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Sliema Wanderers edge past 10-man Valletta

Sliema Wanderers' Vito Plut (centre) pushes the ball away from a Valletta challenge. Photo: Domenic Borg

SLIEMA 1

Plut 61

VALLETTA 0

SLIEMA

R. Al Tumi-6, J. Borg-7, J. Minala-6, V. Plut-7 (90 L. Micallef), M. Beerman-6, G. Alcino-7, C. Kouao-6, N. Frendo-7, G. Acheampong-7.5, S. da Mata-5.5 (81 E. Agius), A. Awad-6 (73 K. Abubakar).

VALLETTA

J. Galea-6, E. Ruiz-5.5, O. Barrientos-5, S. Ferraris-6 (59 H. Silas), S. Dimech-5.5, L. Susnjara-5.5 (59 Jhonnattann-4), F. Falcone-4, R. Muscat (20 B. Paiber-6), V. Filho-6, F. Vega-5 (73 Aldair), N. Micallef-5.

Referee Matthew Degabriele.

Yellow cards Ferraris, Silas, Beerman, Al Tumi.

Red card Alfred Silas (Valletta) 81.

BOV player of the match Geoffrey Acheampong (Sliema Wanderers).

Vito Plut put the seal on a deserved Sliema victory over Valletta with a fine header to earn the Wanderers their first win on their return to the Premier League.

The Slovenian striker’s 61st-minute goal, a stooped header from Neil Frendo’s cross came after an opening second-half spell of prolonged pressure by the Blues.

Sliema coach Paul Zammit opted for a three-man defence and deployed Frendo, Gustavo Alcino, and Jean Borg at the back as he organised his rearguard to square up Valletta’s diamond formation.

Valletta enjoyed the better of a cagey first half, spurred on by the slick Shaun Dimech and Luka Susnjara up front. Inside the first two minutes, they were involved in some excellent touch of the ball, but the Slovenian striker hit low which was blocked by Rashed Al Tumi.

The Wanderers lacked fluidity, but they did threaten to break through the Valletta rearguard on a handful of occasions.

Thane Micallef was forced to make his first substitution on 20 minutes when Rowen Muscat limped out injured and was replaced by Brandon Paiber, who surprisingly left out of the starting 11 again.

The Maltese midfielder almost gave them the lead one minute from half-time when Dimech picked out Paiber at the far end, only to see his effort just wide.

Plut was an isolated figure up front and any moment was invariably undone by errant passes. With the Slovenian striker struggling, Geoffrey Acheampong and Samuel da Mata also failed to have any impact in the opening 45 minutes.

But in the second half, Sliema attacked with renewed vigour and Denis Kouao almost gave them the lead with a shot which was diverted into a corner by the Valletta rearguard.

Shy the hour, Valletta boosted their attack with Jhonnattan Benites da Conceicao making his debut in his third spell at the club. But the Lilywhites had little to cheer about a minute later when Plut steered Frendo’s enticing cross past Jake Galea with a powerful header.

The game started to become stretched but despite having three strikers on the pitch, they failed to test Al Tumi. Instead, Sliema continued to look dangerous on the counterattack with substitute Karim Abubakar firing just over after being set up by Plut.

Valletta looked doomed when they had substitute Alfred Silas sent off only 22 minutes after he came on, for two yellow cards in quick succession. And City’s efforts became increasingly desperate in the closing stages with a close-range effort from Dimech well over the bar, the best they could muster.

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