Birkirkara move just four points behind leaders Hibernians as they bounced back from the defeat to Tarxien with a 2-0 win over rivals Valletta.
For Valletta, this was the second consecutive defeat – the fourth in eight matches – and yet another disappointing performance. The Citizens, in fact, share the seventh place with Qormi on the 10-point mark.
Valletta welcomed back Steve Borg, Jonathan Caruana and Hugo Faria with Shaun Bajada also making it the starting line-up, replacing Ian Azzopardi, Adrian Zahra, Llywelyn Cremona and Luke Montebello. On the other hand, for Birkirkara, Ryan Camenzuli and Alejandro Mendoza were the only changes from the team which lost to Tarxien as they replaced Edmond Agius and Eliandro. Nigerian striker Shola Shodiya made his return for the Stripes when he was included as a substitute.
Birkirkara managed to take the lead on the 31st minute thanks to a freekick by Rafael Ledesma which gave goalkeeper Nicky Vella no chance.
Just before half-time, Birkirkara went close to doubling the score thanks to Ryan Camenzuli whose close-range effort hit the crossbar.
The Stripes doubled the score on the 66th minute as in a counter-attack for Birkirkara, Ryan Scicluna caught the Valletta rear-guard unprepared, serving the unmarked Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais to hit home from close range.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
VALLETTA Nicky Vella, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Ryan Fenech (65′ Abdelkarim Nafti), Hugo Faria, Roderick Briffa (79′ Ian Zammit), Hamza Barry, Shaun Bajada, Alex Barboza Terra (22′ Lateef Elford-Alliyu), Luke Dimech.
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Ian Azzopardi, Raphael Kooh Sohna, Llywelyn Cremona.
Coach: Gilbert Agius
B’KARA Justin Haber, Matheus Bissi da Silva, Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais (90′ Leighton Grech), Nikola Vukanac, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma (73′ Haruna Shola Shodiya), Paul Fenech, Zach Muscat, Ryan Scicluna, Edward Herrera, Ryan Camenzuli (80′ Edmond Agius).
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, Antoine Borg, Andrea Curmi, Kurt Zammit.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: Jurgen Spiteri, David Castillo
Additional Assistant Referees: Mario Apap, Fyodor Zammit
Fourth Official: Thomas Debono
Yellow Cards: L. Dimech, P. Fenech, S. Borg, H. Faria
Scorers: 31′ Rafael Ledesma, 66′ Liliu
BOV Player of the Match: Paul Fenech