A goal on the 90th minute by Steve Borg handed Valletta a narrow win over leaders Hibernians at the National Stadium on Wednesday to open wide the race for the title. The Citizens and Balzan now lie just two points behind the Paolites with five matches to go.
For the Paolites, this was the first defeat following a positive run of seven matches in which they won six games and drew one. The Citizens, on the other hand, extended their unbeaten run to eleven matches.
From the win over Balzan, Hibs coach Mark Miller opted to make two important changes leaving Clayton Failla and Jurgen Degabriele out of the starting line-up. Valletta coach Paul Zammit, on the other hand, named Michael Mifsud in the starting line-up.
Valletta scored the all-important goal on the 90th minute when off a cross by Claudio Pani from the right, Jonathan Caruana’s effort was blocked by Andrei Agius and Steve Borg took the rebound, placing the ball at the back of the net.
In stoppage time, Borg was sent off for Valletta after receiving a second yellow card.
VALLETTA Dziugas Bartkus, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Santiago Malano (76′ Luke Montebello), Michael Mifsud, Jean Borg, Claudio Pani, Uchenna Calistus Umeh (65′ Roderick Briffa), Leandro Aguirre, Maxi Velasco (90+2′ Llywelyn Cremona), Valdo Goncalves Alhinho.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Rusell Fenech, Shaun Dimech, Nicholas Pulis.
Coach: Paul Zammit
HIBS Andrew Hogg, Dejan Boljevic, Jackson de Lima Siqueira, Bjorn Kristensen, Andrei Agius, Marcelo Dias, Rodolfo Soares, Johann Bezzina (75′ Dunstan Vella), Gilmar Ribeiro da Silva, Jorge Pereira da Silva (42′ Jurgen Degabriele), Montell Moore (63′ Clayton Failla). Subs not used: Rudy Briffa, Kieran Xuereb, Connor Zammit, Daniel Buckle.
Coach: Mark Miller
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, William Debattista
Additional Assistant Referees: Stefan Pace, Glen Tonna
Fourth Official: Thomas Debono
Yellow Cards: Umeh, Hogg, Lima, Borg, Pani
Red Cards: 90+3′ Steve Borg
BOV Player of the Match: Michael Mifsud
Attendance at the National Stadium: 2,371
Meanwhile at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, Hamrun Spartans once again failed to take home the three points as they lost 1-2 to Floriana. The Spartans have now gone nine matches without a win.
Floriana took the lead on the 14th minute thanks to Alex Cini who received the ball off a clearance by Manolito Micallef and beat David Cassar with a shot from outside the area with the ball hitting the posts before ending at the back of the net.
Hamrun equalised three minutes from the end of the first half when off a cross from the left, Saturday Nanapere served Manolito Micallef who hit home from close range.
On the 68th minute, Floriana were awarded a penalty after Amadou Samb was brought down inside the area and from the penalty spot, Mario Fontanella converted to make it 2-1.
The two teams then ended in ten men as Steve Pisani was sent off for Floriana on the 70th minute and Igor Misan was dismissed for Hamrun seven minutes later.
HAMRUN David Cassar, Jorge Mesqueu Neto, Manolito Micallef, Karl Micallef, Saturday Nanapere (83′ Massimiliano Giusti), Luke Grech (81′ Mathieu Manset), Igor Misan, Leandro Motta dos Santos (66′ Siraj Arab Eddin), Jake Grech, Sergio Raphael dos Anjos, Luke Sciberras.
Subs not used: Matthew Farrugia, Brandon Paiber, Glenn Azzopardi, Jeremy Busuttil.
Coach: Jacques Scerri
FLORIANA Matthew Grech, Andre Scicluna, Antonio Monticelli, Enzo Ruiz, Steve Pisani, Ignacio Varela, Maurizio Vella, Alex Cini, Amadou Samb, Mario Fontanella.
Subs not used: Christopher Farrugia, Jake Davies, Clyde Borg, Mattia Zarb, Jurgen Pisani, Jamie Delia, Zack Camilleri. Coach: Giovanni Tedesco
Referee: Sandro Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Peter Abela, Dusan Petrovic
Fourth Official: Eman Grech
Yellow Cards: Fontanella, Vella, Misan, Pisani, Cini, Jorginho, Nayar
Red Cards: 72′ Steve Pisani, 77′ Igor Misan
BOV Player of the Match: Amadou Samb
Attendance at the Victor Tedesco Stadium: 439