Valletta’s Steve Borg (centre) is put under pressure by Mosta’s Bojan Kaljevic (right) as Jonathan Caruana looks on. Photo: Matthew MirabelliValletta’s Steve Borg (centre) is put under pressure by Mosta’s Bojan Kaljevic (right) as Jonathan Caruana looks on. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Mosta 1
Kaljevic 24;
Valletta 0

Valletta’s title defence got off to a terrible start as Mosta grabbed a stunning victory to kick off their Premier League season in style.

The Lilywhites dominated possession throughout but found themselves behind midway through the first half when goalkeeper Nicky Vella made a hash of his attempt to keep out Bojan Kaljevic’s shot.

Valletta looked a rejuvenated side after the interval and they looked like they might turn tables on their opponents but their casual approach contrasted starkly with Mosta’s enterprise.

Enrico Piccioni’s side were bold and brave, defending in numbers when Valletta had the ball, and breaking forward with pace and panache.

It was a shock result but Mosta deserved their moment of glory.

Surely, their slick performance has shown Gilbert Agius, the new Valletta mentor, the size of task he faces as he tries to re-build a side which had its invincible aura punctured with the departure of key players like goalkeeper Nukri Revishvili, midfielder Irakli Maisuradze and strikers Alan Da Silva Souza and Denni as the Citizens have yet to replace these players with valuable replacements.

Valletta coach Agius made three changes from the team that lost to Birkirkara in the Super Cup final.

He continued to rotate his two goalkeepers as Nicky Vella was restored to the starting formation at the expense of Yenz Cini.

English striker Lateef Elford-Alliyu was the main striker in Agius’s 4-1-2-3 formation with Abdelkarim Nafti on the right and Raphael Kooh Sohna preferred to Adrian Zahra on the left. Steve Borg started ahead of Luke Dimech in defence.

Serbian striker Sasa Jovanovic, one of three new foreigners in Mosta’s line-up, was handed the onus of leading the Blues’ attack alongside Bojan Kaljevic while former Tarxien striker Daniel Bueno was detailed to provide support from behind. The other foreigner, Nemanja Milovanovic, took up a midfield role alongside Kurt Magro, Ryan Grech and Dyson Falzon.

With Valletta applying the pressure from the off, Mosta endured some nervous moments.

Abdelkarim Nafti veered towards the box from the left but his effort was deflected to a corner.

It seemed as though the Lilywhites would get reward their bright start deserved when they were awarded a penalty after 17 minutes as Adrian Borg threw his hands up to deny Borg’s cross from reaching its destination.

The assistant referee raised his flag and referee Fyodor Zammit immediately pointed to the spot. But from the ensuing penalty Elford-Alliyu saw his angled effort brilliantly palmed away by the diving Omar Borg, the Mosta goalkeeper.

Valletta’s night took a further turn for the worse after 24 minutes when Valletta custodian Vella let a long range Kaljevic shot slip underneath his body to gift the lead to Piccioni’s side.

More woes followed minutes later when Ryan Camilleri suffered an injury forcing Agius to make his first substitution, Dimech coming on for the former Hibs defender.

The Lilywhites could easily have fallen apart but they responded positively as Kooh-Sohna forced Borg to push his low effort onto the post after 34 minutes.

Four minutes into the second half, Elford-Alliyu embarked on a surging run before unleashing a low drive which finished just wide of the far post.

Borg was called into action again three minutes later, pushing away Nafti’s free-kick.

That turned out to be Nafti’s last contribution as the winger was replaced by Christian Caruana as Agius switched his forward line to a two-pronged attack with the former Floriana midfielder playing behind in a roaming role.

With several Valletta players in Mosta’s half, Shawn Bajada swept in an inviting cross from the left but Caruana’s effort was fisted away by Borg on 76 minutes.

Minutes later, Mosta were quick to switch from defence to attack as Milovanovic powered forward before being dispossessed by Dimech.

A tense finale loomed and three minutes from time, Kooh Sohna laid the groundwork and his measured cross from the right drifted into the box but substitute Luke Montebello, who had earlier replaced Hugo Faria, headed wide off the near post as Valletta crashed to an unexpected defeat.

Mosta
O. Borg-7.5, T. Farrugia-7.5, A. Borg-6, D. Falzon-6, R. Grech-6 (85 K. Pulo), B. Kaljevic-6.5 (90 K. Frendo), S. Jovanovic-6 (72 K. Zammit), N. Milovanovic-6.5, D. Bueno-6, K. Magro-6, M. Micallef-6.5.

Valletta
N. Vella-4, J Caruana-5, I. Azzopardi-5.5, S. Borg-6, R. Camilleri (30 L. Dimech-7), R. Fenech-5.5, H. Faria-6 (76 L. Montebello), R. Kooh-Sohna-6, L. Elford Alliyu-4.5, S. Bajada-5, A. Nafti-5.5 (61 C. Caruana-4).

Referee: Fyodor Zammit.

Missed penalty: Elford Alliyu (V) 17.

Yellow cards: Magro; Pulo.

BOV player of the match: Omar Borg (Mosta).

Attendance: 1,350.

Standings

  P W D L F A Pts
Hibernians 1 1 0 0 3 0 3
Balzan 1 1 0 0 4 2 3
Birkirkara 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
Mosta 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Qormi 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Tarxien R. 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Sliema W. 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Pietà Hots. 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
Naxxar Lions 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Valletta 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Żebbug R. 1 0 0 1 2 4 0
Floriana 1 0 0 1 0 3 0

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