Abdelkarim Nafti was the hero for Valletta as he scored twice in a hard-fought 2-1 win over bottom-placed St. Andrews. A win which put the Citizens once again on top the BOV Premier League table, two points ahead of Hibernians.
The Saints, who held Hibernians and Tarxien in draws and defeated Naxxar in their last three matches, once again gave a good account of themselves.
Valletta managed to take the lead on the 19th minute when off a cross by Rafael Ledesma from the left, Federico Falcone served Abdelkarim Nafti who slammed the ball home from close range.
St. Andrews however levelled matters on the 33rd when off a cross from the left, Jean Borg tried to control the ball but lost it to Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre whose powerful rising shot gave goalkeeper Henry Bonello no chance.
Valletta had the opportunity to regain the lead on the 74th minute. Off a cross by Jhonnattann from the right, Federico Falcone’s goal-bound header was blocked on the goal-line by Michael Johnson who raised his hand in a desperate attempt to stop the ball; referee Alan Mario Sant ordered a penalty and sent off the St. Andrews defender but Federico Falcone’s effort from the penalty spot hit the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Jhonnattann hit the crossbar once again with a fine header following a cross from the left.
The Citizens however regained the lead on the 81st minute when Ryan Camilleri controlled the ball on the right and served Abdelkarim Nafti with an intelligent assist for the Tunisian midfielder to hit hard past the St. Andrews custodian.
VALLETTA Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Ryan Camilleri, Juan Cruz Gill, Roderick Briffa, Rafael Rodriguez Ledesma (60′ Uchenna Calistus Umeh), Jean Borg (60′ Michael Mifsud), Federico Falcone, Claudio Pani, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao (84′ Llywelyn Cremona), Abdelkarim Nafti.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Daniel Camilleri, Jurgen Suda, Nicholas Pulis.
Coach: Paul Zammit
ST. ANDREWS Jake Galea, Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre, Dale Camilleri, Bong Won Che, Jonathan Perez Cuesta (81′ Jacob Walker), Lucky Victor Oseghale, Michel Wisdom Salomon Aka, Joseph Farrugia, Chinatu Francis Onwudinjo, Kyrian Nwoko (76′ Sorin Oproiescu), Michael Johnson.
Subs not used: Dorian Bugeja, Clyde Cumbo, Liam Grech, Ryan Sammut, Jamie Magri Overend.
Coach: Jose Borg
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Peter Abela
Additional Assistant Referees: Malcolm Spiteri, Philip Farrugia
Fourth Official: Luke Portelli
Yellow Cards: Wisdom, Briffa, Falcone, R. Camilleri, Oproiescu
Red Cards: 74′ Michael Johnson
Scorers: 19′ Abdelkarim Nafti, 33′ Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre, 81′ Abdelkarim Nafti
BOV Player of the Match: Abdelkarim Nafti