FA Trophy – Valletta 3 Mosta 1
Lateef Elford-Alliyu stole the headlines as his well-taken brace helped Valletta to a 3-1 victory over Mosta to secure their place in the semi-finals of the FA Trophy yesterday.
Yet, it was Gambian winger Hamza Barry who made all the difference with another outstanding display of attacking football which left the Mosta defence stretched throughout the match.
Shaun Bajada put the holders ahead shy the half hour mark before a penalty by Gary Roberts brought Mosta back on level terms.
But the game turned Valletta’s way following the sending off of Mosta defender Ousman Koli three minutes later. Elford-Alliyu struck twice early in the second half as the Citizens coasted to the last four of the competition.
Elford-Alliyu made his first start for Valletta after four matches as Ivan Zammit made two alterations to the team that drew 1-1 against Birkirkara. The English forward was preferred to Llywelyn Cremona as Bajada replaced the injured Jonathan Caruana.
On his part, Peter Smith, the Mosta coach, handed a debut to new recruits Koli and Alieu Darbo at the expense of Ian Zammit and Haruna Babangida.
Less than two minutes into the game, Barry stole possession in the centre of the pitch and served Abdelkarim Nafti who unleashed a shot that brought a good save from Mosta goalkeeper Omar Borg.
From the resultant corner, Borg needed the help of team-mate Rodriguez Ekani to clear off the line an effort from Elford-Alliyu which looked destined to hit the net.
Moments later the Mosta no.1 showed great reflexes to thwart Ian Azzopardi.
But it was clear the Mosta defence was struggling and Bajada finally found a way through when he put Valletta ahead on 29 minutes.
A ferocious shot by Briffa was repelled by the Mosta backline but Bajada resolved a goalmouth melee by rifling the ball home.
But Valletta’s advantage lasted only nine minutes as Mosta’s livewire Ekani weaved into the penalty area and went down under a challenge from Ryan Camilleri. Irish referee Ben Connolly pointed to the spot and Roberts sent goalkeeper Pietro Marino the wrong way with a perfectly-executed penalty kick.
But Mosta suffered a blow four minutes from half-time when Koli clattered into the advancing Briffa.
The referee ran towards the Gambian defender and brandished a second yellow card.
While Koli’s dismissal inevitably jolted Mosta, Valletta had been the brighter side until then with forwards Barry and Elford-Alliyu hassling the Mosta defenders with their sprightly movement.
Valletta stayed in command after the interval and soon made their superiority count when Barry’ series of step-overs bamboozled Karl Pulo on the right flank before the Gambian winger squared for Elford-Alliyu to prod the ball into the net.
It was not long before Valletta made it 3-1.
This time, the build-up was even slicker than for the second goal with Barry and Elford-Alliyu once again involved with the Englishman curling in an excellent shot from inside the box.
Valletta’s inclination to attack down the right flank was giving Mosta a torrid time. Past the hour mark, Camilleri ran clear on that flank before floating a dangerous ball to Elford-Alliyu but the latter’s grounder hit the foot of the post.
Buoyed by a two-goal salvo, Valletta coach Zammit opted to give home-grown hopes Jean Borg and Kurt Borg their chance to shine.
But the Lilywhites did not ease up and five minutes from time, Borg made a good save to stop Kurt Borg’s fierce shot after the youngster had got on the end of Barry’s cross.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – P. Marino, I. Azzopardi (J. Borg), S. Borg, R. Camilleri, R. Fenech, H. Barry, R. Briffa, S. Bajada, A. Nafti (L. Cremona), L. Dimech (K. Borg), L. Elford.
MOSTA – O. Borg, T. Farrugia, K. Magro (I. Zammit), M. Brincat, K. Pulo, R. Ekani, G. Roberts, R. Grech, A. Darbo (U. Fortune), O. Koli, M. Dawood (D. Falzon).
Date: 13.02.15 Time: 18:00 Venue: National Stadium
Scorers: 30′ S. Bajada, 52′, 60′ L. Elford (V), 37′ G. Roberts (M)
Yellow Cards: O. Koli, R. Grech, G. Roberts (M) R. Camilleri, R. Fenech, A. Nafti (V)
Red Card: O. Koli (M)
Referee: Ben Connolly (IRE)