A brace by Terence Scerri gave joint-leaders Valletta the three points as they defeated Hibernians 2-1 to register the seventh win in eight matches. They continue to share the top spot together with Birkirkara, moving eight points clear of third-placed Qormi.
The Citizens were more aggressive early in the game and took a two-goal lead but after reducing the gap, the Paolites started to share the exchanges with their opponents.
Valletta welcomed back Njongo Priso after serving a two-match ban and Declan O’Brien was named in the starting line-up as they lacked captain Gilbert Agius with Kevin Sammut starting on the bench. Edward Herrera returned for Hibernians after missing the last game through suspension.
The first attempt at goal occurred on two minutes with a Declan O’Brien effort being neutralised by Mario Muscat.
The Citizens took the lead on 14 minutes when off a cross from the left by Bezzina, Terence Scerri placed the ball at the back of the net.
Hibernians replied with a freekick from the left by Etienne Barbara from which Miguel Lopes De Pina headed just wide two minutes later.
Terence Scerri doubled the score on 23 minutes when off a cross from the right by Roderick Briffa, he hit low past goalkeeper Mario Muscat.
On the other side of the pitch, Elton Morelato tried his luck with a long-distance shot which was tipped into a corner by Andrew Hogg on 26 minutes. From the resulting corner by Cohen, the Brazilian midfielder headed just wide.
Hibernians pulled one back on 27 minutes when off an Andrew Cohen corner, Elton Morelato served Ben Camilleri who hit home from close range.
The Paolites now seemed more confident and two minutes from the end of the first half, Hogg managed to turn into a corner a freekick by Cohen from the left.
Jordi Cruijff was unlucky not to increase the lead for Valletta three minutes in the second half when his close-range effort hit the upright following a cross by Njongo Priso from the right. On 56 minutes, Hibs goalie Mario Muscat rushed out of the area in an attempt to clear following a through pass by Jordi Cruijff. Muscat was however anticipated by Terence Scerri who tried his luck with a lob but Jonathan Pearson came to the rescue, clearing the ball into safety.
Four minutes from time, Hibernians were reduced to ten men after Miguel Lopes De Pina was sent off for hitting an opponent.
Terence Scerri was voted BOV Player of the Match.
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Steve Borg, Steve Bezzina, Luke Dimech, Kenneth Scicluna, Jamie Pace, Jordi Cruijff (71’ Edmond Agius), Terence Scerri, Roderick Briffa (61’ Kevin Sammut), Njongo Priso, Declan O’Brien (81’ Dyson Falzon).
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Dylan Grima, Cleavon Frendo, Karl Azzopardi.
Coach: Ton Caanen Team Manager: Nicky Saliba
HIBS Mario Muscat, Jonathan Caruana, Edward Herrera, Adrian Pulis, Jonathan Pearson, Christian Callejas, Etienne Barbara (82’ Triston Caruana), Andrew Cohen, Miguel Lopes De Pina, Ben Camilleri, Elton Crepaldi Morelato.
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Yan Cauchi, Elkien Cauchi, Ndubisi Chukunyere, Matthew Tabone, Aaron Xuereb.
Coach: Mark Miller Asst. Coach: Edmond Lufi
Referee: Chris Lautier
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Mariano Debono
Fourth Official: Paul Caruana
Yellow Cards: Callejas, Hogg, Pulis, Cohen, Borg, Priso, Morelato, E. Agius
Red Cards: 86’ Miguel Lopes De Pina
Scorers: 14’ Terence Scerri, 23’ Terence Scerri (V); 27’ Ben Camilleri (H)
Birkirkara maintained their positive run on top the BOV Premier League table as they registered a hat-trick of wins over Qormi, beating them 2-0.
For the Stripes, this was the fourth successive win while Qormi were suffering a third consecutive defeat.
Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit employed Andrew Scicluna and Joseph Zerafa due to the absence of Nikola Vukanac and Branko Nisevic. Also missing for the Stripes was Paul Fenech. On the other hand, Ryan Deguara was ruled out for Qormi but Stephen Wellman was back after serving a one-match ban.
After a most quiet start, Birkirkara had the first shot at goal with a Sylvano Comvalius freekick ending just over the bar on 27 minutes. Another direct freekick by Shaun Bajada was neutralised by Matthew Farrugia eleven minutes later.
Birkirkara managed to break the deadlock three minutes in the second half. A shot by Alan Tabone was turned into a corner by Matthew Farrugia but from the resulting corner by Sylvano Comvalius from the left, Michael Galea headed the ball home.
A minute later, the Stripes went close with a good freekick from the right by Shaun Bajada from which Galea just failed to connect. A fine effort by Trevor Cilia from the right was turned into a corner by the Qormi custodian on 59 minutes.
On 72 minutes, Birkirkara appealed for a penalty after Michael Galea was brought down inside the area, when released by Sylvano Comvalius inside the area.
In added time, Qormi went close to equalising with a low shot by substitute Steve Meilak. However on 94 minutes, the Stripes were awarded a freekick just outside the area after Jonathan Bondin floored Trevor Cilia who was heading towards goal. Referee Kevin Azzopardi sent off the Qormi defender and George Mallia scored from the direct freekick.
Rowen Muscat was voted BOV Player of the Match.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Duncan Pisani, Jonathan Bondin, Stephen Wellman, Lucas Ramon Dos Santos, Keith Fenech, Massimo Grima (73’ Stefan Giglio), Joseph Farrugia, Matthew Bartolo (61’ Steve Meilak), Alfred Effiong, Camilo Da Silva Sanvezzo.
Subs not used: Matthew Camilleri, Malcolm Buttigieg, Gabriel Buttigieg, Roderick Sammut, Kenneth Spiteri.
Coach: Vince Carbonaro Team Manager: Jesmond Zerafa
B’KARA Jorge Mora, Trevor Cilia, Andrew Scicluna, Shaun Bajada, Joseph Zerafa, Angus Buhagiar, Rowen Muscat, Carlo Mamo, Alan Tabone (66’ George Mallia), Michael Galea (77’ Karl Pulo), Sylvano Comvalius (90’ Thomas Paris).
Subs not used: Omar Borg, Lee Borg, Keith Fenech, Massimo Chircop.
Coach: Paul Zammit Team Manager: Mario Gatt
Referee: Kevin Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Joe Camilleri
Fourth Official: Andre Arciola
Yellow Cards: Wellman, Zerafa, Scicluna, Buhagiar, Muscat, Giglio
Red Cards: 90+5’ Jonathan Bondin
Scorers: 48’ Michael Galea, 90+5’ George Mallia
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