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Valletta prevail in six-goal thriller

VALLETTA       4

Malano 8

Nwoko 19

Aguirre 70 pen.; Piciollo 90


Falcone 7

Yankam 64 pen.

Valletta overcame Birkirkara in a six-goal thriller to open their Premier League campaign in style.

It looked as though Birkirkara were set for a headstart when Federico Falcone gave them the lead after seven minutes.

But Valletta hit back strongly and managed to score two-quick fired goals soon after that put them firmly in control. Birkirkara did manage to restore equilibrium after the break but the Citizens always seemed to have something more and went on to secure the points with two late goals.

Valletta coach Jesmond Zerafa handed a debut to Albanian winger Eslit Sala and Argentine wing back Leandro Aguirre, in his second spell at the club.

Birkirkara, on the other hand, fielder their strongest formation with Federico Falcone and Caio spearheading their forward line.

Birkirkara were off to a flier as after seven minutes of play they forged ahead. Matthew Guillaumier picked Caio inside the area and the Brazilian quickly fed Federico Falcone who buried the ball past Henry Bonello.

Valletta took just one minute to equalize when Joseph Zerafa picked Santiago Malano isnde the area and the Argentine headed past the diving Andrew Hogg.

Two minutes later, Valletta almost struck again when Aguirre’s low cross found Taylon at the far post but the Brazilian failed to divert the ball into the net.

Valletta continued to press forward, and their ascendancy yielded a second goalon 19 minutes. Sala outmuscled Ntow on the right and sent a fine cross towards Kyrian Nwoko who headed past Hogg.

Eight minutes from the break, Andre Paus was forced to make the first change when Cain Attard limped out injured and was replaced by Roderick Briffa.

Birkirkara finally threatened two minutes from the break when Oscar Carniello hit a thumping drive that Bonello tipped to a corner.

After the break, one expected Birkirkara to step up the pressure and although they did enjoy a higher percentage of possession, they struggled to create any danger to the Valletta goal.

Instead it was Valletta who almost doubled their lead on 59 minutes when Taylon created space for himself, but his angled drive was saved by the diving Hogg.

Birkirkara managed to level matters on 64 minutes when Rowen Muscat was adjudged to have floored Matthew Guillaumier inside the area and from the resultant penalty Yannick Yankam lashed the ball into the top corner.

But Valletta soon responded and 20 minutes from time substitute Shaun Dimech dispossessed Carniello and sped into the area but was upended by Hogg with the referee ordering a second penalty.

It was Valletta who had the final say as in stoppage time Matteo Piciollo raced through and slid the ball past the onrushing Hogg to seal a deserved victory.

Aguirre stepped up and saw his first effort blocked by Hogg but from the rebound the Argentine fired the ball home.

There was more drama as five minutes later Falcone powered a header past Bonello but the referee annulled the goal for a foul by the Argentine.



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