Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao was the hero for Birkirkara as he notched a hat-trick in a comfortable 3-0 win over Floriana.
This was the fourth win for Birkirkara and the first defeat for the Greens after two draws and a win in the first three matches.
The Stripes lacked once again Joselito dos Reis but welcome back in the starting line-up Ryan Scicluna and Shola Shodiya with Edward Herrera being named among the first eleven after being included as a substitute in his first game. For the Greens, Carl Tremarco was missing back after missing the game against Balzan.
Birkirkara took the lead on the 11th minute when off a cross by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao managed to slot the ball past goalkeeper Jurgen Borg.
Floriana replied with a Trevor Cilia effort from the right which was parried by Reuben Gauci on 25 minutes. Nikola Vukanac then went close with a header hitting the crossbar off a Jhonnattann corner from the right on the 38th.
Four minutes in the second half, off an Aman Verma corner from the left, Aaron Brown’s header was blocked by Reuben Gauci and Akanni Wasiu’s conclusion was deflected into a corner.
The Stripes doubled the score on 56 minutes when Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao received a perfect pass and advanced into the area before hitting low past the Floriana goalkeeper.
Jhonnattann crowned his excellent performance with his third goal on 75 minutes as he beat Jurgen Borg with a direct freekick from the left – a curved shot which gave the Floriana custodian no chance.
Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao was voted BOV Player of the Match.
FLORIANA Jurgen Borg, Kane Farrugia, Aaron Brown, Owen Bugeja, Carl Tremarco, Trevor Cilia, Aman Verma (64’ Valdo Alhinho), Thomas Paris, Clyde Borg, Ryan Darmanin, Akanni-Sunday Wasiu.
Subs not used: Jonathan Debono, Duncan Pisani, Tyrone Farrugia, Jermain Brincat, Mark Spiteri, Francesco Guzman.
Asst. Coach: Alan Lewer
B’KARA Reuben Gauci, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Joseph Zerafa, Paul Fenech, Ryan Scicluna (71’ Rowen Muscat), Nikola Vukanac, Gareth Sciberras, Shola Shodiya (88′ Godwin Mackay), Edward Herrera, Jhonnattann da Conceicao, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (46’ Ryan Camenzuli).
Subs not used: Karl Magri, Zach Muscat, McAllister Clinch, David Spiteri.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Asst. Coach: Peter Pullicino
Referee: Paul Caruana
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Roberto Vella
Fourth Official: Adrian Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Verma, Brown, Shodiya
Scorers: 11’ Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, 56’ Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, 74’ Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao
Meanwhile in the first match, Qormi returned to winning ways as they came from behind to beat Sliema Wanderers 2-1.
The Blues seemed to be a more determined side but Qormi soon showed the better ideas, taking full advantage of some shaky defending. For Sliema, this was the second successive defeat.
Qormi had Chilean midfielder Edison Bilbao Zarate making his debut while Sliema had Italian defender Stefano Bianciardi and Argentine midfielder Diego Marcelo Ortega making their first appearance.
The Wanderers managed to take the lead on the 5th minute thanks to Miguel Ciantar whose rising shot from the edge of the area from the left beat goalkeeper Matthew Farrugia.
Ciantar then tried his luck with a powerful shot from the left which was neutralised by Farrugia on the 15th. On the other side of the pitch, Henry Bonello performed a good save on an Abubakar Bello-Osagie effort on 28 minutes.
Qormi levelled matters on the 29th when off an Edison Bilbao Zarate corner from the right, Vincenzo Pisani’s overhead kick beat Bonello.
Sliema went close once again on 38 minutes with a fine shot by Matias Muchardi which was however parried by the Qormi goalkeeper. Farrugia was prominent once again two minutes later with a save on an Alex Muscat header off a corner by Paltemio Barbetti from the left.
Qormi forged ahead on 62 minutes when Abubakar Bello-Osagie took advantage of a defensive blunder and placed the ball inside the empty net.
Vincenzo Pisani could have increased the lead further on 75 minutes when he dribbled Matias Muchardi to find himself all alone in front of Henry Bonello but his conclusion hit the foot of the post. Two minutes later, the Italian striker managed to steal the ball off the Sliema defence but his close-range effort was blocked by Bonello.
Three minutes in added time, with the Wanderers all out in search of the equaliser, goalkeeper Henry Bonello almost scored from close range following a shot from outside the area by Paltemio Barbetti.
Abubakar Bello-Osagie was voted BOV Player of the Match.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Kris Thackray, Roderick Sammut, Matthew Bartolo, Vincenzo Pisani, Joseph Chetcuti, Abubakar Bello-Osagie, Edison Bilboa Zarate (81’ Luke Sciberras), Gaetan Spiteri (61’ Leighton Grech), Jonathan Bondin, Alessio Cassar (46’ Matthew Gauci).
Subs not used: Steve Sultana, Carmelo Farrugia, Sebastian Aurelio Siritto, Gabriel Buttigieg.
Coach: Stephen Azzopardi
SLIEMA Henry Bonello, John Minoff, Josef Mifsud, Stefano Bianciardi, Alex Muscat, Paltemio Barbetti, Mark Scerri (61; Beppe Muscat), Matias Muchardi (86’ Diego Marcelo Ortega), Miguel Ciantar, Alain Faccini (67’ Omar El Ghaouti), Ivan Woods.
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, Luca Martinelli, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Andrew Decesare
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Asst. Coach: JoJo Bajada
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Mitchell Scerri, Emmanuel Grech
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: Scerri, Faccini, Ciantar, Thackray, Zarate, Bondin, B. Muscat, Barbetti, Mifsud, L. Grech
Scorers: 5’ Miguel Ciantar (S); 29’ Vincenzo Pisani (Q); 62’ Abubakar Bello-Osagie (Q)