Leaders Hibernians claimed three important points in the battle for the championship as they defeated Balzan 3-1 in a top-of-the-table clash in the BOV Premier League.
The Paolites therefore move five points clear of Balzan who enjoyed the top spot until a few weeks ago but have now suffered back-to-back defeats to the two main challengers for the title. For Hibs, this was the sixth win in the last seven matches.
Having no players injured or suspended, Hibs coach Mark Miller opted to make no changes from the team which defeated Pembroke in their last outing. Balzan, on the other hand, had three changes as Dylan Grima, Alfred Effiong and Matteo Piciollo replaced Samir Arab, Abdelkarim Nafti and the suspended Anderson De Barros.
Hibernians managed to take the lead on the 35th minute when off a cross by Jackson Lima from the right, Gilmar deflected the ball slightly for Clayton Failla to hit home from close range.
One minute from half-time, Balzan equalised when off a corner by Ryan Fenech from the right, Jorginho headed the ball in an attempt to clear the ball into safety but this fell in the path of Alfred Effiong who headed the ball home.
Hibs regained the lead on the 55th minute when off an assist from the right by Jurgen Degabriele, substitute Johann Bezzina beat Janjusevic with a low shot in the bottom left corner.
The Paolites sealed the issue with a third goal on the 75th minute when Jorge Pereira da Silva won the ball in a clash with Elkin Serrano Valero and with a shot from the edge of the area, he gave the Balzan goalkeeper no chance.
After the final whistle, Balzan goalkeeper Ivan Janjusevic was sent off for protests.
HIBS Andrew Hogg, Dejan Boljevic Rodolfo Soares (46′ Johann Bezzina), Marcelo Dias, Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Jackson Lima, Jurgen Degabriele (62′ Momodou Jallow), Jorge Pereira da Silva (83′ Dunstan Vella), Andrei Agius, GIlmar da Silva Ribeiro.
Subs not used: Rudy Briffa, Daniel Buckle, Conner Zammit, Kieran Xuereb.
Coach: Mark Miller
BALZAN Ivan Janjusevic, Dylan Grima, Steve Bezzina, Elkin Serrano Valero, Bojan Kaljevic, Alfred Effiong, Ryan Fenech (85′ Lydon Micallef), Paul Fenech, Alan da Silva (66′ Milos Lepovic), Matteo Piciollo, Bruno Giglio de Oliveira.
Subs not used: Christian Cassar, Clive Brincat, Samir Arab, Terence Agius, Sean Cipriott.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Jurgen Spiteri, Paul Apap
Additional Assistant Referees: Mario Apap, Philip Farrugia
Fourth Official: William Debattista
Yellow Cards: Oliveira, Grima, P. Fenech
Red Cards: Ivan Janjusevic
BOV Player of the Match: Marcelo Dias