Hibernians conceded an early goal but were quick to equalise and go ahead to beat Zebbug Rangers 5-2 to regain a fifteen-point lead on top the BOV Premier League table.
This was the eighth consecutive win for the Paolites and the sixteenth win in seventeen matches.
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Jonathan Pearson and Johann Bezzina replaced Rui da Gracia Gomez and Bjorn Kristensen for Hibernians. For Zebbug, Fabricio Rapchan, Luis Pena Marquez, Ratko Mandic, John Nwoba and Bojan Mamic were no longer available for selection after being released by the club. Jeffrey Farrugia, Melvin Farrugia and new signing Kurt Zammit replaced Rapchan, Mamic and Matthew Gauci in the starting line-up.
Zebbug had a perfect start, taking the lead on the 4th minute thanks to Carlo Gordon Monti who concluded a solo effort with a shot half-height which beat Bonello.
Hibs equalised five minutes later when Andrew Cohen served Jorge Pereira da Silva who beat the on-rushing Jeffrey Farrugia.
Tarabai tested Farrugia with a good header off a cross by Tabone Desira on the 16th and eight minutes later, a Johann Bezzina effort ended high. Matthew Bartolo tested Henry Bonello with a powerful shot on the half-hour.
Hibs took the lead on the 36th when a Tarabai freekick deflected by a defender reached Rodolfo Soares who slotted the ball past the Zebbug goalkeeper.
Early in the second half, a good shot by Matias Muchardi was turned into a corner by Bonello and then Zebbug goalkeeper Jeffrey Farrugia turned into a corner a good header by Jorge Pereira.
On the 56th, Jonathan Pearson made it 3-1 as he tapped the ball home following a freekick from the right.
Carlo Monti reduced the gap on 65 minutes with another fine freekick with the ball ending in the top right corner.
Andrew Cohen hit the upright with a freekick on 67 minutes and five minutes later, a curved shot by Carlo Monti was neutralised by Bonello.
Zebbug were then reduced to ten-man after Kurt Zammit was sent off after receiving a second yellow card on the 74th.
Edison Luis dos Santos increased the lead further on 81 minutes as he hit home from close range off a corner by Failla.
Finally three minutes from time, a powerful shot by Andrew Cohen beat Jeffrey Farrugia for the Paolites’ fifth goal.
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HIBS Henry Bonello, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares, Timothy Tabone Desira (46’ Joseph Essien Mbong), Andrew Cohen, Jackson di Lima Siquera, Clayton Failla, Johann Bezzina, Andrei Agius, Edison Luis dos Santos, Jorge Periera da Silva (83’ Jurgen Degabriele).
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Keith Tanti, Zachary Scerri, Dunstan Vella, Marcelo Dias.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
ZEBBUG Jeffrey Farrugia, Jacob Borg, Yessous Camilleri, Lee Galea, Thomas Paris, Carlo Gordon Monti, Matias Mucchardi, Mauricio Osmar Rodrigues Britto, Matthew Bartolo, Kurt Zammit, Melvin Farrugia (54’ Matthew Gauci).
Subs not used: Neville Hili, Lee James Agius, Miguel Ciantar, Bjorn Chetcuti, Jonathan Xerri, Shawn Borg.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Referee: Sandro Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Duncan Sultana, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Christopher Lautier
Yellow cards: Cohen, Borg, Zammit, Camilleri, Muchardi, Britto, Bezzina
Red Card: 74’ Kurt Zammit
Scorers: 4’ Carlo Gordon Monti, 9’ Jorge Pereira Da Silva, 36’ Rodolfo Soares, 56’ Jonathan Pearson, 65′ Carlo Gordon Monti, 81’ Edison Luis dos Santos, 87’ Andrew Cohen
BOV Player of the Match: Andrew Cohen
Attendance at the Hibernians Stadium: 819
Renato Vella reporting from the Hibernians Stadium
Meanwhile Balzan registered a most comfortable 5-0 win over Tarxien Rainbows to move back in fourth place.
For Tarxien, this was the fifth defeat in seven matches, therefore remaining third from bottom.
Oscar Guerrero and Edison Bilbao Zarate were both ruled out through suspension for Balzan while new recruit Terence Agius started the game on the bench. Mifsud Triganza, Samir Arab and Lydon Micallef were drafted in the starting line-up replacing Guerrero, Zarate and Clive Brincat.
Tarxien, on the other hand, had three changes as Matthew Tabone, Ryan Sammut and Nigel Vella replaced Alvaro Silva Branquinho, Clebinho and the suspended Carlos Menedez Hevia. Jorge Santos Silva Branquinho and Clebinho have been released over the past days.
Balzan took the lead after just four minutes when off a freekick by Guobadia, Gianmarco Piccioni served Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza who slammed the ball home past Mintoff.
Six minutes later, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza doubled the score thanks to a fine rising shot which gave the Tarxien goalkeeper no chance.
Ryan Darmanin made it 3-0 on 22 minutes when off a cross by Mifsud Triganza, he hit home from close range past Mintoff.
The fourth goal arrived six minutes from the end of the first half when off a freekick from the left, Steve Bezzina headed home past the Tarxien custodian.
After the break, Balzan controlled the proceedings without particular difficulty although the Rainbows tried to reduce the arrears.
Balzan increased the lead on 74 minutes through Gianmarco Piccioni whose powerful shot from the right hit the crossbar before ending at the back of the net.
TARXIEN Sean Mintoff, Kane Paul Farrugia (46′ Manuel Xerri), Manuel Caruana, Owen Bugeja, Triston Caruana, Firas Aboulezz, Ryan Sammut (72′ Matthew Degiorgio), Nigel Vella, Alex Cini, Matthew Tabone (73′ Silas Caruana), Alessandro Lopes Pereira.
Subs not used: Jonathan Debono, Matthew Cassar, Luke Zahra, Luke Aquilina.
Coach: Clive Mizzi
BALZAN Steve Sultana, Justin Grioli, Seve Bezzina, Elkin Orlando Serrano Valero, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (67′ Juan Corbalan), Osa Ice Cream Guobadia (60′ Terence Agius), Samir Arab, Ryan Darmanin (72′ Sean Cipriott), Lydon Micallef, Luke Sciberras, Gianmarco Piccioni.
Subs not used: Christian Cassar, Clive Brincat, Michael Borg, Dylan Grima.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Chris Francalanza, David Castillo
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: Sammut
Scorers: 4′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, 10′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, 22′ Ryan Darmanin, 39′ Steve Bezzina, 74′ Gianmarco Piccioni
BOV Player of the Match: Lydon Micallef
Attendance at the Victor Tedesco Stadium: 320