Birkirkara topple City to boost title bid
Birkirkara produced a five-star performance to see off champions Valletta in today's top-of-the-table clash.
Coming from two consecutive wins, Birkirkara carried their improving form into their duel with the Citizens who never recovered after conceding an early goal.
Valletta may have seen more of the ball but they lacked the inspiration and flair to find a way past the organised Birkirkara who not only showed more fighting spirit but also outsmarted their opponents tactically.
This win is a massive boost to Birkirkara's title chances as they are now two points clear of Hibs and four of Valletta who face the Paolites in their next match.
Birkirkara created the first chance after just five minutes. Running on to a pass from Paul Fenech, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza got behind the City defence and advanced into the box but Ian Azzopardi's challenge was enough to unsettle the Birkirkara striker whose central shot was easily saved by Manuel Bartolo in Valletta's goal.
The Stripes appealed for a penalty but referee Chris Lautier waved play on.
Valletta failed to heed the alarm signals and Birkirkara opened the scoring from an almost identical move on 14 minutes.
Fenech's intelligent through-ball rolled towards the unmarked Mifsud Triganza in the box and the latter squared to Jhonnattann who stabbed the ball into the net from routine distance.
The hitherto confused Citizens tried to make a reaction. Gabriel's diagonal grounder ended just wide of the far post. Roderick Briffa, pushing forward on the right wing, then set up Denni but the Brazilian scuffed his shot high and wide.
Valletta should have equalised on 28 minutes when, in a penalty-box scramnble, the ball came to Mifsud but his close-range effort was kept out by Justin Haber, the Birkirkara goalkeeper.
Ryan Fenech then did well to drift into the box in from the left but his shot was off target.
Birkirkara refused to lie down. They threatened on the counter with Jhonnattann being denied by Bartolo who was prominent again when pushing away Edward Herrera's dipping drive from a wide position.
The game continued to be played a a fast pace.Valletta's Jason Lee Vandelannoite headed wide from Barbosa's free-kick. Nine minutes from half-time, Haber almost gifted Valletta a goal as his short kick dropped to Mifsud who controlled the ball but his weak shot was stopped by the Birkirkara goalkeeper.
Three minutes from half-time, Birkirkara threatened again when Herrera advanced on the right before sending in a low cross into the six-yard box but Barbosa was alert to nudge the ball away from Jhonnattann.
Late in the first half, a teasing cross by Fenech just soared above Gabriel and Mifsud.
Less than two minutes old had passed when Valletta fashioned an inviting opening. Ryan Fenech swapped passes with Gabriel before cutting into the box but he elected to pass instead of shooting and Paul Fenech was well-positioned to clear the danger.
A mishit pass by Dimech had Valletta in a spot of bother as Gareth Sciberras was first to the ball before passing to Jhonnattann who burst his way through but his shot took a deflection off Azzopardi.
Nineteen minutes from time, Birkirkara increased their lead. Herrera advanced on the right before hitting a low cross that caused a goalmouth scramble before Rowen Muscat tapped home at the far post.
Valletta dominated possession in the closing stages but their confused efforts were easily repelled by Birkirkara.
Jhonnattann, the Birkirkara striker, was named BOV player of the match.