Valletta kept the pace with leaders Balzan as they defeated rivals Birkirkara 1-0 in this weekend’s big match from the BOV Premier League at the National Stadium on Saturday.
The Citizens therefore bounced back from the disappointing FA Trophy exit at the hands of Balzan. They move temporarily one point behind Hibernians and three ahead of Floriana although the latter two have a game in hand. For the Stripes, this was the third defeat in the last six matches after two wins over lowly Mosta and Pembroke and a draw with Balzan. Following this defeat, Birkirkara fall ten points behind the leaders.
Valletta had three changes from the team which defeated Gzira as Santiago Malano, Llywelyn Cremona and Tomas Radzinevicius replaced Luke Montebello, the suspended Rowen Muscat and Jhonnattann who joined Al-Batin in Saudi Arabia on loan.
Birkirkara, on the other hand, had Christian Bubalovic and debutante Gary Muir in the starting line-up replacing Predrag Jovic and Joseph Zerafa.
Valletta managed to take the lead on the 28th minute when off a cross by Jonathan Caruana, Tomas Radzinevicius released Santiago Malano who controlled the ball before slotting past Henry Bonello with a diagonal shot from the right.
Five minutes from time, Birkirkara were unlucky not to equalise when Srdjan Dimitrov’s effort from the edge of the area hit the upright with the Valletta goalkeeper beaten.
B’KARA Henry Bonello, Christian Bubalovic, Gareth Sciberras, Matthew Guillaumier (46′ Ryan Scicluna), Mislav Andjelkovic, Srdjan Dimitrov, Gonzalo Malan, Vito Plut, Nikola Vukanac, Cain Attard, Gary Muir (63′ Joseph Zerafa)
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, James Brincat, Edmond Agius, Matteo Desira Buttigieg, Steve Bonnici.
Coach: Nikola Jaros
VALLETTA Dziugas Bartkus, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Santiago Malano (86′ Nicholas Pulis), Tomas Radzinevicius (62′ Luke Montebello), Llywelyn Cremona, Claudio Pani, Uchenna Calistus Umeh (76′ Jean Borg), Leandro Aguirre, Romeu Pericles Romao.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Jake Borg, Russell Fenech, Matthew Spiteri.
Referee: Malcolm Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Luke Portelli, Chris Azzopardi
Additional Assistant Referees: Philip Farrugia, Eman Grech
Fourth Official: Peter Abela
Yellow Cards: Pani, Malan, Aguirre, Muir
BOV Player of the Match: Santiago Malano