Valletta win Anniversary Cup

Video: Melita Sports, Mark Zammit Cordina.

Updated 9.35 p.m:

Valletta 3 - Floriana 1

Valletta are the winners of the National League 100 Anniversary Cup. Michael Mifsud was Valletta’s hero as the nippy striker hit another excellent hat-trick - his second in three days - to break down the resolute Floriana who had temporarily revived their hopes with a late goal when their opponents were leading 2-0.

The numerous Valletta fans celebrated long and hard as referee Chris Lautier whistled the end of the match. Their celebrations went into overdrive when captain Gilbert Agius was presented with the Anniversary Cup by Malta FA president Joe Mifsud.

In keeping with the lively atmosphere at the National Stadium, the start to this final was frenetic.

Floriana threatened to take an early lead when Pablo Doffo’s corner from the right was headed goalward by Ryan Darmanin but Valletta midfielder Kevin Sammut was on the right spot to clear the danger.

This opportunity lifted the spirits of the Floriana fans but their optimism suffered a blow when Valletta opened the scoring after four minutes. Running onto a pass from midfield, Michael Mifsud swept past Bernard Paris and drove the ball home from a tight angle.

The red-shirted City players came close to a second goal when Sammut’s header from Roderick Briffa’s cross fell to Doding Priso but the latter missed his shot.

Slowly but surely Floriana came more into the picture.

Michael Ghebru tormented Valletta when cutting in from the right but his pass to Christian Caruana was intercepted by the Valletta defence.

In the latter stages of the first half, Floriana twice threatened to level matters, first through Ghebru whose chip landed just wide and, on the stroke of half-time, Joseph Borg shooting just wide.

The Greens ended the opening half on an uplifting note but their spirits wavered when Valletta made it 2-0 two minutes into the second half. Paris, the Floriana goalkeeper, repelled Jamie Pace’s strong shot but Mifsud was on hand to score from the rebound.

Valletta were in control for most of the second half but Doffo gave Floriana a lifeline when hitting a long-range drive past Nicky Vella. But, barely six minutes later, Mifsud administered the killer blow when firing a first-time shot past Paris after receiving from substitute Dyson Falzon.

Valletta midfielder Edmond Agius was dismissed in stoppage time for kicking out at Ghebru.

The rival supporters were in a celebratory mood even before the match started, while the police took precautions to keep them apart. St Anne Street in Floriana was closed off to Valletta supporters going to the national stadium and many supporters were searched as they entered the stadium.

Both sets of supporters went to Ta' Qali accompanied by bands and armed with flags and streamers, with the Valletta clan far outnumbering the greens.

This was not the first time that these two glorious clubs had contested a final of a tournament commemorating a milestone. Ten years ago, Valletta enjoyed one of the greatest moments in their history when they upstaged Floriana, also with a 3-1 scoreline, to capture the Centenary Cup.

Floriana were the winners of the first league in 1909-10. A gulf now exists between the two teams - Valletta are fighting for the championship while Floriana are in the relegation pool and have just secured their status in the Premier League.

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