact with Camenzuli and instead awarded the Stripes an indirect free-kick from inside the area for dangerous play.
From the ensuing free-kick, Ledesma effort flew high and wide.
Paul Zammit, the Birkirkara coach, tried to infuse more firepower on the restart when he withdrew Camenzuli and roped in Liliu.
Valletta continued to run the show and on 48 minutes Barry picked Nafti on the edge of the area and the Tunisian quickly released Bajada whose low shot was blocked by Haber.
Birkirkara were handed a way back into the match on 53 minutes when from a corner action Vella fumbled the ball in an attempt to block Ledesma’s cross and in came Ryan Scicluna who bundled the ball into the net.
The Citizens remained the brighter side and on 73 minutes Barry was again denied by Haber.
Thirteen minutes from time Valletta protested for a penalty when Nafti fell following an aerial challenge by Mazzetti Latini but the referee was untoward.
But the City fans were soon celebrating as eight minutes from time Briffa chipped the ball towards Llywelyn Cremona who was anticipated by Zach Muscat who inadvertently headed towards the unmarked Barry who had an easy task to chip over Haber.
Valletta midfielder Hamza Barry was voted as the BOV Player of the match.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, J. Caruana, R. Camilleri, A. Nafti, R. Briffa (N. Pulis), S. Borg, R. Fenech, L. Elford (L. Cremona), S. Bajada (I. Azzopardi), H. Barry, L. Dimech.
BIRKIRKARA: J. Haber, R. Rodrigues Ledesma, N. Vukanac, M. Latini Mazzetti, J. zerefa, E. Herrera, P. Fenech, Z. Muscat (K. Zammit), R. Muscat, R. Camenzuli (E. Costa Morais), R. Scicluna (M. Bissi da Silva).
Scorers: 17′ S. Borg (V), 54′ R. Scicluna (B), 81′ H. Barry (V)
Yellow Cards: L. Dimech, R. Camilleri, A. Nafti, S. Borg (V), Z. Muscat (B)
Man of Match: H. Barry (V)
Referee: Adrian Azzopardi