It was an early goal by Kyrian Nwoko which handed Valletta the three points but the solitary goal hardly tells the story of the match.

It was a game which could so easily have gone in any direction. Balzan must have felt unlucky to finish on the losing side after they battled superbly to stay in touch and had a hatful of chances of their own.

Balzan show their intentions as from the beginning of the match, when in the 3rd minute Uros Ljubomirac connected with Weverton Gomes’s left-wing cross but he thumped a shot against the underside of the bar.

Valletta struggled to keep the pace but a short clearance by Augustine Loof allowed them to open the score in the 9th minute. Pouncing on that short clearance, Kyrian Nwoko sent a powerful drive that sailed past Sean Mintoff and into the net with the aid of the crossbar.

Rowen Muscat did well to block a potentially dangerous throughball from Balzan’s Paul Fenech before a corner by Weverton was cleared with some difficulty by the Valletta defence.

The game opened up into an entertaining spectacle as each side pressed for goal.

Substitute Enmy Pena Beltre, who came in for injured Eslit Sala, fired goalwards but the ball was blocked off the line by Michael Johnson.

Just before half-time Taylon Correa sent a curled a shot across goal.

In the second half, Valletta took some time to keep pace but had the best of the early chances when Taylon Correa dribbked his way into the box and sent a close range shot, which was well saved by goalkeeper Sean Mintoff.

Some lovely triangulation down the inside right by Ljubomirac and Ermis Moustakis worked an opening for Samir Arab who hit straight at Henry Bonello.

In the 65th minute, Augustine Loof headed just wide off the post following well-flighted free-kick taken by Steven Pisani. A set-piece which seemed Balzan’s best way of prising Valletta open.

Just before the final whistle, tempers boiled and Balzan striker Eric Mc Woods was shown a red card by the referee, with Suleiman Jalu and Jonathan Caruana tangled too in closing minutes.

BALZAN: Sean Mintoff, Augustine Loof, Samir Arab (Alfred Effiong 76′), Paul Fenech (Marcus Grima 87′), Eric Lemond McWoods, Steve Pisani, Michael Johnson, Uros Ljubomirac, Markos Ermis Moustakis ( Suleiman Jalu 65′), Weverton Gomes Souza, Moussa Kamara.

VALLETTA: Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Santiago Malano, Taylon Correa (Taisei Marukawa 87′), Shaun Dimech (Triston Caruana 59′), Kyrian Nwoko, Joseph Zerafa, Eslit Sala (Enmy Pena 22′), Rowen Muscat, Leandro Aguirre (Ryan Camilleri 87′), Mihailo Jovanovic.

Referee: Glen Tonna

BOV Player of the Match: