Velasco brace paves the way for Valletta win

Valletta kept the pace with the top two teams as they defeated Sliema Wanderers 3-1 in a match which came to life during the second half.

This was the sixth consecutive positive result for the Citizens while for Sliema, this was a disappointing result as they were aiming for a first positive result against Valletta after losing the previous three encounters.

The Blues had one changes from the team which defeated Balzan in their last league outing as Gabriel Aquilina replaced the suspended Riccardo Correa while Llywelyn Cremona was named in the starting line-up for Valletta in lieu of Ryan Camilleri.

Following a goalless first half, Valletta went close to taking the lead on the 55th minute but Uchenna Calistus Umeh had a powerful shot hitting the foot of the post, the ball bounced onto the goalkeeper and once again hit the upright before being cleared into safety.

Sliema took the lead on the 63rd minute when Mark Scerri’s first-time effort from outside the area was not held by Dziugas Bartkus who allowed the ball to slip off his hands and end at the back of the net.

The Citizens’ reaction was immediate as the levelled matters less than a minute later when a long-distance shot was partially saved by goalkeeper Giuseppe Sarao and off the rebound, Maximiliano Velasco tapped the ball home from close range despite Stefano Bianciardi’s desperate attempt to clear the ball into safety.

Valletta took the lead on the 67th minute when off a cross from the right by Rowen Muscat, Maximiliano Velasco headed home past Sarao.

Eleven minutes from time, Valletta sealed the issue with a third goal when off a cross from the left by Romao, Uchenna Umeh sped past Alex Muscat, advanced into the area and slotted the ball past the Sliema goalkeeper.

VALLETTA Dziugas Bartkus, Joanthan Caruana, Steve Borg, Santiago Malano (90′ Shaun Dimech), Llywelyn Cremona (72′ Luke Montebello), Claudio Pani, Uchenna Calistus Umeh, Leandro Aguirre, Maximiliano Alejandro Velasco (84′ Russell Fenech), Rowen Muscat, Romeu Pericles Romao.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Paul Chircop, Kenny Spagnol, Nicholas Pulis.
Coach: Paul Zammit

SLIEMA Giuseppe Sarao, Alex Muscat, Frank Temile, Stefano Bianciardi, Gabriel Aquilina (80′ Michel Salomon Wisdom Aka), Jonathan Pearson, Denni Rocha dos Santos (88′ Michele Sansone), John Mintoff (66′ Ryan Spiteri), Mark Scerri, Leonardo Incorvaia, Jean Paul Farrugia.
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, Armando do Santos, Peter Xuereb, Luca Martinelli.
Coach: John Buttigieg

Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Philip Farrugia
Yellow Cards: Caruana, Denni, Velasco, Borg
BOV Player of the Match: Maximiliano Velasco
Attendance: 669