Just a week after defeating them 5-2 in the U*BET FA Trophy fourth round, Valletta were held in a goalless draw by Sliema Wanderers to drop two important points, allowing Floriana and possibly Hibernians to narrow the gap.
The Citizens now lead the way with 45 points, followed by Floriana on 39 and Hibernians on 38. The Paolites, however, have a game in hand. Sliema, on the other hand, join Balzan in fourth place, one point ahead of Birkirkara.
Making his debut for Valletta was Argentine midfielder Nahuel Pulitano Jimenez. The Wanderers welcomed back Beppe Muscat and Roderick Bajada but lacked Mark Scerri and the suspended Danial Mitev.
The Citizens had the first attempt at goal on the 5th minute with Michael Mifsud hitting high off a cross by Roderick Briffa from the right.
On the half hour, Denni had a shot from inside the area, deflected into a corner by Bonello and from the resulting corner, Mifsud hit just wide.
The two teams continued to share the exchanges with few shots at goal.
On 72 minutes, the Citizens were awarded a penalty when substitute William Barbosa ended on the ground when Rumen Galabov blocked his run. However Michael Mifsud’s effort from the penalty spot was neutralised by Henry Bonello.
Five minutes from time, Jeremiah Ani tried his luck with a powerful drive which went just over the bar.
Henry Bonello was voted BOV Player of the Match.
SLIEMA Henry Bonello, Alex Muscat, Josef Mifsud, Ryan Grech (90+2′ Dejan Vukovic), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Rumen Galabov, Jeremiah Ani (81′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Roderick Bajada, Emiliano Lattes, Cleavon Frendo, Beppe Muscat.
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Ryan Fenech, Ryan Dalli, Ian Scerri, Keane Cutajar.
Coach: Danilo Doncic
Asst. Coach: Saviour Debono Grech
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Ian Azzopardi, Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Ousseni Zongo, Nahuel Pulitano Jimenez (66′ Gilbert Agius), Denni Rocha dos Santos (81′ Miha Robic), Alfred Effiong (64′ William Barbosa), Michael Mifsud.
Subs not used: Matthew Towns, Samir Arab, Isaac Zammit, Siraj Arab.
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Asst. Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Mitchell Scerri
Fourth Official: Mario Apap
Yellow Cards: Frendo, Gatt Baldacchino
Floriana extended their positive run thanks to a narrow win over Birkirkara in a lacklustre encounter.
The game was a balanced affair which featured only a handful of scoring opportunities throughout the ninety minutes.
The Greens move temporarily in second place on 39 points, one ahead of Hibernians. Birkirkara, on the other hand, are now sixth, one point behind Balzan and Sliema, after suffering the third defeat in five matches.
The Stripes had Dutch defender Regillio Nooitmeer making his debut but Joseph Zerafa was missing as he serves a one-match ban. Floriana, on the other hand, lacked Eric Akoto and Onome Sodje.
Birkirkara had the first attempt at goal on the 11th with a Paul Fenech effort neutralised by goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo.
Floriana managed to break the deadlock on the hour when Christian Caruana received a long through-pass on the left and served Ivan Woods who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Reuben Gauci.
Ivan Woods was voted BOV Player of the Match.
B’KARA Reuben Gauci, Gareth Sciberras, Regillio Nooitmeer, Rowen Muscat (76′ Terence Vella), Ryan Scicluna (80′ Leighton Grech), Paul Fenech, Jorge Santos Silva, Shaun Bajada, Angus Buhagiar, Moises Avila Perez, Rodrigo Pereira.
Subs not used: Karl Magri, Andrew Decesare, Ryan Camenzuli, Trevor Cilia, Michael Camilleri.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Asst. Coach: Peter Pullicino
FLORIANA Manuel Bartolo, Pablo Doffo, Manolito Micallef, Owen Bugeja, Duncan Pisani, Thomas Paris, Christian Cassar (88′ Ryan Darmanin), Christian Caruana, Andre Grabowski (79′ John Mintoff), Ivan Woods, Clyde Borg (46′ Joseph Borg).
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Brooke Farrugia, Francesco Guzman, Malcolm Licari.
Coach: Michael Woods
Asst. Coach: Frank Schembri
Referee: Esther Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Alex Grech
Fourth Official: Kevin Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Bugeja, Muscat, Scicluna, Bajada
Scorers: 60′ Ivan Woods