FA Trophy – Bkara 1 Valletta 0
The celebrations that greeted the final whistle left no-one in doubt about how much this win meant for Birkirkara.
They exerted a modicum of revenge for their 4-0 league rout to Valletta last month as Ryan Camenzuli, the young winger who has survived the mid-season player clear-out, struck just past the hour to propel Birkirkara into the quarter-finals.
After a tumultuous period instigated by their loss to their archrivals, Birkirkara had a point to prove and they did give their supporters, and president Adrian Delia, a much-needed lift. Still shorn of a recognised
striker in their team following the departure of Fabrizio Miccoli, who was at the stadium last night, and
the absence of Vito Plut, the Stripes, very much a works-inprogress, found the going tough in the opening period as Valletta fashioned the better chances.
However, the Stripes’ discipline stood them in good stead. Their second-half revival earned them an uplifting win that handed new coach Drazen Besek a massive boost as the Croatian passed his first big test since replacing Giovanni Tedesco.
Besek handed starting roles to most of his new recruits as goalkeeper Miroslav Kopric, rightback Goran Mujanovic and midfielder Mislav Andelkovic, all from Croatia, made their first appearance for the FA Trophy holders.
New signing Michael Mifsud, who rejoined Valletta yesterday from Sliema Wanderers, was awarded a place in the squad. There was little in the way of scoring chances as both teams struggled to make headway in attack in the opening 20 minutes. Midway into the first half, City keeper Nicky Vella made himself big in the box to intercept a corner.
The Citizens were quick to get the ball forward as Jhonnattann’s trickery took him past Joseph Zerafa
but his firm drive was wide. Nikola Vukanac then charged down a shot from Federico Falcone. Another inviting opening went abegging when Llywelyn Cremona broke down a Birkirkara attack and served Calistus who in turn guided an astute ball to Jhonnattann but out came Kopric to block City’s progression.
Temile terribly miscued his shot on 36 minutes as the Stripes toiled to create chances. Valletta produced another good move when Falcone cut inside Vukanac and crossed for Roderick Briffa but his effort was blocked by Zerafa.
Birkirkara sought to quicken the pace of their game after the change of ends but it was Valletta who nearly scored. Falcone laid the ball off to Jhonnattann on the edge of the area and the latter’s looping shot crashed against the crossbar.
But the Stripes were now playing with more intent. Their improvement produced dividends as, two minutes past the hour, Andelkovic, much more effective going forward than in the first half, teed up Camenzuli on the left and the latter’s ferocious shot had the better of Vella.
Valletta had to chase the game now but Birkirkara remained dangerous. Vella parried away Edmond Agius’s piledriver from the distance just before Zammit threw on Mifsud for Cremona. Jhonnattann’s diagonal incursion from the right unsettled the Birkirkara defence but his low cross was blocked.
Mifsud was high after receiving from Calistus as the Whites sought an equaliser. In stoppage time, Zerafa was sent off for lunging at Romao but Birkirkara hung on to seal their passage into the quarter-finals.
Source – Times of Malta
VALLETTA – N. Vella, J. Gill Cruz, R. Briffa, J. Caruana, A. Nafti (U. Calistus), R. Romao, F. Falcone, J. Benites, C. Pani, R. Camilleri (J.P. Mifsud Triganza), L. Cremona (M. Mifsud).
BIRKIRKARA – M. Kopric, G. Mujanovic, N. Vukanac, M. Mazzetti, J. Zerafa, G. Sciberras, E. Agius, A. Mislav, E. Bilbao Zarate (K. Zammit), F. Temile (M. Guillaumier), R. Camenzuli.
Scorers: 63′ R. Camenzuli
Yellow Cards: L. Cremona, R. Briffa (V)
Red Card: J. Zerafa (B)
Referee: M. Apap