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Valletta has strengthened their position in third after a convincing win over Sliema Wanderers.

Michael Mifsud was the fastest out of the blocks as he took just 60 seconds to prise open the Blues rearguard with a swerving shot that smacked against the post after a mazy run down the left flank. The energetic full-back Ian Azzopardi had the pace to break down the left flank and provide more width. After seven minutes, he surged forward played a quick one-two with Falzon and had time to stroke the ball across Clifford Gatt Baldacchino to Mifsud but Stefano Bianciardi cleared the danger.

In the 19th minute, Mifsud was unlucky to beat John Mintoff and Glenn Zammit but not the bar after hitting a teasing dipper that skimmed the top of the bar.

Valletta might have allowed the game to slip midway through the first half, and Sliema had their chances during what was a sustained effort after 24 minutes. But Luigi Ruggiero show no composure in front of Yenz Cini when trying to lift his effort over the onrushing goalkeeper but Cini blocked him, only for Machardi to hit wide from rebound. 


But after that, Valletta were allowed just too much sight of the Sliema goal. And on the half hour mark, Gabriel’s point-blank header was saved by Zammit. And five minutes later, Mifsud was again the provider of another mazy run that ended with the striker’s long-range shot was saved at full-stretch by Zammit.

However, three minutes into the second half, Valletta were in front when Vandelannoite’s right wing cross landed at the feet of Falzon at the far post and the midfielder fired past Zammit.

A frustrating and already damaging afternoon for Sliema turned into a disastrous one when Falzan turned provider to dink a perfect assist for Mifsud who headed the ball into the path of Demba Tourè who raced into the box and headed the ball into the net ahead of onrushing Zammit. The Senegalese striker required medical attention after barging into the goalkeeper to score and was substituted by Bello-Osagie.

On his part, Alfonso Greco swapped Alain Faccini for Luigi Ruggiero and Luca Martinelli for Mintoff and the Italian striker might have handed his side a lifeline after 62 minutes but his header from Alex Muscat’s cross was ruled out for offside.

However, hopes that this move woud spark an improvement in Sliema’s performance were almost brusquely extinguished moments later as Bello-Osagie  surged clear on the left before unleashing a grounder but Zammit did well to push aside.

After that, Valletta switched to a holding back mode to preserve their lead but Sliema never looked like troubling the Lilywhites’ two-goal cushion



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