A brace by Denni Rocha dos Santos paved the way for a 4-1 win for Valletta over Rabat Ajax at the Victor Tedesco Stadium as the Citizens move to just one point behind leaders Hibernians who however have a game in hand.
The Citizens were clearly the better side but after reducing the gap, when the score was 2-1, the Ajax almost notched the equaliser. However Valletta scored twice in the final stages to seal the issue.
Valletta welcomed back Luke Dimech and Roderick Briffa but Jason Vandelannoite, Ian Azzopardi and Dyson Falzon were all ruled out
The Citizens had the first attempt at goal on the 8th minute when off a cross from the right by Aziz Corr Nyang, Abdelkarim Nafti’s powerful drive ended just wide. Three minutes later, Diego Carrillo, served by Moises Avila Perez on the left, had a shot from close-range blocked by Yenz Cini.
Valletta managed to take the lead on the 12th when off a cross by Abdelkarim Nafti, Denni Rocha dos Santos’ first-time effort gave Velimirovic no chance.
Rabat replied with a Dani Pelaez freekick on the 43rd minute which endded just wide. On the other side of the pitch, just before half-time, Shaun Bajada’s freekick was turned into a corner by the Rabat custodian.
Eleven minutes in the second half, Roderick Briffa headed wide off an inviting header by Abdelkarim Nafti from the right.
Valletta doubled the score on the 63rd thanks to another goal by Denni Rocha dos Santos whose long-distance shot from the right surprised Velimirovic.
On the 65th, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza’s fine effort was turned into a corner by the Rabat goalkeeper and five minutes later, Abdelkarim Nafti’s fine lob from the left beat the goalkeeper but scraped past the post.
Rabat reduced the gap on 76 minutes when off an assist by Jonathan Bajada from the right, Moises Avila Perez slotted the ball past goalkeeper Yenz Cini.
Two minutes later, in a counter-attack for the Magpies, the ball reached Adam Smeir on the left flank and the latter’s fine effort was deflected by Roderick Briffa who almost surprised Cini who somehow managed to turn the ball into a corner.
Valletta regained a two-goal lead on the 83rd minute thanks to Edmond Agius, who rounded a defender, after receiving a pass by Mifsud Triganza beating Velimirovic with a powerful shot.
Three minutes in added time, the Citizens sealed the issue with a fourth goal when off a cross from the right by Ian Zammit, Abdelkarim Nafti headed the ball home.
RABAT Pavle Velimirovic, Shaun Gauci, David Azzopardi, Ivan Carapic, Dylan Falzon, Clifford Gauci, Jonathan Bajada (86′ Aidan Azzopardi), Daniel Pelaez Bellido (83′ Zachary Tanti), Diego Carrillo Pendas (74′ Malcolm Licari), Moises Avila Perez, Adam Smeir.
Subs not used: Jonathan Azzopardi, Josef Tonna, Patrick Borg, Wayne Borg.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
VALLETTA Yenz Cini, Jonathan Caruana, Ryan Fenech, Edmond Agius, Roderick Briffa, Hamza Barry (26′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Aziz Corr Nyang (84′ Ian Zammit), Shaun Bajada (86′ Llywelyn Cremona), Denni Rocha dos Santos, Abdelkarim Nafti, Luke Dimech.
Subs not used: Manuel Bartolo, Kurt Magro, Romulo Marques Antoneli, Yessous Camilleri.
Coach: Mark Miller
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant referees: Chris Francalanza, Albert Borg Cardona
Additional Assistant Referees: Andre Arciola, Malcolm Spiteri
Fourth official: Clayton Pisani
Yellow Cards: Dimech, Agius, C. Gauci
Scorers: 12′ Denni Rocha dos Santos, 63′ Denni Rocha dos Santos, 76′ Moises Avila Perez, 83′ Edmond Agius, 90+3′ Abdelkarim Nafti
BOV Player of the Match: Denni Rocha dos Santos
Photo: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
At the Centenary Stadium, Birkirkara claimed another three points thanks to another narrow win, this time over Tarxien Rainbows.
Birkirkara lacked Paul Fenech and Gareth Sciberras while Carlo Mamo and Fernando Lopes Alcantara were missing for Tarxien.
The Rainbows went close on the 6th minute when off a corner by Ronallie Calheira Seara, Josef MIfsud’s header was deflected into a corner by Justin Haber.
Birkirkara took the lead on the 36th when off a cross by Edward Herrera, Joseph Zerafa’s low diagonal shot beat Nicky Vella.
Five minutes from half-time, Frank Temile crossed the ball for Jhonnattan whose header was blocked by the Tarxien goalkeeper.
A Jhonnattann effort, off a cross by Herrera from the left, ended inches wide past the upright on 59 minutes. On the 78th minute, Jorge Santos Silva tried his luck with a long-distance shot for Tarxien ending wide. Six minutes later, a cross shot by Karl Pulo was turned into a corner by Haber. Finally one minute from time, a swift counter-attack by Haruna Shola Shodiya who advanced upfront before releasing Daniel Zerafa inside the penalty area but a Tarxien defender cleared the ball into safety before the Birkirkara player could do any harm.
BIRKIRKARA Justin Haber, Matheus Bissi, Alejandro Mendoza, Joseph Zerafa, Zach Muscat, Edward Herrera (80’ Daniel Zerafa), Ryan Scicluna, Rowen Muscat, Jhonnattann Benites (83’ Demba Toure), Shola Shodiya, Frank Temile (68’ Ryan Camenzuli).
Subs not used: Reuben Gauci, Terence Vella, Kurt Zammit, Antoine Borg.
Coach: Paul Zammit
TARXIEN Nicholas George Vella, Steven Sadowski (79’ Steven Bonnici), Andrew Agius, Luca Martinelli, Marko Potezica, Ronallie Calheira Seara, Miguel Ciantar (67’ Karl Pulo), Everton Souza Santos, Ryan Sammut, Josef Mifsud, Jorge Santos Silva
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Manuel Caruana, Luke Aquilina, Luke Zahra, Nigel Vella,
Coach: Clive Mizzi
Referee: Chris Lautier
Assistant Referees: Robert Vella, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: J. Zerafa, Ronallie
Scorers: 36’ Joseph Zerafa
BOV Player of the Match: Edward Herrera (Birkirkara)