Pena Beltre 29 o.g; Cabrera 72; Falcone 85
BIRKIRKARA G. Nava-6, O. Iorio-, E. Pepe-5.5, D. Pires Dall’Oca-6.5, A. Alves-6 (88 M. Gambin), Y. Yankam-7, P. Mbong-6.5 (81 D. Ribeiro), K. Zammit-6, C. Attard-6, D. Cabrera-6 (77 F. Falcone), K. Tulimieri-6 (77 R. Scicluna).
VALLETTA A. Guamone-5, E. Ruiz-5, J. Borg-5, A. Zammit-6, S.Dimech-5.5 (57 O. Akpoveta), E. Pena Beltre-5 (46 T. Caruana-5), S. Kamdem-5 (72 R. Camilleri), B. Paiber-6, E. Sala-5, F. Cheveresan-4 (57 J. Ngong), K. Bevis-7.
Referee Philip Farrugia
Yellow cards K. Zammit, Pepe, Kamdem, Iorio,
Red card Osvaldo Iorio (Birkirkara) 83
BOV player of the match Kilian Bevis (Valletta)
Birkirkara gave Valletta a lesson in finishing yesterday as they put away most of the scoring chances that came their way to inflict a heavy defeat on their stuttering opponents.
Birkirkara rekindled their title aspirations with a powerhouse display of football which sent Valletta crashing to an unexpected heavy defeat, a result which brought the Stripes to the top of the standings alongside Hamrun Spartans.
If truth is to be told, the result was somewhat harsh on Valletta, who enjoyed the upper hand for most of the first half until they went down to Enmy Pena Beltre’s own goal.
Diego Pires Dall’Oca was tasked with shielding the back four in a system that allowed Alex Alves, Paul Mbong and Kevin Tulimieri freedom to roam and interchange up front behind Daniel Cabrera.
On the other side, Flavio Cheveresan was the attacking spearhead of Thane Micallef’s fluid 4-1-3-2 formation with Kilian Bevis and Andrea Zammit detailed to probe for openings on the flanks.
Brandon Paiber operated between the defensive and midfield units and would look to pick up the likes of Shaun Dimech and Zammit as they dropped in.
Valletta had the more enterprising start and were playing some fluid football and a fine move featuring a string of accurate passes culminated in Zammit letting fly a striking shot that finished just over the bar past the quarter of the hour mark.
A minute later, Bevis veered to the right before slipping a perfect pass to Zammit who glided past his marker but Osvaldo Iorio hoofed the ball off the line.
Valletta’s early pressure failed to unhinge Birkirkara whose coach Giovanni Tedesco opted for a prudent 4-1-4-1 approach.
Yet, much against the run of play, Birkirkara broke the deadlock when Pena Beltre attempted to clear the ball away from Kevin Tulimieri’s free-kick and the ball flew inside the net for a strange own-goal.
The opening goal left an adverse mark on Valletta. There was a vacuum in the midfield which appeared too difficult to fill. Anchor-man Yannick Yankam and Paul Mbong were releasing themselves from deep positions with fluent and well-timed runs. On 38 minutes, Cabrera shot high and wide after another good move from the Stripes.
Micallef thought to re-adjust the team at half-time as Eslit Sala’s switch to the defence and the introduction of Triston Caruana in lieu of Pena Beltre appeared to be sensible measures.
On 52 minutes, Zammit got on the end of an intelligent Bevis pass before outsprinting Enrico Pepe only to see his angled drive hitting the side-netting.
Valletta may have enjoyed the better share of possession in the second half but Birkirkara were not intimidated.
Micallef’s response to his side’s lack of cutting edge was to add two strikers Jean Ngong and Oke Akpoveta.
However, the Birkirkara machine struck again with 18 minutes to go. Good work from Osvaldo Iorio on the right produced a cross that reached Cabrera who hit the ball onto the underside of the bar and into the net.
However, the Italian right-back was given marching orders for a second bookable offence after Iorio handled the ball.
That mattered little as five minutes from time, substitute Federico Falcone drifted into the penalty area gearing up to nail his effort home, he rifled a venomous shot which left Alessandro Guarnone hapless.
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