The Malta Independent 12 November 2019, Tuesday

Valletta beat Naxxar to move closer to Hibernians, Balzan late goals give them win over Sliema

Monday, 26 January 2015, 08:19 Last update: about 6 years ago

Valletta yesterday made sure of overtaking Birkirkara in second place yesterday as they beat Naxxar Lions 3-0.

In the process, they also managed to get closer to runaway leaders Hibernians who, however, still enjoy a 13-point lead at the top of the standings.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline and Valletta’s overall superiority, it was not such an easy win for the champions who only made sure of the points with two late strikes by substitute Lateef Elford-Alliyou. They had taken a first half lead through debutant Dutch striker Djamel Leeflang.

The citizens had skipper Ryan Fenech suspended, but young Dutch striker Djamel Leeflang was making his debut after signing during the past few days. He crowned it with a first goal that gave the champions the lead just before half time.

On their part, the Lions had Demba Toure making his first start since joining them. Jorge Santos Silva and Pablo Doffo were unavailable through suspension.

In the first half, Valletta enjoyed much more of ball possession as Naxxar defended stubbornly to keep them at bay. Inspired by an in-form Azzopardi between the sticks, the Lions kept their goal intact till the first minute of added time as Valletta took a deserved lead through newcomer Djamel Leeflang.

The citizens never set any house on fire, but they were superior in midfield where Briffa, Barry and youngster Cremona enjoyed control.

As already said, Naxxar defended with all their might and operated on counter-attacks which, however, were unproductive, even if they went near to scoring twice. And to say everything, it was goalkeeper Azzopardi who kept his side in the match with some good handling that included two very good saves.

The match followed more or less the same pattern in the second half with Valletta dominating but never appearing dangerous until the final minutes when they scored twice.

Naxxar tried desperately to get back into contention and again went close on a couple of occasions, but their task became much more difficult when Bruce was sent off after receiving a second yellow card.

It was Naxxar who threatened first when on the 4th minute, Terence Vella set Daren Falzon on the edge of the area, but the latter’s fine volley just missed the target.

A few moments later, it was again Vella who sent in a low cross towards Toure, but the shot was weak and Vella could save with ease.

Valletta replied on the 15th minute when Cremona tested Azzopardi seriously, but the Naxxar goalie dived sideways to turn to corner in style.

In the 21st minute, Nafti set Barry in the Naxxar area, but Azzopardi rushed out of his charge to block.

In the 30th minute, it was Naxxar who went close to scoring. Bellia sent in a long cross which was not controlled by the Valletta defence as the ball bounced awkwardly in the centre of the area. Demba Toure tried a quick header which beat Vella, but the ball just missed the target.

Valletta had a Luke Dimech effort on 40 minutes going well wide of the target. Soon after, it was Dimech again in action near the Naxxar area. He set Jonathan Caruana beautifully, but Azzopardi again rushed out of his charge to smother the ball.

Valletta finally took the lead in added injury time when Djamel Leeflang received a good ball from Nafti and made no mistake with a fine shot from the edge of the area.

Naxxar started the second half on attack and Angus Buhagiar tried his luck from the distance but the ball went wide of the target.

Naxxar started the second half on attack and Angus Buhagiar tried his luck from the distance but the ball went wide of the target.

In the 57th minute, Naxxar were awarded a freekick on the edge of the area, but Daren Falzon’s shot was well saved by Nicholas Vella, who turned to corner in style.

In the 68th minute, from a Nafti freekick, Hamza Barry headed wide.

At the other end two minutes later, from a Daren Falzon cross, it was Edet who had his header saved by Vella.

Soon after, Naxxar’s hopes were dashed to the ground when Bruce was shown a second yellow card and was given marching orders by referee Farrugia, leaving his team-mates to battle on in 10 men.

In the 83rd minute, it was 2-0 as Valletta struck again to assure themselves of the three points. From a Roderick Briffa pass, Edet hesitated to clear a ball and Lateef Elford Alliyou made no mistake from the opportunity that arose.

The match, however, was not over yet, as the City substitute struck again two minutes later, lobbing the ball over the onrushing Julian Azzopardi.

In added time, Valletta almost added a fourth goal but Nafti’s header finished just over.

 

Sliema squandered 2-0 and 3-1 leads yesterday as Balzan came brilliantly from behind to stun the Wanderers and claim victory in an eight-goal thriller.

Sliema took command in the first half with goals from returning Calcado and then also in the second half after Bocar gave them a 3-1 lead.

But Balzan had other ideas as they went on to score four goals to overturn the result and emerge winners.

The victory enabled them to overtake Floriana in fourth place on 31 points. Sliema remain in seventh place with 23 points.

Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Michael Mifsud, Beppe Muscat, Aidan Friggieri and Andrea Scozzese were all missing for Sliema through injury.

On their part, Balzan coach Oliver Spiteri could finally make use of former Mosta striker Bojan Kaljevic after serving his three-match suspension.

Sliema quickly showed their intentions as they started the match like a house on fire. Suffice to say that they took the lead in their first incursion towards goal.

The returning Calcado was their hero as he also scored a second – a real beauty - midway through to put Sliema firmly in command.

But Balzan had other ideas and did not take long to get back into contention as their efforts rewarded them with a Piccioni goal.

The story in the second half was somewhat similar to the first half in the first 30 minutes. Until then, Sliema were still leading 3-2, but Balzan’s insistence rewarded them with three further goals which stunned the Wanderers.

Sliema quickly took the lead as from a Talato cross, it was former Balzan player Pedro dos Santos Calcado who hit into the net past goalie Sultana.

Sliema relied on the ninth minute. From a Guerrero freekick, goalie Zammit parried the ball partially, but a Sliema defender cleared the ball away in the nick of time.

In the 19th minute, Balzan had a good chance to equalise. From a Justin Grioli cross, it was Piccioni who headed over the bar from close in.

Sliema doubled their lead on the 27th minute. And it was again Calcado who struck with a lovely freekick from about 30 metres completely beating Sultana who was caught out of position.

At the other end, Guerrero tested Zammit with a low shot, but the goalie was equal to the task.

Balzan got back into the match on the 30th minute. Sliema goalie Zammit blocked a Guerrero effort and then it was Piccioni who slammed the ball into the net.

Balzan maintained the initiative after this goal, but Sliema defended well with Mark Scerri well in command at the back.

Sliema regained their two-goal cushion on the 52nd minute when Calcado set Djumo Bocar and the latter advanced into the area to beat Sultana with a fine rising shot from an acute angle.

Balzan once again reduced the arrears quickly. It was the 58th minute when Bojan Kaljevic went past two Sliema players to fire a shot from about 25 metres which beat Zammit, even if the Sliema goalie managed to touch the ball on its way into the net.

Balzan were very unlucky not to equalise on the 67th minute. Guerrero received a good ball from Ryan Darmanin, dummied past his opponent only to see his low shot hitting the upright with Zammit completely beaten.

Balzan insisted in their search for an equaliser and they were rewarded on the 76th minute when off a cross from the right, it was substitute Ryan Darmanin who rose above friend and foe to head the ball into the net.

They were not happy and three minutes later, they were in the lead for the first time. And it was Bojan Kaljevic who headed home off a Zarate cross.

In the 86th minute, it was goalie Zammit who denied substitute Dylan Grima another goal as he dived sideways to save his effort.

Balzan were not to be denied and in the 88th minute, it was Piccioni who scored his second and Balzan’s fifth, hitting a low shot past Zammit after dribbling round a Sliema defender.

It was a brilliant comeback by Balzan who are now eyeing seriously a place in next season’s Europa League.

 

 

 

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