FA Trophy – Valletta 7 Birzebbuga 1
This was a walk in the park for Valletta. it took the FA Trophy holders less than 18 minutes to seal their passage into fourth round after producing an early four-goal burst to set the tone for this lop-sided match against Division One strugglers Birżebbuġa St Peter’s.
With the derby against Floriana looming on Saturday, Valletta coach Ivan Zammit named a host of youngsters and fringe players in his selection as the likes of goalkeeper Yenz Cini, Luke Montebello and Llywelyn Cremona were joined by Raphael Kooh Sohna and experienced defender Luke Dimech.
Notwithstanding the changes, this was hardly a weak Valletta team as it featured a host of Malta senior and Under-21 internationals plus three foreigners. Valletta had another three overseas players on the bench but there was no sign of Australian winger Adrian Zahra who has been reportedly released by the champions.
Birżebbuġa were intent on limiting the damage but their flaws, especially in defence, were soon exposed by the champions who
took less than seven minutes to break the stalemate. And it was a gem of a goal as Ryan Fenech’s thumping drive, from a long-range free-kick, soared past the helpless Andrea Boatto and into the top corner.
Four minutes later, the Citizens extended their lead. Birżebbuġa defender Darrell Grech was adjudged to have blocked Shaun
Bajada’s cross with his hands and from the ensuing penalty, Kooh Sohna, the central figure in Valletta’s three-man attack, drilled the ball into the net.
The flurry of goals continued. A mistake by Julian Briffa gifted Valletta a third goal. The Saints defender looked to have Ryan Camilleri’s cross covered but his backpass towards Boatto was intercepted by Montebello who prodded home.
Three minutes passed and Montebello struck his second and Valletta’s fourth, hitting past Boatto from inside the box after receiving from Hamza Barry. The Saints managed to reduce the deficit through Nicolo Clerico who, pouncing on a misunder
standing between Cini and Dimech, chipped the ball over the Valletta goalkeeper.
A minute short of the half-hour, Boatto blocked Montebello’s scrambled volley after the young striker had met Bajada’s cross.
Three goals to the good, Valletta continued to dominate possession. Barry, often switching flanks, produced a couple of dazzling runs but his final shots were blocked.
Christian Caruana, replacing Fenech at the start of the second half, threatened to make an instant impact as he embarked on a jinking run but his rising effort came off the crossbar.
UAE defender Hamid Alkamali made a rare appearance for Valletta after coming on for Camilleri early in the second half.
With 17 minutes left, Lateef Elford-Alliyu, who had just replaced Barry, passed to Montebello who twisted and turned in the box before flicking the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick.
After Cini effected a fine save to parry away Clerico’s acrobatic volley, Valletta struck their sixth, Hugo Faria stroking home from point blank after receiving from Elford Alliyu. in the first minute of stoppage time, Caruana put his name on the scoresheet with a glancing header from Bajada’s corner.
VALLETTA – Y. Cini, R. Camilleri (H. Alkamali), S. Borg, H. Barry (L. Elford), R. Fenech (C. Caruana), H. Faria, S. Bajada, R. Kooh Sohna, L. Montebello, L. Cremona, L. Dimech.
BIRZEBBUGA: – A. Boatto, P. Camilleri (G. Magri), L. Micallef, E. Luiz Bonati, G. Caruana, D. Kokavesis (A. Cutajar), N. Clerico, J. Briffa, L. Camilleri, K. Muscat, D. Grech (R. Micallef).
Date: 02.12.14 Time: 18:00 Venue: Victor Tedesco Stadium
Scorers: 7′ R. Fenech, 12′ R. Kooh Sohna, 15′ 18′ 73′ L. Montebello, 80′ H. Faria, 90. C. Caruana (V) 20′ N. Clerico (B)
Yellow Cards: Camilleri (B), L. Cremona (V)
Referee: Clayton Pisani