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VALLETTA CLAIM THE DOUBLE

Valletta claimed the 'Double' after beating Birkirkara 2-1 in the FA Trophy final at the National Stadium on Saturday.

Valletta completely dominated the first half and showed their attacking intentions from the start. It was specially Matteo Picciolo from the left flank who constantly created havoc in the Birkirkara defence, while Miguel Alba and Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre were dangerous from the right flank.

Somehow, Birkirkara could limit the damage to just one goal, also thanks to some excellent work by ex-Macedonian national team goalkeeper Kristjan Naumovski

A free-kick by Santiago Malano after three minutes sailed high over the crossbar. A shot from about 25 meters by Miguel Alba was saved by goalkeeper Naumovski on 14 minutes.

Four minutes later another shot by Picciolo sailed over the crossbar. Two minutes later Miguel Alba almost punished off a defensive mistake in the Birkirkara defence but failed to score face to face with the Macedonian goalkeeper.

Nwoko missed an opportunity from close-in on 24th minute, just missing out on a dangerous cross from the left by Zerafa. In the 28th minute a fine Pena Beltre pass was met by Alba but again Naumovski saved. Nwoko tried his luck with a shot from just outside the box on 34th minutes just missing target.

In the 40th minute Valletta took a deserved lead via a soft Nwoko header that completely surprised Naumovski. Just before half-time, a Carlos Alberto cross was well saved by Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello before Waldemar Acosta could meet.

In the attack what followed, Malano’s shot from just outside the box ended on the post with Naumovski beaten. Ibrahim Saleh nearly added a third in the 84th minute, taking advantage of a bad Birkirkara clearance on the left but Naumovski saved in style.

At the start of the second half, without setting any houses on fire, Valletta continued where they left in the first half, creating some opportunities via Picciolo and Alba in the first 15 minutes.

Substitute Ognjen Rolovic’s shot in the 63rd minute got nearly the better of Bonello, who managed to punch the danger away. Birkirkara were more adventurous and gradually saw more of the ball, managing to create some danger in the Valletta defence.

It was however Valletta who doubled their lead in their first real opportunity in the second half via a Santiago Malano strike in the 79th minute.

With three minutes on the clock, a free-kick by Rolovic was deflected via the wall and surprised Bonello, bringing back hope for the Birkirkara clan, 1-2.

The Stripes now went all in attack, with coach Paul Zammit bringing young striker Ayrton Attard for defender Cain Attard.

Valletta were made to sweat and with the assistant referee signalling for five minutes added time, Birkirkara got another free-kick on the edge of the box. It was again Rolovic who took the kick but his effort ended on top of the goal.

Deep into added time, Denni dos Santos’ shot, playing his fifth FA Trophy Final, was saved by Naumovski. Seconds later referee Alan-Mario Sant signalled for the end of the match, which got the party going for the faithful supporters of Valletta FC.
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