Matchday 03: Valletta 1 Floriana 1
It could be early this season for Valletta to bring back their title mojo but their late leveller against rivals Floriana pointed out why they are champions as their tenacity and grind rescued them a point in a derby which seemed to be slipping from their hands.
The first noteworthy action of the game came from the Valletta end when Yuri released a shot from the edge of the target but ended straight into Ini Akpan’s hands.
Floriana’s reply came through the usual Kristian Keqi, scorer of Floriana’s first two goals of the season, but his overhead kick went inches wide.
Valletta’s supporters yelled ‘goal’ on the seventh minute as they thought Irakli Dzaria’s towering header went past Akpan but the latter just managed to deflect the ball into corner.
On minute 11, midfielder Rowen Muscat released a long-distance shot but his effort went in vain.
Once again, Valletta threatened through Yuri but his free-kick from the edge sailed over the bar as the teams were still locked at 0-0 after 20 minutes.
Past the half-hour mark, Diego Venancio sent shivers down Valletta’s spine when he hit a trademark shot from outside the eighteen-yard box just to be denied by the crossbar before the ball rolled out.
Valletta appeared to take more risks but Floriana’s organised backline were closing down any passing channels and the former were forced to bank on their shooters, namely Matteo Piciollo and Yuri. Neither of them could hit the base of the net.
Whatever pep talk Darren Abdilla gave to his Valletta players had to be scrapped seconds into the restart of the game as Floriana forged ahead.
Keqi darted into the box before he was obstructed by Steve Borg with referee Matthew Degabriele ordering a penalty immediately.
Albanian forward Keqi hit a well-struck penalty to make it three goals in as many games for the Greens.
Akpan came to Floriana rescue, denying Kevin Tulimieri from long-range after a well-engineered passing combination between Piciollo and Mario Fontanella that propelled the Brazilian towards a shot.
Abdilla called forward Bojan Kaljevic into action while youth Shaun Dimech replaced Georgian midfielder Dzaria, who although showed he is a good player in exploiting the vacuum, did not really impress.
For all the pressure that Valletta exerted on their rivals, they struggled to break down Floriana’s team who were really compact, highlighting the impressive work that coach Potenza has done at the helm of the Greens.
As the half wore on, Potenza opted to be more conservative, replacing forward Augusto Caseres with Edward Herrera for more coverage in the middle of the park.
Despite pushing numbers forward, Valletta lacked inspiration but they still found a way to deny their rivals the win when off a corner kick, Floriana failed to clear the danger as the ball dropped onto Enmy Pena Beltre’s feet and the Dominican Republic international did not hesitate to send the ball into the net for the wild celebrations of the Citizens fans.
Kristian Keqi of Floriana was named BOV Player of the Match.
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, R. Camilleri (K. Nwoko), S. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, M. Fontanella, M. Piciollo, K. Tulimieri, R. Muscat, J. Messias (B. Kaljevic), I. Dzaria (S. Dimech)
FLORIANA: I. Akpan, E. Ruiz, D. Venancio, K. Keqi, J. Arias, D. Paiber (C. Borg), J. Pisani, N. Garcia (M. Beye), A. Caseres (E. Herrera), A. Cini, R. Camezuli.
Scorers: 47′ K. Keqi (F), 94′ E. Pena Beltre (V)
Yellow Cards: D. Paiber, J. Pisani, N. Garcia (F), I. Dzaria, K. Tulimieri, B. Kaljevic, J. Zerafa (V)
BOV Player of the Match: K. Keqi (F).
Referee: M. Degabriele