SLIEMA WANDERERS-0, VALLETTA-3
Valletta are in seventh heaven.
A 3-0 victory over Sliema Wanderers this evening crowned Valletta champions for the second year running as the Citizens now have an unassailable nine-point lead at the top with two games remaining.
Hibs’ defeat to Birkirkara yesterday had left Valletta needing only one point to retain the title but the Whites took all three in emphatic fashion to kickstart their title party, much to the delight of their jubilant fans.
With their team only one point away from retaining the title, thousands of Valletta supporters made their way to the National Stadium.
Coach Jesmond Zerafa confirmed the starting XI that beat Birkirkara 2-0 in their previous outing while Sliema mentor Danilo Doncic named an all-Maltese line-up.
Valletta took the game to Sliema from the off but had to wait until the final three minutes of the first half to move ahead, scoring twice in the space of two minutes.
After eight minutes, Brazilian forward Denni powered his way into the box from the right box but his rising shot was pushed onto the post by Anthony Curmi, the Sliema goalkeeper.
Michael Mifsud then had a shot blocked by Josef Mifsud whose initial clearance had come off team-mate Clifford Gatt Baldacchino.
It was all Valletta in the opening stages. A fierce drive from William Barbosa sailed just over the bar but, for their possession, the Whites could not find a way past the Sliema defence.
Four minutes past the half-hour, Curmi frustrated Valletta with a fine save to tip away Barbosa’s header from Denni’s corner.
The Blues then recorded their first attempt at goal when Ryan Fenech’s central free-kick was easily saved by Andrew Hogg.
From their next attack, Valletta broke the deadlock. Zongo and Mifsud exchanged passes inside the Sliema box but the latter’s effort was blocked by the defenders. The ball broke to Denni who turned swiftly before rifling his shot into the top-corner to send the City fans into raptures.
Their joy increased when, barely two minutes later, Valletta increased their advantage through Mifsud who fired home from close in after being set up by Denni.
Sitting on a two-goal cushion, Valletta were in the driving seat but early in the second half, Sliema finally threatened.
Trevor Cilia’s corner was met by Mifsud whose downward header was blocked by Hogg. Moments later, Mifsud was first to Fenech’s diagonal pass but his grounder was wide.
From the possibility of reducing the deficit, Sliema suddenly found themselves 3-0 down, Zongo finishing off a sweeping attack with a fierce drive that gave Curmi no chance.
Hogg then easily saved Frendo’s free-kick.
Midfielder Edmond Agius, a fixture in the City team this season, threatened to put his name on the scoresheet but his diagonal effort dropped just wide of the far post.
Denni then flicked the ball against a post from close in as the champions, urged on by their fans, continued to pile the pressure on Sliema.
Valletta cantered through the remaining minutes before producing another barrage of attacks late on.
Mifsud was denied by Curmi who also saved two dangerous attempts from substitute Terrence Scerri.
In the dying stages, Sliema had the chance to score a consolation goal when Cilia found himself clear on the counter but Hogg deflected his effort wide of the near post.
Denni was named BOV player of the match.