City rout Hibs to go top
Valletta have reclaimed top spot after hammering rivals Hibs 4-1 in today's top-of-the-table encounter.
The Paolites came into the match with a two-point lead over the champions but their hopes of hanging on to their position suffered a blow when Valletta scored two quickfire goals late in the first half.
A third Valletta goal early in the second half ended the game as a contest as the Whites began the new year on a flying note after ending 2012 on a bad one after a 1-1 draw with minnows Rabat Ajax.
Before the game, Mario Muscat, the Hibs captain, walked into the section housing his team's to place a bunch of flowers in memory of Juan Barbara, the young Hibs supporter who died recently.
Valletta coach Mark Miller handed a debut to his three new signings, namely Luke Dimech, Belgian defenderr Jason Lee Vandelannoite and Senegalese striker Demba Toure.
Hibs created the first noteworthy chance after eight minutes when Clayton Failla hit a great pass to release Brazilian Allan Kardeck but the latter rifled over.
Moments later, Ian Azzopardi, the Valletta left-back, cleared the ball away from Kardeck as the latter was about to shoot following a cross from Failla.
The Citizens had to wait until the 17th minute to produce a chance of their own. Denni laid the ball back to William Barbosa from a free-kick but the Brazilian's drive was stopped by Ryan Camilleri.
Valletta goalkeeper Yenz Cini, who replaced the suspended Manuel Bartolo, saved a free-kick by Andrew Cohen.
Scoring chances were few and far between but 10 minutes from half-time, Valletta opened the scoring. Denni tapped the ball home from close ranger after Muscat, under pressure from Toure, failed to hold Ian Zammit's cross from the right.
Two minutes later, Valletta doubled their lead. They were awarded a penalty after Rodolfo Soares was deemed to have hauled down Denni in the box. Zammit converted the penalty.
The second half was only two minutes old when Valletta increased their lead. Ryan Fenech cut into the box from the left before serving the unmarked Denni who tapped home.
Michael Woods made his first substitution eight minutes into the second half, bringing on Udo Nwoko for Farrugia. Three goals down, Hibs found it difficult to make a reaction. On the hour, Zoran Levnaic headed Cohen's corner into the centre of the box and Kardeck's overhead volley was hooked away by the City defenders.
Valletta survived a scare when, in a prolonged raid, Camilleri headed Failla's cross towards the far post and Kardeck nodded the ball past Cini and into the goalmouth but no Hibs player managed to get a touch to the ball.
With 19 minutes remaining, referee Azzopardi further angered Hibs when he awarded a second penalty to Valletta after ruling that Camilleri had lunged into Zammit as the latter tried to connect with a cross from the left. Barbosa made no mistake from the spot.
Valletta threatened again but Fenech's dipping header from the edge of the box came off the crossbar with Muscat rooted to the spot.
Four minutes from time, Hibs scored a consolation thanks to substitute Johann Bezzina who beat Cini with a stunning shot.
In stoppage time, Hibs were reduced to 10 men after Brazilian defender Soares was shown the red card for a second booking.
Valletta's Denni was named BOV player of the match.