Leaders Valletta started the Championship Pool on a most positive note as they registered an impressive 7-2 win over Balzan Youths. A win which puts the Citizens temporarily five points ahead of Hibernians.
An early lead paved the way for victory although Balzan had levelled matters mid-way through the first half. However it was only a matter of a few minutes for Valletta to regain the lead and add more goals for an emphatic win.
Valletta had Terence Scerri making his return after almost ten months while Italian defender Filippo Andrea Scozzese was making his debut when he was included as a substitute. Michael Mifsud, Mady Panandetiguiri and Alfred Effiong were unavailable for the Citizens. Balzan, on the other hand, welcomed back Bledjon Guga but lacked Rennie Forace.
Valletta managed to take the lead after just seven minutes thanks to Edmond Agius whose rising shot gave goalkeeper Matthew Camilleri no chance.
Balzan levelled matters on 25 minutes thanks to a direct freekick by the usual Pedro dos Santos Calcado.
The Citizens regained the lead on the half hour when off a Denni corner from the left, William Barbosa tapped the ball home from close range.
Aleksandars Cekulajevs added another goal a minute later after concluding a solo effort with a shot from the left which beat the Balzan custodian.
The Latvian striker made it 4-1 on 34 minutes when he accidentally blocked a shot by William Barbosa but was quick to control the ball and hit low past Camilleri.
Two minutes in the second half, captain Gilbert Agius concluded a good run with a low shot from the edge of the area which ended at the back of the net.
On the 55th minute, Valletta scored the sixth goal thanks to a strong header by Ousseni Zongo following an Edmond Agius freekick from the right.
With another direct freekick, Pedro dos Santos Calcado scored the second goal for Balzan on 75 minutes as he beat substitute goalkeeper Yenz Cini.
Seven minutes from time, the Citizens scored the seventh goal when they were awarded a penalty after Bjorn Bondin brought Terence Scerri down inside the area. From the penalty spot, Terence Scerri made no mistake to make it 7-2.
William Barbosa was voted BOV Player of the Match.
BALZAN Matthew Camilleri, Jonathan Francica, Bledjon Guga, Yessous Camilleri, Glenn Bonello (59′ Bjorn Bondin), Clifton Ciantar, Nikola Tasic, Jamie Pace, Dylan Grima (71′ Silvan Ciscaldi), Pedro dos Santos Calcado, Martin Deyanov (63′ Miguel Ciantar).
Subs not used: Fredrick Tabone, Roderick Farrugia, Lydon Micallef, Michael Borg.
Coach: Joe Borg
Team Manager: Ivan Zammit
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg (73′ Yenz Cini), Jonathan Caruana (62′ Filippo Andrea Scozzese), Steve Borg, Ian Azzopardi, William Barbosa, Gilbert Agius, Aleksandars Cekulajevs (62′ Terence Scerri), Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Ousseni Zongo, Denni Rocha dos Santos.
Subs not used: Roderick Bajada, Nahuel Pulitano Jimenez, Gaetano Joseph Gesualdi, Wail Rizgalla.
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Asst. Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Kevin Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Thomas Debono, Joe Camilleri
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: Calcado, Borg, Barbosa, Ciantar, Francica, Bondin
Scorers: 7′ Edmond Agius (V); 25′ Pedro dos Santos Calcado (B); 30′ William Barbosa (V); 31′ Aleksandars Cekulajevs (V); 34′ Aleksandars Cekulajevs (V); 47′ Gilbert Agius (V), 55′ Ousseni Zongo (V); 75′ Pedro dos Santos Calcado (B); 83′ Terence Scerri pen (V)
Hamrun Spartans staged another fine comeback as they scored two late goals to earn a point in a 2-2 draw with Mosta in a clash from the Relegation Pool.
Mosta seemed heading towards victory which would have put them on top the Relegation Pool together with Qormi but just like the second round clash, Hamrun scored two late goals.
Yannick Ossok and Federico Tisbi were back for Mosta but Florent Raimy and Ian Zammit were missing through suspension. Lee James Agius returned for Hamrun.
The Blues managed to take the lead on the 10th minute when off a cross from the left by Gilbert Martin, Kurt Magro served Firas Aboulezz who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Omar Borg.
Hamrun replied with a Dene Shields header, off a cross by Gaetan Spiteri, on 27 minutes but Mosta goalkeeper Jonathan Debono performed a good save. Off a cross by Shields from the right, Anderson Mendes Ribeiro went close with a fine volley from the edge of the area on 36 minutes. Three minutes later, a Kevin Sammut effort was deflected into a corner by Debono.
Mosta doubled the score one minute from the end of the first half. A Firas Aboulezz freekick from the left was not held by Omar Borg and Predrag Mirceta was brought down by Spiteri as he was about to control the ball. Referee Chris Lautier ordered a penalty and former Hamrun striker Obinna Obiefule made no mistake from the penalty spot.
A freekick by Massimo Grima was blocked by a defender on 62 minutes and off the rebound, Ronni Hartvig hit high.
The Spartans reduced the gap twelve minutes from time when off a cross from the left, Anderson Mendes Ribeiro hit low past goalkeeper Jonathan Debono.
Firas Aboulezz tried his luck for Mosta with a shot from outside the area ending just wide on 82 minutes. Two minutes later, substitute Dyson Falzon concluded a good move with a shot from the right which was turned into a corner by Debono. On the other side of the pitch, in a swift counter-attack for the Spartans, Daniel Zerafa hit wide after a Massimo Grima effort was blocked by a defender and Kevin Sammut failed to connect.
Hamrun notched the equaliser on the 87th minute thanks to a great header by Massimo Grima off a corner by Kevin Sammut from the right.
In stoppage time, Hamrun could have even scored a third goal when Kevin Sammut released Dene Shields on the right, inside the area but the Scottish striker hit high.
Firas Aboulezz was voted BOV Player of the Match.
MOSTA Jonathan Debono, Adrian Borg, Kane Farrugia, Federico Tisbi, Yannick Ossok, Sheldon Grech (83′ Dyson Falzon), Kurt Magro, Predrag Mirceta, Firas Aboulezz, Gilbert Martin (76′ Jonathan Bajada), Obinna Obiefule.
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, Luca Martinelli, Bryan Agius, Terence Vella, Alex Cini.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
HAMRUN Omar Borg, Gianluca Calabretta (86′ Lee James Agius), Matthew Gauci, Ronni Hartvig, Massimo Grima, Steve Bonnici, Daniel Zerafa, Gaetan Spiteri (68′ Ryan Spiteri), Dene Shields, Kevin Sammut, Anderson Mendes Ribeiro.
Subs not used: Andrea Cassar, Glenn Azzopardi, Diego Cucciardi, Rupert Mangion, David Camilleri.
Coach: Stefan Sultana
Asst. Coach: Marco Grech
Referee: Chris Lautier
Assistant Referees: Mariano Debono, Edward Spiteri
Fourth Official: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Yellow Cards: Gauci, Shields, Aboulezz, Spiteri, Zerafa
Scorers: 10′ Firas Aboulezz (M); 44′ Obinna Obiefule (pen) (M); 78′ Anderson Mendes Ribeiro (H); 87′ Massimo Grima (H)