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24 April 2014

Football: Bank Of Valletta Premier League analysis: Valletta maintain impressive march at the top with another derby win

 - Tuesday, 08 May 2012, 00:00 , by Henry Brincat

Only two issues remain to be decided before the end of this season’s Premier League.

In the Relegation Pool, it will be either Mosta or Mqabba to join Marsaxlokk in next year’s first division after Tarxien and Hamrun ascertained themselves of survival following the past weekend’s results. In the Championship Pool, while Valletta continued with their positive march at the top, Birkirkara now seem to be hot favourites to finish third, ahead of Floriana after the Stripes beat Sliema and Floriana went down to City in the usual fiery derby.

Henry Brincat takes a look at what happened the past weekend.

Valletta maintained their positive march at the top of the standings – they have now gone undefeated in the past 26 matches - when on Saturday they defeated their city and suburban rivals Floriana – another derby win for the Whites.

Not that they needed this win as the citizens had already been crowned champions for the 21st time in their history the previous weekend.

But despite the lack of motivation, Jesmond Zerafa’s boys did well to take the match seriously as they still have another important commitment in the next few weeks. In fact, they have already made it clear that they are now after the FA Trophy to make it a memorable double – something they missed last season.

Despite the determination from the part of the Greens in the first half, Valletta remained a solid outfit, even at the back – they have now gone four matches without conceding a goal.

As already said, Floriana provided Valletta with decent opposition in the first half, but in the second, without setting any houses on fire, the champions just confirmed their superiority never allowing their opponents a clear chance to get back into the match.

The Greens’ defeat set Birkirkara in motion the following day as the Stripes sensed their chance of overtaking Floriana in third place.

This was, in fact, what they did, as they overpowered Sliema Wanderers 4-1, despite playing without a host of unavailable players due to injury and suspension.

And despite the fact that both they and the Greens are assured of a berth in next season’s Europa League, Paul Zammit’s side is now close to assure themselves of third place.

They now have the simple task of beating bottom placed Balzan in their final encounter on Saturday. And they might not need that victory either, if Floriana fail to win their encounter against Sliema on Friday.

In the other Championship Pool clash, Hibernians defeated Balzan Youths 3-0 in a match which served the Paolites well in their preparation for their Trophy challenge, where they now hope to finish the season by winning the second major honour in local football.

As for the Youths, it was another match lacking any sort of motivation except for the fact of honouring their commitment. As has been stated previously, the Youths, promoted to the Premier last season, had done more than expected of them by winning a berth in the Top Six (Championship Pool).

The main item remaining to be decided is the second team to be relegated.

With Tarxien beating Hamrun and Mqabba going down against Qormi, the former two teams made sure of their stay in the Premier League for at least another season.

But for Mosta, easy 5-0 winners against Marsaxlokk, and Mqabba, it is still an ongoing story.

The decision will arrive between Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, Mqabba will be playing against Hamrun, while on Friday Mosta will be facing top Relegation Pool side Qormi.

After their encouraging performance against Qormi and despite the defeat, Mqabba must feel pretty confident that they might yet avoid the drop in the hope that they can beat the Spartans and Mosta go down against Qormi the following day.

Of course, if Mqabba win on Thursday, the Blues will need to be at their very best in their last encounter against Qormi – their main aim will be to avoid defeat as they only need to draw to send Mqabba to next year’s first division.

Tarxien Rainbows seem to be finishing the season in a crescendo following their excellent 3-0 win against Hamrun Spartans.

The Rainbows made sure of their stay among the elite with a polished performance against a side which must certainly show improvement, especially in view of their forthcoming FA Trophy semifinal commitment.

The Spartans have been sliding down in form in their last few matches. On such form, any of the other three teams drawn against them in the semifinals will be very happy.

Best player

Ousseni Zongo (Valletta FC)

The City midfielder/striker is my pick this week after yet another impressive performance, this time against City’s arch rivals Floriana.

Zongo has been a close second in my selections on more than one occasion this season, but this time, I felt he deserved the honour.

He was to be seen everywhere especially in the second half when he was involved in almost all of the City attacks.

His workrate was very impressive and he could have also added his name to the scoresheet had he not been unlucky.

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