Valletta’s hopes of retaining the BOV Premier League crown are alive and kicking. A fine strike from Romeu Romao handed the champions a crucial 1-0 victory over erstwhile leaders Balzan in the top clash of the weekend. The Citizens are now only one point behind Balzan on 53 and three behind Hibernians who now top the standings on 56 points.
The first half was a balanced affair with Valletta showing the better ideas at the National Stadium.
From a very tight angle, Brazilian Romao put Valletta ahead with 20 minutes on the clock.
A shot by Luke Montebello from just outside the box was saved by goalkeeper Ivan Janjusevic on 26 minutes.
Brazilian forward Alan De Souza was keeping the Valletta rearguard busy with some good moves while, at the other end, a strong shot from 25 metres out by Argentine Santiago Malano was saved for a corner by the Balzan goalkeeper three minutes before the end of the opening half.
Balzan tried to raise their game after the change of ends with Da Silva Souza their most prominent player in attack.
Midway into the second half, Valletta goalkeeper Dziugas Bartkus blocked a dangerous shot by the Brazilian.
Valletta were solid at the back as they withstood Balzan’s pressure. To make matters worse for Balzan, midfielder Anderson De Barros was sent off for a second yellow card five minutes from time.
Hibs strengthened their title challenge as their 3-0 win over Pembroke Athleta lifted them to top of the standings with seven games remaining.
The Paolites dominated for long stretches, taking an early lead with a header from Jorginho.
Jurgen Degabriele, the in-form Malta U-21 striker, doubled their advantage on 65 minutes and defender Dejan Boljevic completed the scoring six minutes from time.
In Friday’s first game at the National Stadium, Gżira United all but eased their relegation worries after a 4-1 win over strugglers Mosta.
After a goalless first half, the Maroons surged into a 3-0 lead with goals from Zachary Scerri, Gianmarco Conti and substitute Carlos Reyna.
Defender Tyrone Farrugia scored a consolation goal for Mosta late on but there was still time for Gżira to restore their three-goal advantage when Reyna converted a penalty.
Early in the second half, Gżira coach Darren Abdilla and Johann Scicluna, the Mosta assistant coach, were ordered off the bench following a touchline row.
In Friday’s other match at the Hibernians Stadium, Ħamrun Spartans and St Andrews shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Karl Micallef put the Spartans ahead after 16 minutes but Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre equalised for St Andrews four minutes into the second half.