A goal one minute from time enabled Sliema Wanderers to return to winning ways as they defeated neighbours Gzira United 1-0 at the Hibernians Stadium on Saturday.
Sliema, who were coming from back-to-back defeats to Valletta and Hibernians, now move to an even more comfortable mid-table position.
Stefano Bianciardi and Mark Scerri were unavailable for Sliema as they were serving a one-match ban. They were replaced by Denni Rocha dos Santos and Jean Paul Farrugia. Gzira had one change from the team which defeated Hamrun as Moises Avila Perez replaced Ige Abdullahi Adeshina.
The Wanderers were a better side throughout the ninety minutes but Gzira, who were coming from a series of three consecutive wins, did a good job in controlling their opponents.
However Sliema managed to break the deadlock one minute from time thanks to Gabriel Aquilina who hit home past goalkeeper Jurgen Borg after the Gzira custodian had saved partially a cross shot by substitute Ryan Spiteri.
GZIRA Jurgen Borg, Jacob Borg, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Souleymane Diamoutene, Ian Azzopardi, Jaun Carlos Corbalan (68′ Carlos Alejandro Reyna), Louis Rene Zome, Moises Avila Perez, Zachary Scerri, Andrew Cohen (88′ Ige Abdullahi Adeshina), Gianmarco Conti (69′ Antonio Orlando de Queiroz Machedo Neto).
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Karl Pulo, Andre White, Emerson Amaira.
Coach: Darren Abdilla
SLIEMA Giuseppe Sarao, Alex Muscat, Frank Temile (77′ Ryan Spiteri), Denni Rocha dos Santos, Wisdom Salomon (83′ Michele Sansone), Jonathan Pearson, John Mintoff (62′ Matias Muchardi), Ricardo Correa Duarte, Jean Paul Farrugia, Leonardo Incorvaia, Gabriel Aquilina.
Subs not used: Miguel Bonnici, Luca Martinelli, Peter Xuereb, Luca Brincat.
Coach: John Buttigieg
Referee: Mario Apap
Assistant Referees: Duncan Sultana, William Debattista
Additional Assistant Referees: Stefan Pace, Jude Amin Utulu
Fourth Official: Thomas Debono
Yellow Cards: Gatt Baldacchino, Denni, Azzopardi, Cohen
BOV Player of the Match: Denni Rocha dos Santos
Meanwhile at the National Stadium, Valletta registered a comfortable 4-0 win over bottom-placed Pembroke Athleta.
Valletta had four changes from the team which defeated Mosta as Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Luke Montebello, Valdo Goncalves Alhinho replaced Rowen Muscat, Llywelyn Cremona, Romeu Romao and the suspended Leandro Aguirre. For Pembroke, Matthew Calleja Cremona, Owen Bugeja, Stevan Racic and Joseph Okonkwo were named in the starting line-up in lieu of Fredrick Tabone, Miguel Attard, Panagiotis Giannopoulos and Raphael Kooh Sohna.
The Citizens managed to take the lead on the 27th minutes when off a cross by Santiago Malano, Luke Montebello’s overhead kick placed the ball in the bottom corner.
Eleven minutes in the second half, Valletta doubled the score thanks to Maxi Velasco, served by Alhinho, who managed to slide the ball from underneath Calleja Cremona.
Uchenna Calistus Umeh made it 3-0 on the 73rd minute when he concluded a solo effort with a powerful shot from outside the area which was not retained by the Pembroke goalkeeper with the ball ending at the back of the net.
Seven minutes from time, Michael Mifsud scored the fourth goal for Valletta when he received a cross by MAlano and advanced before hitting low past Calleja Cremona.
VALLETTA Dziugas Bartkus, Jonathan Caruana (77’ Roderick Briffa), Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Santiago Malano, Luke Montebello (72’ Michael Mifsud), Jean Borg, Claudio Pani (19’ Llywelyn Cremona), Uchenna Calistus Umeh, Maximiliano Alejandro Velasco, Valdo Goncalves Alhinho.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Shaun Dimech, Nicholas Pulis, Romeu Pericles Romau.
Coach: Paul Zammit
PEMBROKE Matthew Calleja Cremona, Owen Bugeja (12’ Tyron Fenech), Stevan Racic, Zoran Levniac, Daniane Jawad, Go Nagaoka, Tonci Radovnikovic, Joseph Okonkwo, Brooke Farrugia (71’ Darren Falzon), Sunday Eboh, Iraklis Roppas.
Subs not used: Fredrick Tabone, Zachary Grech, Neil Grech, Shaun Pace, James Mifsud.
Coach: Artim Shaqiri
Referee: Philip Farrugia
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Christopher Francalanza
Fourth Official: Malcolm Spiteri
Yellow Cards: Calleja Cremona, Eboh, Cremona
BOV Player of the Match: Valdo Goncalves Alhinho
Renato Vella reporting from the National Stadium