Matchday 10: Valletta 0 Floriana 3
Floriana sent a major statement of intent as the Malta champions scored a goal in each half to see off their neighbouring rivals Valletta at the National Stadium.
It was an impressive performance for the Greens who showed the better ideas throughout the 90 minutes as their speed and clinical finishing was too much for the depleted Citizens who struggled to leave their mark into the match.
In the end, the three points lifted Floriana three points clear of Valletta in seventh place on 16 points but still six behind leaders Sliema Wanderers, albeit with a game in hand.
Floriana, on the other hand, were again without Brazilian duo Flavio Cheveresan and Diego Venancio, who are sidelined by injury.
Floriana should have taken the lead from their first scoring opportunity after only four minutes of play when Kristjan Keqi initiated a counter-attack when serving Brandon Paiber on the right who quickly put Ulises Arias clear but the latter was denied by the onrushing Yenz Cini.
On six minutes, the Citizens lost Enmy Pena Beltre due to a groin injury and was replaced by Ryan Camilleri.
Valletta’s response arrived on 15 minutes when Joseph Zerafa tried to surprise Ini Akpan with an audacious chip but the Floriana no.1 tipped over the bar.
It was Floriana who drew first blood on 26 minutes when in another swift raid, Arias’s pass put Keqi clear and the Albanian forward kept his poise to slide the ball past Cini.
Valletta, under the charge of interim coach Gilbert Agius, were without goalkeeper Henry Bonello who was not in the 18-man squad but defenders Eslit Sala and Mihailo Jovanovic returned from suspension.
Floriana’s transition play was hurting badly Valletta as the speed of Keqi, Arias and Paiber were constantly exposing Valletta’s backline.
As the minutes passed, Valletta were starting to see more off the ball but they lacked the necessary speed in their play to create any openings in the Greens defence as Floriana headed for the interval with a one goal advantage.
After the break, Agius brought on Leandro Aguirre for Jonathan Caruana as he looked to add speed on the flanks with Eslit Sala moved to a central defensive role.
Floriana could have added a second goal on 57 minutes when Arias sped inside the area but was denied by Cini.
On 65 minutes, Jan Busuttil replaced Leone and the former Pietà forward quickly left his mark as eight minutes later he played in Arias who with only Cini the Argentina fired into the back of the net.
More woes followed for the Citizens as 15 minutes from time they were reduced to ten men when Zerafa was shown a second yellow card and was dismissed.
Floriana wrapped up the points with a third goal on 87 minutes when Busuttil played in Keqi who hit past Cini.
VALLETTA: Y. Cini, J. Caruana (L. Aguirre), T. Caruana (I. Micallef), S. Malano, S. Dimech (R. Fenech), E. Pena Beltre (R. Camilleri), J. Zerafa, E. Sala, M. Alba (R. Tonna), M. Jovanovic , M. Fontanella.
FLORIANA: I. Akpan, E. Ruiz, N. Leone (J. Busuttil), K. Keqi, U. Arias (D. Agius), B. Paiber (A. Garcia), J. Pisani, M. Garcia, M. Dias (A. Cini), R. Camenzuli, T. Fonseca
Referee: M. De Gabriele
Scorers: 25′ 87′ K. Keqi, 74′ U. Arias (F).
Yellow Cards: N. Leone, T. Fonseca (F), M. Jovanovic, M. Alba, J. Zerafa (V).
Red Card: J. Zerafa (V)
BOV Player of the Match: K. Keqi (F)