Day 20 Valletta 4 Birkirkara 1 Published on: 12-02-2012

Under pressure to beat Birkirkara and restore their four-point gap over Hibs at the top, Valletta underlined their title credentials this evening with a 4-1 thrashing of their rivals.

Producing arguably their best performance so far this season, Valletta proved too strong for Birkirkara as two goals inside the opening 16 minutes paved the way for their emphatic win.

Birkirkara came into this game on a high after beating Balzan 4-0 in their previous match but their poor start all but ended their hopes of taking something from this match.

Newly-signed Latvian striker Aleksandr Cekulajevs was left out of Valletta's squad while Italian defender Andrea Scozzese started on the bench.

Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit handed a starting place to Serbian defender Nikola Vukanac who rejoined the Stripes last week.

The Citizens couldn't have hoped for a better start. Less than three minutes from the start had passed when Michael Mifsud made a diagonal run before driving a low shot that was deflected into the path of the Denni. Totally unmarked, the Brazilian slotted past Birkirkara goalkeeper Reuben Gauci to give Valletta the lead.

Birkirkara's first notable move came after five minutes when Nigerian Shola Haruna set up Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza who blasted high and wide.

The champions remained the better team through, especially in the attacking phase. Their early superiority yielded a second goal on 15 minutes. Birkirkara were again caught napping at the back as Roderick Briffa made a jinking run into the box before hitting a cross -shot that was repelled by Vukanac but the ball rolled to Ousseni Zongo who rifled home.

Birkirkara were now facing an uphill task but they came close to reducing the deficit through Haruna whose rising drive came off the crossbar. Minutes later, Shaun Bajada also went close with another long-range shot and, on 31 minutes, the Birkirkara midfielder's central free-kick was easily saved by Andrew Hogg, the Valletta goalkeeper.

Late in the first half, Birkirkara had their best chance to revive their hopes. Joseph Zerafa set off on a twisting run on the left before playing a through-pass to Mifsud Triganza whose swerving effort was tipped away for a corner by Hogg.

Shortly afterwards, Jorge delivered a teasing cross from the left but Vukanac's header was blocked by Hogg.

Scrappy football was the order of the day in the early stages of the second half but an excellent City move nearly produced a third goal on 57 minutes.

Receiving from Panandetigiuri, Mifsud cut in from the right before crossing for Denni at the far post. Denni lofted the ball to run clear his marker and hit a low shot that rolled past Gauci but was cleared off the line by the Birkirkara defenders. The ball rolled up towardss Zongo whose volley was pushed over the bar by Gauci.

Birkirkara were quick to transfer the ball to Mifsud Triganza who moved past but Jonathan Caruana but stumbled to the turf after being challenged from behind. "Penalty" shouted the Birkirkara fans but their appeals were waved away by referee Fyodor Zammit.

At the other end, Zongo almost made it 3-0 but his venomous drive hit the crossbar, Birkirkara's reprieve was temporary though as, midway into the second half, Valletta moved 3-0 up. Caruana broke down a Birkirkara attack and surged forward to receive Denni's return pass. The Malta defender showed great composure as he chipped the ball over Gauci from long range.

This goal shattered Birkirkara who struggled to make a reaction. Bajada's free-kick ended wide and Jorge's long-range effort was blocked in two attempts by Hogg.

Birkirkara pulled one back two minutes from time. Ryan Scicluna passed to fellow substitute Moises Avila-Perez whose rising shot gave Hogg no chance.

But, Valletta quickly regained their three-goal lead when Alfred Effiong, who had replaced Zongo, headed Gilbert Agius's free-kick into the net.

Ousseni Zongo was voted BOV player of the match.


VALLETTA -  A. Hogg, R. Briffa, E. Agius, D. Dos Santos, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, O. Zongo (A. Effiong),  S. Mady Panadetiguiri, R. Bajada (W. Barbosa), S. Borg, M. Mifsud (G. Agius)

BIRKIRKARA  -  R. Gauci, S. Bajada (R. Camenzuli), P. Fenech, N. Vukanac, J. Zerafa, G. Sciberras, R. Pereira (M. Avila Perez), J.P. Mifsud Triganza (R. Scicluna), S. Shodiya Haruna, A. Buhagiar, J. Santos Silva.

BOV Premier League
Date: 12-02-12     Time: 16:00    Venue: National Stadium

Scorers: 4' Denni Dos Santos, 16' Ousenni Zongo, 68' Jonathan Caruana, 89' Moises Avila Perez (B), 91' Alfred Effiong

Yellow Cards:  O. Zongo (V), N. Vukanac, S. Shodiya Haruna, S. Bajada (B)

Man of Match: Ousseni Zongo (V)

Referee: Fyodor Zammit