Day 6 Valletta 0 Birkirkara 1
Champions Birkirkara landed the first significant blow in what is expected to be another fierce battle with Valletta after beating their rivals 1-0 this evening.
Under pressure to avoid a second consecutive defeat after their loss to leaders Hibernians, Birkirkara achieved their objective. Their winner came courtesy of an own goal by Valletta right-back Yessous Camilleri but Birkirkara deserved the three points as they played the better football, especially when attacking on the counter, while Valletta were too disjointed despite enjoying more possession in the second half.
Victory for Birkirkara moved them into third place on 13 points, one point behind Sliema and one ahead of Valletta.
Birkirkara began the game in brisk fashion but their early pressure was repelled by Valletta.
It was Valletta who went close to scoring on 12 minutes but Abdelkarim Nafti’s volley skimmed the near post.
The Citizens settled. Nafti was close again with an inswinging free-kick that was pushed over the bar by Birkirkara goalkeeper Justin Haber.
Balance prevailed in the opening stages as these two rivals stormed into each other.
Midway into the first half, Birkirkara wasted a golden chance to take the lead when Frank Temile, shrugging off the boos of the City fans, advanced on the right before putting in an inviting cross that just swept past the sliding Jhonnattann.
Valletta coach Mark Miller had revise his plans after Jason Vandelannoite hobbled off after picking up an injury. Gambian forward Aziz Corr Nyang came on for the Belgian.
A minute short of the half-hour, Birkirkara’s Jhonnattann raced into the box after dispossessing Luke Dimech before hitting a low cross that reached Paul Fenech who miscued his effort.
Birkirkara managed to break the deadlock on 32 minutes. Their goal owed a lot to good fortune as Yessous Camilleri diverted the ball into his own net after colliding with goalkeeper Pietro Marino as the two tried to intercept Jhonnattann who had jumped to reach a Haruna cross.
At the other end, Nafti’s acrobatic volley was deflected over the bar.
It was then Haber’s turn to foil Valletta as the Malta goalkeeper parried away Briffa’s piledriver.
From the ensuing corner, Nafti’s cross was met by Camilleri whose firm header looked to have beaten Haber who managed to get a touch to the ball. The impression from the media zone was that the ball may have crossed the line but the match officials saw otherwise.
Valletta were caught out on the counter as Gareth Sciberras released Haruna on the right who crossed for Jhonnattann but the latter was thwarted by Marino.
Twice in the opening minutes of the second half, Birkirkara produced two devastating counter-attacks that had Valletta on the backfott.
Jhonnattann was flagged offside in the first instance but, moments later, the Brazilian ficked the ball past the Valletta defenders and towards Haruna who blasted over with only Marino to beat.
In another fast raid, Birkirkara went close to a second goal as Haruna ran towards the byline before directing a low cross towards the far post but Jhonnattann’s effort was wide.
Valletta grew increasingly confused as they desperately pressed for an equaliser. Their pressure was easily repelled by Birkirkara who rarely looked in danger of conceding.
Late in the game, Denni fired wide from the distance and Luke Dimech headed into the hands of Haber as Birkirkara held on to their slim lead.
Jhonnattann, Birkirkara’s Brazilian forward, was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – P. Marino, R. Fenech, R. Briffa, D. Falzon (E. Agius), J. Caruana, A. Nafti, J. Vandelannoite (A. Corr Nyang), L. Dimech, D. Dos Santos, Y. Camilleri (J. P. Mifsud Triganza), H. Barry.
BIRKIRKARA – J. Haber, R. Muscat, A. Mendoza, J. Benites (D. Toure), P. Fenech, J. Zerafa, G. Sciberras, Z. Muscat, S. Haruna Shola (T. Vella), F. Temile (D. Zerafa), R. Camenzuli.
Date: 29-09-13 Time: 19:00 Venue: National Stadium
Yellow Cards: J. Benites, R. Camenzuli, R. Muscat (B) H. Barry, L. Dimech, J. Caruana (V)
Scorers: 32′ O.G. Y. Camilleri.
Man of Match: J. Benites (V)
Referee: Truston Farrugia Cann