Champions Valletta claimed the first honour of the season after winning the Euro Cup thanks to a 2-2 draw with Birkirkara in an entertaining clash at the Hibernians Stadium on Thursday.
An early goal put the Citizens ahead but a brace by Alan Tabone turned the score in the Stripes’ favour. However a Denni strike saved the day for Valletta.
Birkirkara had two Brazilian players making their debut – defender Antonio Gomes and forward David De Silva. Joseph Zerafa, Leighton Grech and Jacopo Camilli were all missing from the line-up. Valletta, on the other hand, had new signing Alfred Effiong starting the game on the bench. Jonathan Caruana and Ramon Dos Santos were ruled out injured while Jamie Pace and Terence Scerri were ruled out through suspension.
The Citizens forged ahead on the 10th minute when off a cross from the left by Roderick Briffa, William Barbosa da Silva managed to beat goalkeeper Jorge Mora with a fine shot.
On the 20th, Denni went close for Valletta with an overhead kick but the ball ended just wide.
Seven minutes later, Birkirkara were awarded a penalty after referee Alan Mario Sant judged a tackle by Steve Borg on Victor Rena as a foul. From the penalty spot, Alan Tabone made no mistake to level matters.
Two minutes later, Rowen Muscat had a powerful long-distance drive being turned into a corner by Hogg. Muscat then headed just wide off a cross from the left by Cilia.
Birkirkara forged ahead two minutes from the end of the second half when Alan Tabone received a pass from the left and with a fine shot from the edge of the area, he beat Hogg to make it 2-1.
The score was draw once again on 56 minutes when off an Ian Zammit freekick from the left, Denni Rocha Dos Santos headed home from close range.
On 61 minutes, following a good run by Denni, William Barbosa was unlucky not to put Valletta ahead but the ball was deflected by the Brazilian striker over the bar. Four minutes later, Barbosa served substitute Kevin Sammut whose close range shot was blocked by Jorge Mora.
On the other side of the pitch, a Victor Rena header was parried by Andrew Hogg following a cross by Cilia from the right on 69 minutes. A minute later, Jorge Mora blocked a close-range effort by Denni.
In added time, Hogg performed a good save on a direct corner by Trevor Cilia from the right and then, Shaun Bajada had a rising shot from outside the area ending high.
After the game, Valletta captain Ian Zammit was presented with the Euro Cup by MFA senior vice-president Carmelo Bartolo.
Photos: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
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B’KARA Jorge Mora, Andrei Agius, Paul Fenech, Trevor Cilia, Alan Tabone, Andrew Decesare, Victor Rena, David Da Silva (67’ Terence Vella), Angus Buhagiar, Antonio Gomes (63’ Marcis Savinovs), Rowen Muscat (49’ Shaun Bajada).
Subs not used: Omar Borg, Andrew Scicluna, Ryan Camenzuli, Matt Clarke.
Coach: Patrick Curmi
Assistant Coach: Peter Pullicino
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Steve Borg, Ian Azzopardi, Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Ryan Fenech, Dyson Falzon (37’ Gilbert Agius), Ian Zammit, Denni Rocha Dos Santos, Ousseni Zongo (56’ Kevin Sammut), William Barbosa (80’ Kurt Magro).
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Alfred Effiong, Kenneth Scicluna, Cleavon Frendo.
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Chris Francalanza
Fourth Official: Adrian Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: A. Decesare, S. Borg, P. Fenech, A. Tabone, A. Gomes, E. Agius, V. Rena
Scorers: 10’ William Barbosa da Silva (V); 27’ Alan Tabone pen (B); 43’ Alan Tabone (B); 56’ Denni Rocha Dos Santos (V)