A. Guarnone-6; J. Borg-7; R. Camilleri-6.5; T. Caruana-6.5; J. Arthur-6.5; H. Dilaver-5 (79 S. Dimech); I. Curjuric-7; R. Muscat-6; E. Sala-6 (79 J. Zerafa); M. Fontanella-7.5; K. Tulimieri-6.5 (72 E. Pena Beltre).
D. Fernandes-7.5; E. Ruiz-7; E. Pepe-7; Y. Yankam-6 (72 O. Carniello); L. Montebello-6.5; F. Falcone-5 (84 K. Bevis); R. Scicluna-6; C. Attard-6; L. Aguirre-6.5; Jeferson-5 (58 C. Bonanni-6); D. Venancio-6 (72 P. Mbong).
Referee Ishmael Barbara.
Yellow cards Curjuric, Venancio, Caruana.
BOV Player of the Match Ivan Curjuric (Valletta).
Valletta and Birkirkara cancelled each other in a goalless stalemate at the National Stadium.
The final result surely satisfies more leaders Hibernians who can now further extend their lead at the top if they manage to beat Floriana this afternoon.
Valletta and Birkirkara produced an intense game with the Citizens creating more opportunities, especially in the first half.
Birkirkara, on their part, tried to have their say in the second half but as time went by the game became more cagey and chances were at a premium.
It took a while before Valletta and Birkirkara sparked the opening 45 minutes into life with the Citizens opting for a prudent approach whereas the Stripes were looking for a more pragmatic approach in their playing style.
Birkirkara’s Diego Venancio registered the first chance of the game when he tried a trademark long-range shot just to see his effort blocked by Alessandro Guarnone.
As the half wore on, Valletta started to step up their ante and created some of the better chances of the first 45 minutes.
Haris Dilaver forced Daniel Fernandes into action with a well-struck volley from close-range but the Birkirkara goalkeeper was alert to avert the danger.
Fernandes came to the rescue for Birkirkara again when Eslit Sala headed the ball towards goal but the Stripes custodian blocked momentarily, before Rowen Muscat fired wide.
Moments later, midfielder Muscat had another shot at goal but his strike from the edge of the area went wide.
Valletta forward Mario Fontanella saw his close-range header pushed away by Fernandes before Kevin Tulimieri came agonisingly close to see his effort pushed away by Fernandes before Leandro Aguirre clearing the danger off the line.
In the second half, the Citizens were looking to resume where they had left off with Fontanella trying his luck with a first-timer from the edge of the area but his effort sailed over.
Andre Paus, the Birkirkara coach, replied to Valletta’s superiority with a tactical switch to a three-man backline, giving license to push forward to wingbacks Aguirre and Cain Attard.
Valletta’s midfielder Curjuric tried to stun goalkeeper Fernandes with a free-kick from the edge of the penalty but failed to hit the back of the net.
Birkirkara were still looking to threaten Valletta and coach Paus opted to replace yellow-carded Venancio with Paul Mbong to inject more speed in the attacking department.
Ten minutes from time, Birkirkara spurned a great scoring opportunity when Luke Montebello lobbed the ball over the onrushing Guarnone but the ball rolled wide.
Birkirkara came close once again through Aguirre whose free-kick glanced past Guarnone’s goal.
In the dying minutes, Montebello tried to fire past Guarnone from close-range but his effort hit the outside of the net as the stalemate prevailed.
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