First-half goals enough for Valletta

Two goals late in the first half were enough for Valletta to brush aside the challenge of Balzan, beating them 2-1.

The Citizens therefore re-join Hibernians on top the BOV Premier League table, five points ahead of Floriana and Birkirkara. For Balzan, this was the fifth defeat in seven matches and they are now fifth, eight points behind the two joint-leaders.

Balzan had three changes from the team whch lost to Tarxien as Christian Cassar, Lydon Micallef and the returning Elkin Serrano replaced Senatore, Grima and Bezzina. On the other hand, Valletta coach Paul Zammit maintained his faith in the same eleven players who had started the game against Birkirkara.

Valletta took the lead on the 36th minute when off a cross by Uchenna Umeh, Claudio Pani controlled before unleashing a beautiful shot which gave goalkeeper Christian Cassar no chance.

The Citizens doubled the score seven minutes later thanks to a powerful drive by Abdelkarim Nafti whose rising shot ended in the top left corner.

Balzan pulled one back on the 77th when off a cross by Clive Brincat from the left, Alfred Effiong’s header hit the posts before ending at the back of the net.

BALZAN Christian Cassar, Maxim Focsa, Justin Grioli, Godwin Mensha, Lydon Micallef (67′ Ryan Darmanin), Clive Brincat, Alfred Effiong, Samir Arab (67′ Dylan Grima), Edison David Bilbao Zarate (76′ Ryan Fenech), Elkin Serrano Valero, Luke Sciberras.
Subs not used: Valerio Senatore, Terence Agius, Sean Cipriott, Jamie Zerafa.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri

VALLETTA Nicky Vella, Jonathan Caruana, Ryan Camilleri, Juan Gill Cruz, Roderick Briffa, Njongo Priso (59′ Llywelyn Cremona), Federico Falcone, Claudio Pani, Uchenna Calistus Umeh (77′ Ian Azzopardi), Abdelkarim Nafti (92′ Jurgen Suda), Romeu Pericles Romao.
Subs not used: Henry Bonello, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Daniel Camilleri, Jean Borg.
Coach: Paul Zammit

Referee: Adrian Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Martin Borg
Fourth Official: Mario Apap
Yellow Cards: Falcone, Focsa, Serrano, Camilleri, Vella
Scorers: 36′ Claudio Pani, 43′ Abdelkarim Nafti, 77′ Alfred Effiong
BOV Player of the Match: Abdelkarim Nafti
Attendance: 1,226