Gzira United’s 2-1 loss to Valletta, ended the Maroons’ unbeaten run of ten matches in all competitions, eight of them in the league. This was, Gzira’s first defeat in three months, with Valletta returning to winning ways in the league also in three months.
Following Match Day 21, Gzira still maintained second place in the league, with now a two-point margin over third place Birkirkara and three points over fourth place, now jointly occupied by Balzan and Hibs. Despite Gzira remaining sole second in the league table, following the results of this weekend, competition for the European Competition places is now heating up, with Gzira feeling their opponents breathing down their neck.
The match was dominated by Gzira, creating more than enough scoring opportunities to win the match. However, these scoring opportunities were either mainly squandered by the Gzira players or else well saved by the Man of the Match, Valletta’s goalkeeper Cain Formosa. All in all, however, as the saying goes, the team who wins the match is the one who scores from the few chances coming its way and not the team who creates the most numerous scoring chances and attempts on goal but failing to conclude any of them. This turned out to be not Gzira’s day.
Gzira received a setback right before kick-off. Gabriel Bohrer sustained an injury during warm up and had to be replaced in the last moment by Ewertton Jose Costa Silva.
The first chance of the match came to Gzira. In the 5th minute, after a cross by Dias from the right, the subsequent header by Kolega, was saved spectacularly to a corner by Valletta’s keeper Formosa.
However, Valletta responded by taking the lead in the 14th minute. After an assist by Dimech, Belvis drove his low shot to the right corner of the post, out of reach, past Gzira’s Zarkov.
In the 28th minute, a corner by Gzira’s Kolega from the left was headed over the bar by Muscat from the edge of the six-yard box. In the 30th minute, a cross by Kolega from the left was headed by the unmarked Maia just off target,
The half ended with a rare attack by Valletta seeing Zammit’s shot scrapping the net of Gzira’s goal post.
Valletta started the half when in the 3rd minute a central shot by Paiber was well neutralized by Gzira’s custodian Zarkov.
In the 49th minute, Gzira had a great opportunity to equalise when Mendoza was brought down by Ngong in the penalty area, to be awarded a penalty. Maxuell Maia stepped up for the penalty, only to see his well-placed low shot to the left, being turned to a corner by Valletta’s keeper Formosa.
Gzira stepped up their efforts, when in the 54th minute, a central strong shoot by Mendoza missed the target. Valletta responded, with a counterattack, when Gzira’s keeper Zarkov came to the rescue at point blank range to save a shot by Belvis.
In the 64th minute, a cross by Gzira’s Dias from the right flank, found De Oliveira in a central position at the edge of Valletta’s six-yard box, only to see his header go wide.
Valletta increased their lead in the 78th minute. Zammit, cleverly won a penalty for Valletta, after he was adjudged to have been fouled by Gzira’s Tabone. Paiber’s spot kick to the right-hand corner of the goal, was inches wide of being saved by Gzira’s Zarkov.
In the 81st minute, a shot by Gzira’s Tabone was saved, but in the 89th minute Gzira managed to reduce the deficit. A cross by Jefferson De Assis from the bye line found substitute Lucas Ribeiro De Oliveira heading in from close range past Valletta’s keeper Formosa.
In the four minutes of additional time awarded, Gzira had a header by De Assis neutralized to safety by Valletta’s keeper and a shot by Muscat going wide.
There was not enough time for Gzira to force an equalizer and the referee’s final whistle saw Gzira succumbing to a rare defeat, much to the disappointment of the Gzira clan and its supporters.
Gzira United must now regroup for next weekend’s top of the table clash with Hamrun Spartans and apart from gaining precious points for their quest for European participation, they also hope to postpone by a further few weeks, Hamrun’s celebration party for winning the championship!
Gzira’s unbeaten run halted
Gzira United 1 Valletta 2
5th March 2023, National Stadium, Ta’ Qali