Day 30: Valletta 0 Floriana 2
Floriana put a dent in Valletta’s title hopes after beating their rivals to end their long wait for a derby win in the Premier League.
Facing their sporting adversaries on the eve of the feast of St Publius increased the importance of today’s derby clash for the Floriana fans and their players were clearly up for the challenge as they produced a brilliant performance that knocked their opponents off their stride.
The game was a nervy affair, one that produced two red cards, a spate of cautions and countless fouls but Floriana were clearly the better team with Italian winger Matteo Piciollo stealing the show with a five-star display.
The Italian was a constant threat to the Floriana defenders with his running on the wings and delivered the two goal assists that gave the Greens their first league win over their rivals since 2007.
Floriana are not the only team celebrating today as the result also favoured Hibs who will reduce the gap on Valletta to three points if they beat Tarxien Rainbows tomorrow.
The third and final derby for this season drew a sizeable crowd to the National Stadium.
Valletta’s Jhonnattann tried his luck with a diagonal shot that was saved in two attempts by Matthew Grech after just four minutes.
Floriana were forced into an early change after Antonio Monticelli picked up an injury. He was replaced by Juninho Cabral.
There was another chance for Valletta on 15 minutes when Roderick Briffa headed the ball into the path of Jhonnattann whose half-volley sailed high.
Floriana’s aggressive pressing prevented Valletta from settling into their usual rhythm.
Matteo Piciollo pulled clear of a host of City players before delivering a low shot that ended wide after taking a deflection.
Valletta’s difficulties to cope with their opponents’ pressing were evident on 26 minutes when Romao’s poor backpass was cleared badly by Juan Cruz Gill and Piciollo seized possession.
Romao, who had already been booked for an earlier foul on the Italian forward, reacted by bringing down Piciollo just outside the box, prompting strong protests from the Floriana players and fans.
Referee Fyodor Zammit duly showed Romao a yellow card followed by the red.
From the ensuing free-kick, Nicolas Chiesa’s swerving drive looked destined to sail into the top corner but goalkeeper Henry Bonello jumped to his right to touch the ball away for a corner.
Coach Paul Zammit switched Llywelyn Cremona to right-back.
Cremona put in a good cross from the right wing seven minutes from half-time but Nafti’s shot was too central to trouble Grech.
A cross by Nafti was partially cleared by the Floriana defenders but Briffa miscued his shot.
Just when it looked as though Valletta had done enough to keep the score goalless, Floriana took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Piciollo played a key role as he advanced on the left before hitting a low cross towards Mario Fontanella who poked the ball past Bonello.
At half-time, Floriana coach Luis Oliveira, who watched the game from the VIP zone as he started a two-match touchline ban, withdrew the edgy Juninho, who was on a yellow card, in favour of striker Mauricio Villa.
Falcone should have done better when Cremona’s through-ball eluded Marcelina but the Argentine rifled high. Valletta’s optimism rose when Emanuel Briffa was sent off after earning a second yellow card for a late tackle on the advancing Jhonnattannn. The Brazilian’s ensuing free-kick came off the far post before glancing off the diving Grech.
A mishit clearance from Grech presented Nafti with a chance but the Tunisian shot wide from outside the box.
The game grew increasingly tense as both sets of players were involved in several verbal exchanges.
Floriana should have killed the game when Piciollo again sprinted into the box from the right before crossing for Fontanella who nodded wide with the goal at his mercy.
Bonello then saved Villa’s cross and, at the other end, Briffa was wide with an angled effort.
Midway into the second half, Piciollo ran into the box after another brilliant run, this time down the left, but his cross was fumbled by Villa who was tightly marked by Caruana.
Floriana deservedly doubled their lead 18 minutes from time.
Piciollo again stormed clear of Calistus on the left before passing to Villa who sidefooted past Bonello.
Piciollo was named BOV plater of the match.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – H. Bonello, J. Caruana, F. Falcone, J. Benites, J. Gill Cruz, R. Briffa, A. Nafti (M. Mifsud) , L. Cremona (I. Azzopardi) , U. Calistus, R. Romao, C. Pani (J. Suda).
FLORIANA. – M. Grech, A. Scicluna, A. Monticelli (J. Cabral) (M. Villa), S. Pisani, C. Borg, M. Piciollo (N. Spiteri), S. Bonnici, E. Briffa, N. Chiesa, M. Fontanella, E. Marcelina.
Scorers: 46 M. Fontanella, 72 M. Villa
Yellow Cards: U. Calistus, R. Briffa, A. Nafti, J. Caruana (V), J. Cabral, A. Scicluna (F)
Red Cards: R. Romao (V), E. Briffa (F)
Man of Match: M. Picollo
Referee: Fyodor Zammit