Malta Football Association
Title race hots up as Balzan join Valletta at the top
Apr 15, 2018
Posted in:
BOV Premier League



Floriana overcame the first-half dismissal of Jurgen Pisani as they staged a bold second-half fightback to hold rivals Valletta to a 1-1 in Saturday’s eagerly-awaited derby at the National Stadium.

Played in front of over 4,200 fans who created an electric atmosphere, the derby lived up to expectations with Valletta taking an early lead but Floriana hitting back strongly despite being down to 10 men.


While the Greens were happy with the draw, Valletta were disappointed as they needed a win to close in on the championship. With Balzan beating Senglea Athletic in the second match, Valletta are now level on points with their chief title rivals ahead of the final day.


The Citizens began strongly to forge ahead after 10 minutes.


Argentinian Miguel Alba took the ball off Emerson Marcelina and released Kyrian Nwoko who stormed into the box and directed a low cross. Alba allowed the ball to roll into the path of the unmarked Matteo Piciollo who slotted home.


The Greens rallied but were denied an equaliser by Henry Bonello who produced a point-blank save from Sebastian Nayar after good work by Maurizio Vella.


A minute before the half-time break, Pisani was sent off by referee Alan Mario Sant for spitting at Alba who had made a crunch challenge on the Floriana left-back.


The game remained balanced after the change of ends. Piciollo hit wide for Valletta while Bonello stopped Mario Fontanella’s header.


Midway into the second half, Valletta had the ball in the net, Piciollo hitting home after Alba’s shot had cannoned off the post but the goal was ruled out as Nwoko was in an offside position.


Valletta’s shortlived joy soon turned into disappointment as Floriana equalised.


They were awarded a free-kick on the left and Vella’s swerving cross eluded a host of players and Enzo Ruiz was on hand to head past Bonello.


As the minutes ticked away, Valletta pushed more men forward.


With 12 minutes remaining, Floriana goalkeeper Ini Akpan pushed away Malano’s dangerous header as the Greens held on for a point.


BOV player of the match: Sebastian Nayar (Floriana).




BALZAN                     2



Balzan had to fight really hard to see off the stern challenge OF Senglea Athletic.


They eventually prevailed 2-1 to make the most of Valletta’s 1-1 draw against Floriana as Balzan are now level on 55 points with the Citizens with one match left.


Despite dominating possession from the outset, Balzan had to wait until the final minute of the opening half to open the scoring.

Ivan Bozovic’s right-wing free-kick soared towards the penalty box and Siraj Arab’s audacious header had the better of Jurgen Borg, the Senglea goalkeeper.


Much against the run of play, Senglea levelled on 62 minutes, Gonzalo Virano scoring a fine goal as his powerful drive gave Ivan Janjusevic no chance.


Balzan looked stunned but they regained their lead 15 minutes from time.


Ryan Fenech’s cross from the right was headed on by Michael Johnson and Bojan Kaljevic, on as a substitute, flicked the ball home.


BOV player of the match: Cadu (Balzan). 




GŻIRA UNITED             2


Gżira United completed their European mission with a match to spare as a 2-1 win over neighbours Sliema Wanderers secured a top-three finish and a place in the Europa League next season.


The Maroons have not competed in Europe since 1973/74 when they represented Malta in the now defunct Cup Winners Cup.


In Saturday’s derby at the Hibs Stadium, it was Sliema who drew first blood.


Matias Muchardi delivered a fine cross from free-kick and Kurt Shaw escaped his marker to head past Anthony Curmi, the Gżira goalkeeper.


Gżira took three minutes to equalise.


Zack Scerri’s low drive and Haruna Garba’s close-range attempt from the rebound had brought two fine saves from Sliema goalkeeper Antonio Cotticelli but the ball dropped to Emmanuel Okoye who rifled into the top corner.


Three minutes into the second half, Andrew Cohen’s free-kick was pushed away by Cotticelli but from the ensuing corner, Cohen aimed a cross towards the far post and Garba headed home Gżira’s winner.


BOV player of the match: Haruna Garba (Gżira United).






St Andrews kept their survival bid on track after edging Birkirkara 1-0 in a tense match that had everything – two penalties, both missed by the Saints, and two red cards for Birkirkara players.


Birkirkara’s afternoon took a turn for the worse on the half-hour when Carlos Alberto Goncalves was shown a straight red card for hitting out at Matthew Gauci.


Three minutes into the second half, the woodwork denied St Andrews as Kevaughn Atkinson’s effort shook the crossbar.


St Andrews kept wasting great scoring opportunities as Kemar Reid’s penalty, given for Nikola Vukanac’s foul on Atkinson, hit the bar and, moments later, Atkinson’s grounder came off the far post.


Nine minutes from time, St Andrews finally broke the deadlock thanks to Misael Miranda whose shot had the better of Kristjan Naumovski, the Birkirkara goalkeeper.


St Andrews were awarded a second penalty after substitute Jake Grech was adjudged to have floored Reid inside the box but Naumovski denied Travis Blagrove.


Birkirkara finished the match with nine men after Grech was sent off for a second yellow card.


BOV player of the match: Kevaughn Atkinson (St Andrews).



LIJA ATHLETIC          1


Lija Athletic, who have already been relegated to the First Division, ended their losing run after holding Ħamrun Spartans to a 1-1 draw on Friday.


Ħamrun took the lead two minutes into the second half. Arthur Faria Machado set up Alexander Nilsson who swept past a defender and fired past goalkeeper Luke Bonnici.


Lija levelled matters nine minutes from time. Raphael Kooh Sohna stormed clear on the right before passing to the unmarked Erjon Beu who sent a low shot past the Ħamrun custodian.


BOV player of the match: Luke Bonnici (Lija Athletic).

Official Sponsors
Commercial Partners