Matchday 03: Valletta 1 Birkirkara 1
Birkirkara will be ruing Alexander Satariano’s big miss midway into the second half as they saw their narrow one-goal lead slip from their hands in stoppage time at the National Stadium on Wednesday.
Valletta managed to peg the Stripes back with a brilliant header by Federico Falcone, former Birkirkara forward, as the two teams shared the spoils.
Both sides were at the back of a defeat and were eyeing to bounce back with a victory to keep in touch with the upper side of the standings.
After three outings, Birkirkara and Valletta are now on four points with the Stripes set to face Hibernians while Mosta are the Citizens’ next opponents.
Malta international Satariano produced the game’s first chance when he tried to beat Jake Galea with a header but his effort was in vain.
Despite this chance early in the game, opportunities were at a premium as the game grew cagier and nervier, characterised by several duels at the heart of the midfield.
Birkirkara, then, were forced to replace wingback Enmy Pena Beltre after picking up an injury, with youngster Nathan Cross taking his place.
Both teams produced a balanced game as the slightest mistake could prove costly in this match and in fact, it was a Juan Bolanos’ slip that led to Birkirkara’s opener.
Satariano pounced on the loose ball after the Valletta defender hesitated to progress with the ball before Paul Mbong latched onto the assist to slot from point-blank range.
The Colombian defender was taken off the game later, having suffered an injury as well, with summer signing Neil Micallef replacing him.
Birkirkara’s Satariano tried his luck to double the lead but his shot from inside the penalty area sailed over Galea’s bar.
After the change of ends, Valletta came out looking for an equaliser with Brandon Paiber firing a long-range effort just to see it go wide.
The Citizens came close to level terms with Jhonnattann but his close-range header was not enough to beat Birkirkara’s goalkeeper.
At the other end of the field, Satariano threatened Valletta with a low drive which was deflected into a corner.
On the 76th minute, Satariano squandered a glorious chance to double Birkirkara’s lead when he pounced on goalkeeper Galea’s mistake but in front of an empty net, the Malta international forward missed the target.
Valletta replied through Federico Falcone who tested Birkirkara’s goalkeeper from outside the area but his effort was in vain.
However, Falcone was not to be denied in stoppage time when he beat Zapytowski with a perfect header into the far corner to the delight of the Valletta fans.
Moments later, Paiber almost turned the score to Valletta’s favour just to see Zapytowski block his fierce strike as the two teams shared the spoils in a two-goal stalemate.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: J. Galea; J. Bolanos, E. Ruiz, F. Barrientos (30 N. Micallef), S. Ferraris (54 D. Quintero), S. Dimech (69 L. Susnjara), F. Falcone, B. Paiber, V. Filho, F. Vega, Jhonatthann (69 D. Garba).
BIRKIRKARA: M. Zapytowski; D. Mariani, J. Pajovic, Adailton (88 Maxuell), Y. Yankam, P. Mbong (69 A. Ciolacu), K. Zammit, A. Satariano, E. Pena Beltre (16 N. Cross), S. Zibo, A. Diakite.
Scorers: 21′ P. Mbong (B), 90′ F. Falcone (V)
Referee: Ishmael Barbara.
Yellow cards: P. Mbong, A. Satariano, A. Ciolacu, K. Zammit (B), D. Quintero, V. Filho (V)
Man of Match: E. Ruiz (V)