Despite having to play in ten men for almost an hour, Valletta maintained their unbeaten record with a goalless draw against eternal rivals Floriana.
The two teams failed to impress and goal-mouth action was rare especially after the break.
Valletta now lead the way with 18 points, followed by Floriana on 14, Marsaxlokk, Tarxien and Hamrun are joint-third on 13 points. Floriana played a game more than the other four teams.
The injured Kenneth Scicluna was the only player missing for Valletta. Floriana, on the other hand, lacked Owen Bugeja and Kiril Dzhorov.
Valletta had the first attempt at goal with Denni testing Lofti Saidi with a diagonal shot from the left on the 4th minute.
On the 34th minute, Valletta were reduced to ten men after Lucas Ramon Dos Santos received a second yellow card for a foul on Ivan Woods. The Brazilian defender was cautioned eight minutes earlier for another foul on the Floriana striker.
A freekick by captain Gilbert Agius ended just wide on the 39th. One minute later, following a good move by Denni, the Brazilian midfielder served Roderick Briffa but the ball was deflected into a corner by a defender. Terence Scerri then headed high off a Roderick Briffa cross from the right.
After the break, the two teams disappointed with neither side having any serious goal-scoring opportunity except for a great shot by Denni on the 90th, when served by Roderick Briffa. Tunisian goalkeeper Lofti Saidi however managed to turn his attempt into a corner.
Jamie Pace was voted BOV Player of the Match.
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Steve Borg, Lucas Ramon Dos Santos, Jonathan Caruana (75’ Dyson Falzon), Ian Azzopardi, Gilbert Agius (80’ Edmond Agius), Jamie Pace, Roderick Briffa, Kevin Sammut (66’ Omonigho Temile), Denni Rocha Dos Santos, Terence Scerri.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Kurt Magro, Ian Zammit, Joseph Okonkwo.
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
FLORIANA Lofti Saidi, Duncan Pisani, Tyrone Farrugia, Brian Said, Manolito Micallef, Joseph Borg (76’ Clyde Borg), Christian Cassar, Pablo Doffo, Michael Mecerod (85’ Mark Gauci), Ivan Woods, Christian Caruana (66’ Ryan Darmanin).
Subs not used: John Agius, Sacha Borg, Luke Agius, Ivailo Sokolov.
Coach: Michael Woods
Assistant Coach: Todor Raykov
Referee: Adrian Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Alan Camilleri
Fourth Official: Andre Arciola
Yellow Cards: Ramon, C. Caruana, Pisani, Doffo, Micallef, Pace
Red Cards: 34’ Ramon
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Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
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Meanwhile in the first match, Hibernians and Sliema Wanderers continued to disappoint as they shared the spoils in a goalless draw to stay in the lower part of the table.
The Wanderers are now seventh on nine points from nine matches while the Paolites are second from bottom on seven points.
The Wanderers had four changes from the teams which lost to Floriana as Ini Etim Aktpan, Julian Briffa, Josef Mifsud and the returning Jackson Lima replaced Szentpeteri, Muscat, Bajada and Alhinho. For Aktpan, this was his first appearance in the Sliema shirt. Obinna Obiefule returned on the bench. Hibs, on the other hand, lacked Jean Paul Farrugia.
After a quiet start for the two teams, on 29 minutes, John Mintoff had a close-range effort neutralised by Mario Muscat following a cross by Mifsud Triganza from the right. A Mark Scerri long-distance shot ended just wide a minute later.
The Paolites went close on 35 minutes when off a freekick from the right by Pearson, Edward Herrera was unlucky to block his team-mate’s goal-bound shot from inside the area.
In a counter-attack for Sliema led by Mifsud Triganza on 66 minutes, the ball reached John Mintoff whose low shot was parried by Muscat. A minute later, a rising shot by Mifsud Triganza from the left ended high.
Following an inviting pass by Mifsud Triganza from the left on 76 minutes, goalkeeper Mario Muscat managed to anticipate Obiefule before he could conclude.
In the dying minutes, Hibernians had a Triston Caruana effort hitting the posts and off the rebound, Paul McManus’ effort was turned into a corner by Aktpan.
Edward Herrera was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HIBS Mario Muscat, Adrian Pulis (71’ Matthew Gauci), Aaron Xuereb (75’ Bjorn Kristensen), Jonathan Pearson, Edward Herrera, Richie Hart, Matt Clarke, Andrew Cohen, Zoran Levnaic, Paul McManus, Matthew Tabone (77’ Triston Caruana).
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Warren Chircop, Yan Cauchi, Steve Pisani.
Coach: Mark Miller
Assistant Coach: Edmond Lufi
SLIEMA Ini Etim Aktpan, Julian Briffa, Josef Mifsud, Sekou Tidiane Souare, Mark Scerri, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Steve Bezzina, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (87’ Roderick Bajada), James Paris (60’ Obinna Polycarp Obiefule), Jackson Lima Sequeira, John Mintoff (78’ Miguel Ciantar).
Subs not used: Viktor Szentpeteri, Noel Turner, Adam Spiteri, Valdo Goncalves Alhinho.
Coach: Mark Marlow
Assistant Coach: Joseph Bajada
Referee: Paul Caruana
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Yellow Cards: Herrera, Briffa, Souare, Mintoff
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