Hamrun Spartans returned to winning ways as they defeated ten-man Qormi 2-1 to move into third place, five points behind leaders Valletta, who however have a game in hand.
Hamrun lacked central defenders Roderick Fenech and Martin Hrubsa who were ruled out through suspension and the injured Dene Shields. Qormi, on the other hand, welcomed back Abubakar Bello-Osagie but lacked Kosta Bjedov.
Qormi could have taken the lead on the 3rd minute when a through pass found Matthew Bartolo who advanced into the area before his conclusion was blocked by Omar Borg. On the 13th, a cross-shot by the same player was turned into a corner.
Marcelo Pereira served Peter Anizoba on the right but the latter’s effort was turned into a corner by Matthew Farrugia on 23 minutes. On the other side of the pitch, Qormi went close once again with a powerful drive by Hojung Kang which ended just wide on the 26th.
The Spartans forged ahead on 28 minutes when Marcelo Pereira intelligently served Gaetan Spiteri with a back-heel pass and the latter managed to beat Farrugia with a low shot from the egde of the area.
Qormi replied with a powerful shot by Abubakar Bello-Osagie which was neutralised by Omar Borg one minute later.
However on 31 minutes, referee Andre Arciola judged a challenge by Jonathan Bondin on Gaetan Spiteri inside the area as a foul, ordering a penalty and sending off the Qormi defender. From the penalty spot, Ryan Fenech converted to double the score.
Four minutes in added time, Qormi pulled one back when off a cross by Matthew Bartolo, defender Jovan Vukanic literally passed the ball to Joseph Chetcuti who slammed the ball home from close range.
Substitute George Mallia, who replaced the injured Osagie, tried his luck with a shot from the right which was partially saved by the Hamrun goalkeeper on 67 minutes.
Hamrun replied with a good run by Marcelo Pereira which he concluded with a shot ending just wide on 83 minutes.
Three minutes in added time, Hamrun could have extended the lead when Gaetan Spiteri released Mead Mifsud on the right but the latter’s attempt after entering the area was turned into a corner by Farrugia.
Omar Borg was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HAMRUN Omar Borg, Mark Anthony Bonnici, Massimo Grima (66’ Mead Mifsud), Ryan Fenech, Lee James Agius, Marcelo Pereira, Gaetan Spiteri, Jovan Vukanic (64’ Aaron Attard), David Camilleri, Steve Bonnici, Peter Anizoba.
Subs not used: Ivan Casha, Rupert Mangion, Craig Debattista, Karl Magro, Daniel Zerafa.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Jason Lee Vandelannoite, Stefan Giglio, Matthew Bartolo (76’ Ben Camilleri), Keith Fenech (37’ Roderick Sammut), Joseph Chetcuti, Joseph Farrugia, Abubakar Bello-Osagie (45+3’ George Mallia), Jonathan Bondin, Cleavon Frendo, Kang Hojung.
Subs not used: Matthew Camilleri, Gaetano Gesualdi, Gabriel Buttigieg, Michael Borg Olivier.
Coach: Stephen Azzopardi
Assistant Coach: Charles Scerri
Referee: Andre Arciola
Assistant Referees: Ingmar Spiteri, Edward Spiteri
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: S. Giglio, D. Camilleri, L. Agius, O. Borg
Red Cards: 31’ Jonathan Bondin
Scorers: 28’ Gaetan Spiteri (H), 32’ Ryan Fenech (pen)(H), 45+4’ Joseph Chetcuti (Q)
In the second match, Birkirkara were held in a 2-2 draw by Sliema Wanderers.
For the Stripes, this was the second successive draw and they are now fifth on 14 points. Sliema, who are still third from bottom, have now gone six matches without a win.
Birkirkara lacked Nikola Vukanac and Rowen Muscat but Trevor Cilia was back in the starting line-up. Sliema, once again lacked Clayton Failla, Alex Muscat and Beppe Muscat.
On 15 minutes, off a Trevor Cilia cross from the right, Emiliano Lattes had a header turned into a corner by Aktpan. Four minutes later, Sekou Tidiane Souare risked committing an own goal following a cross by Cilia.
Sliema managed to take the lead on 23 minutes when Obinna Obiefule, served by Jackson Lima, concluded a good move with a fine shot which beat goalkeeper Michael Fraser.
Birkirkara replied with a cross by Trevor Cilia from which Michael Galea headed wide two minutes later.
However the Stripes levelled matters on 28 minutes when they awarded a penalty for a foul by Clifford Gatt Baldacchino on Alan Tabone. From the penalty spot, Tabone made no mistake to make it 1-1.
Obiefule went close for Sliema with a close-range shot on 33 minutes and on the other side of the pitch, shots by Shaun Bajada and Alan Tabone were parried by Aktpan.
Two minutes from the end of the first half, Birkirkara turned the score in their favour when a perfect lob by Alan Tabone from an angled position from the left beat goalkeeper Ini Aktpan.
Just before half-time, following a cross from the left, Michael Galea left the ball for Trevor Cilia whose diagonal shot ended just wide.
The Wanderers restored equilibrium six minutes in the second half when Obinna Obiefule concluded a good run on the left flank with an inviting pass for Mark Scerri who tapped the ball home from close range.
A powerful shot by Lattes from the right was not held by Aktpan on 69 minutes but the Sliema rear-guard cleared the ball into safety.
Obiefule then served substitute Miguel Ciantar whose close-range effort was turned into a corner on 79 minutes. Paul Fenech had a long-distance shot ending just over the bar one minute from time.
Obinna Obiefule was voted BOV Player of the Match.
B’KARA Michael Fraser, Paul Fenech, Patrick Borg, Joseph Zerafa (78’ Simon Zahra), Shaun Bajada, Alan Tabone (85’ Terence Vella), Ryan Harding, Trevor Cilia (58’ Karl Pulo), Emiliano Lattes, Michael Galea, Angus Buhagiar.
Subs not used: Manuel Bartolo, Thomas Paris, Ian Schembri, Ryan Scicluna.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Assistant Coach: Branko Nisevic
SLIEMA Ini Etim Aktpan, Julian Briffa, Josef Mifsud, Sekou Tidiane Souare, Mark Scerri, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (74’ Miguel Ciantar), Steve Bezzina, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Jackson Lima Sequeira, John Mintoff (88’ James Paris), Obinna Obiefule.
Subs not used: Viktor Szentpeteri, Noel Turner, Adam Spiteri, Valdo Goncalves Alhinho, Roderick Bajada.
Coach: Mark Marlow
Assistant Coach: Joseph Bajada
Referee: Glen Tonna
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: J. Briffa, Gatt Baldacchino, J. Zerafa, M. Galea, A. Tabone, P. Fenech, S. Bezzina
Scorers: 23′ Obinna Obiefule (H); 28′ Alan Tabone (pen) (B); 43’ Alan Tabone (B); 51’ Mark Scerri (S)
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