Leaders Valletta kept marching on in the BOV Premier League as they came from behind to beat rivals Birkirkara 3-1.
A win which puts them ten points clear of second-placed Tarxien Rainbows. The Rainbows, however, have a game in hand.
Following a goalless first-half during which goal-mouth action was rare, the match came to life after the break with the Stripes taking an early lead but with the Citizens turning the score in their favour and sealing the issue in added time.
Both sides were unable to field their best formation. Birkirkara welcomed back Nikola Vukanac but lacked Ryan Harding, Simon Zahra and Trevor Cilia. Roderick Briffa, on the other hand, was missing for Valletta.
During the first half the two teams shared the exchanges but the two sets of defenders prevailed on the respective strikers and the two goalkeepers – Andrew Hogg and Michael Fraser – were hardly tested except for a freekick by Denni late in the game.
Two minutes in the second half, Bikirkara managed to break the deadlock when a cross shot from the right by Michael Galea was not held by Andrew Hogg, obstructed by Nikola Vukanac who rose high in his attempt to head home, the Valletta goalkeeper managed to clear the ball but off the rebound, Galea hit home.
Valletta equalised on 53 minutes when Denni Rocha Dos Santos concluded a great run on the right flank by advancing into the area and beating Michael Fraser with an angled shot.
On 57 minutes, Birkirkara were unlucky not to regain the lead when a cross shot by Emiliano Lattes from the right was not held by Hogg and off the rebound, Angus Buhagiar’s powerful drive hit the upright.
On the hour, it was the turn of Gilbert Agius to miss an incredible chance when he headed the ball wide from an inviting cross by Terence Scerri from the left. Two minutes later, another header by Agius, off a throw-in by Steve Borg from the right, scraped past the post.
Valletta gained the lead on 66 minutes when Denni, served by Gilbert Agius on the right, on the edge of the area, managed to beat Michael Fraser with a perfect lob.
A Michael Galea effort was deflected into a corner on 82 minutes and from the resulting corner, Angus Buhagiar’s close-range effort was blocked by the Valletta custodian.
Two minutes from time, substitute Edmond Agius went close with a diagonal shot following a cross from the right by Ian Zammit.
Four minutes in added time, Valletta sealed the issue with a third goal when they were awarded a penalty after Terence Scerri was brought down inside the area by Angus Buhagiar. From the penalty spot, Scerri made no mistake to score the eleventh goal of the season.
Denni Rocha Dos Santos was voted BOV Player of the Match.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar paulzc.com
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VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Ian Azzopardi, Ramon Dos Santos, Jamie Pace, Gilbert Agius (79’ Ian Zammit), Terence Scerri, Denni Rocha Dos Santos (86’ Dyson Falzon), Omonigho Temile (72’ Edmond Agius), Kevin Sammut.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Kurt Magro, Karl Azzopardi, Joseph Okonkwo.
Coach: Nardu Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
B’KARA Michael Fraser, Thomas Paris (69’Andrew Decesare), Nikola Vukanac, Rowen Muscat, Joseph Zerafa, Karl Pulo (74’ Terence Vella), Angus Buhagiar, Paul Fenech, Shaun Bajada, Michael Galea, Emiliano Lattes.
Subs not used: Karl Magri, Patrick Borg, Alan Tabone, Ryan Scicluna, Ryan Camenzuli.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Assistant Coach: Branko Nisevic
Referee: Chris Lautier
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Alan Camilleri
Fourth Official: Adrian Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: P. Fenech, A. Buhagiar, S. Borg, A. Hogg, J. Zerafa, O. Temile, S. Bajada
Scorers: 47’ Michael Galea (B); 53’ Denni (V); 66’ Denni (V); 90+4′ Terence Scerri pen (V)
Photos: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
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Hibernians and Marsaxlokk failed to win once again as they shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw in a clash between two teams who were desperate for points.
The Paolites have now gone twelve matches without a win while the Southseasiders failed to claim maximum points for the sixth consecutive game.
Although Marsaxlokk managed to take the lead, Hibernians held the initiative for long stages and turned the score in their favour but the Southseasiders secured a point from the game.
Marsaxlokk had Florent Raimy and Ryan Darmanin making their debut but Carlo Mamo and Ruben Gravata Guerreiro were missing as they were serving a one-match ban. Hibernians lacked Aaron Xuereb, Triston Caruana and Paul McManus.
The Southseasiders had the first attempt at goal, on the 5th minute when Gareth Sciberras served Martin Deanov whose powerful drive was turned into a corner by Mario Muscat.
Marsaxlokk took the lead on the 15th when Julio Alcorse served Gareth Sciberras inside the area and the latter controlled before hitting low past the Hibs goalkeeper.
On the 20th, Ryan Darmanin went close for Marsaxlokk with a fine header which was deflected into a corner. On the other side of the pitch, on 35 minutes, the Paolites missed an excellent opportunity when the Marsaxlokk rear-guard failed to clear a dangerous cross by Edward Herrera from the right but Steve Pisani headed wide from close range.
Hibs levelled matters eight minutes in the second half when Richie Hart served Edward Herrera with an intelligent pass inside the area and the latter beat goalkeeper Reuben Gauci.
Mario Muscat rushed out of the area on two occasions to stop Marsaxlokk from increasing the lead. On the other hand, Reuben Gauci managed to turn into a corner a well-taken freekick by Andrew Cohen on 69 minutes. Four minutes later, Herrera went close but his attempt hit the woodwork.
Hibernians forged ahead on 75 minutes when following a through pass, substitute Adrian Pulis managed to anticipate Reuben Gauci with a cute lob from outside the area.
But their joy was short-lived as substitute Alfred Effiong restored equilibrium four minutes later when he advanced into the area from the right and slammed the ball home.
On the 87th, Martin Deanov went close for Marsaxlokk with a direct freekick which just missed the target while in stoppage time, off a cross by Deanov from the right, Alfred Effiong headed just over the bar.
Edward Herrera was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HIBS Mario Muscat, Edward Herrera, Ryan Camilleri (78’ Matthew Tabone), Matthew Gauci, Steve Pisani, Matt Clarke, Jonathan Pearson, Zoran Levnajic (85’ Bjorn Kristensen), Richie Hart, Andrew Cohen, Warren Chircop (59’ Adrian Pulis).
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Rene Duca, Ayrton Azzopardi, Yan Cauchi.
Coach: Mark Miller
Assistant Coach: Edmond Lufi
M’XLOKK Reuben Gauci, Luca Lodetti, Andrew Spiteri, Clive Brincat, Rumen Galabov, Gareth Sciberras, Florent Raimy (85’ Peter Pullicino), Malcolm Licari, Martin Deanov, Ryan Darmanin (61’ Trevor Templeman), Julio Alcorse (70’ Alfred Effiong).
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, Gary Caruana, Dylan Kokavessis, Emil Yanchev.
Coach: Patrick Curmi
Assistant Coach: Louis Cutajar
Referee: Esther Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Philip Agius, Malcolm Mercieca
Fourth Official: Andre Arciola
Yellow Cards: Brincat, Spiteri, Raimy
Scorers: 15’ Gareth Sciberras (M); 53’ Edward Herrera (H); 75’ Adrian Pulis (H); 79’ Alfred Effiong (M)