The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

BOV Premier League: Valletta inflict first defeat for Riise’s Birkirkara

Stewart Said Sunday, 3 February 2019, 19:20 Last update: about 4 months ago
Photos: James Galea
Photos: James Galea

VALLETTA              2
BIRKIRKARA         0

Valletta: H. Bonello, E. Pena Beltre, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, J. Zerafa, R. Muscat, S. Malano, M. Alba (B. Gavrila 82'), M. Piciollo, M. Fontanella (K. Nwoko 79'), B. Kaljevic (J. Borg 75')

Birkirkara: K. Naumovski, C. Attard, D. Chapoval, E. Ferreira, K. Zammit (C. Failla 65'), M. Andelkovic, M. Guillaumier, J. Bezzina, M. Vella (M. de Siqueira 46'), M. Mifsud (L. Montebello 67'), J. Pereira da Silva

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Yellow Cards: E. Pena Beltre 37', M. Fontanella 77', B. Gavrila 93' (V), M. Guillaumier 43', C. Attard 53' (B)

Scorers: S. Malano 61', B. Gavrila 92' (V)

Referee: Fyodor Zammit

Assistant Referees: Roberto Vella, Duncan Sultana

TMI Top 3: 1. M. Alba (V), 2. M. Fontanella (V), 3. D. Chapoval (B)

BOV Player of the Match: Miguel Alba (Valletta)

Attendance: 3113

Two second half goals gave Valletta a precious win as they swept past Birkirkara to open a gap of nine points over the Stripes. This win cemented Valletta's place on top of the table along with Hibernians.

Birkirkara's aim now will be focusing on claiming a post in Europa League next season either through winning the FA Trophy or finishing in the first four. This was the first loss since their Sporting Director John Arne Riise took the technical responsibilities of the team.

Valletta deserved the win. They created a good number of chances in the first half while they controlled the play after taking the lead. Birkirkara looked a bit inferior as they took time to settle at the start while they failed to pile the pressure on their opponents after the first goal.

The first half was played on a high tempo. Valletta were the team dictating the play but Birkirkara were dangerous with their counter-attacks. Mario Fontanella could have put Valletta in the lead after half a minute, but failed to control the ball from a cross by Miguel Alba.

Against the run of play, Birkirkara created their first danger after 11 minutes with a low shot from outside the box from Maurizio Vella that was saved into a corner by Henry Bonello.

On the 18th minute, Valletta went very close to take the lead. A brilliant through ball to Mario Fontanella on the right side started the action, the Italian advanced and crossed a low ball in the penalty area. Bojan Kaljevic met the cross and beat Naumovski with a fierce shot but rattled the crossbar. On the other side, Birkirkara countered and Henry Bonello made another save to deny Jorginho.

Another occasion for Valletta three minutes later. Matteo Piciollo made a one-two with Fontanella and tried his luck with an effort from outside the penalty area, but Naumovski reacted with a fine save. Kaljevic again tried to create some danger but on two occasions in the same action had a shot blocked by Eduardo Ferreira.

Despite creating more occasions, Valletta had to thank Henry Bonello for not finishing the first half losing. On the 37th minute, the Valletta custodian spun the header by Danilo Chapoval into a corner, after a free-kick by Johann Bezzina.

Riise's words seemed to inspire his team in the beginning of the second half, as they were better and even had two efforts by Danilo Chapoval and Jorginho that finished over the bar.

The first real danger that Valletta created in the second half, resulted in the important goal. Kristijan Numovski failed to keep hold of a free-kick from the left by Miguel Alba, the ball finished in the direction of Santiago Malano who controlled and scored with a low shot.

For about ten minutes after the goal, Valletta were cruising and even had occasions to double their lead. A reaction was obbligatory for Birkirkara at this stage but despite having more of the ball in the last twenty minutes, they failed to create real danger to Henry Bonello.

As Birkirkara's hopes of equalising were fading, Valletta assured themselves of winning in the stoppage time. Substitute Bogdan Gavrila left Naumovski staring at the free-kick from a central position.

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