Leaders Valletta dropped two points as they were held in a goalless draw by Marsaxlokk.
The Citizens now lie thirteen points ahead of Floriana and Tarxien Rainbows, who however have a game in hand. For Marsaxlokk, this was a most important point in the battle for a place in the Championship Pool and now join Hamrun Spartans in fifth place.
Valletta lacked Gilbert Agius while Carlo Mamo and Clive Brincat were missing for Marsaxlokk.
The first attempt at goal occurred on 29 minutes when off a Kevin Sammut cross from the right, Terence Scerri’s first-time effort was parried by Reuben Gauci. Four minutes later, Florent Raimy served Alfred Effiong whose shot from inside the area ended just wide.
Four minutes in the second half, Alfred Effiong missed a good opportunity when he tried his luck with a shot from outside the area rather than advancing and shooting from a better position and his weak shot was easily parried by Hogg. Two minutes later, Terence Scerri, served by Jamie Pace, had a shot neutralised by Gauci.
The Marsaxlokk custodian saved in two attempts a shot from outside the area by Roderick Briffa on the 70th. Three minutes later, Gauci performed a good save on a Denni freekick from the left.
On 84 minutes, the Citizens went really close to taking the lead, first with a Denni effort which was cleared off the goal line by Andrew Spiteri, aided by the posts, and then through Terence Scerri with Spiteri clearing the ball into safety once again.
Four minutes later, substitute Ian Zammit headed just wide from the left off a cross by Roderick Briffa.
On the 93rd minute, Marsaxlokk could have notched the winner when substitute Ryan Darmanin took advantage of a defensive blunder but his conclusion from the left hit the upright with Andrew Hogg beaten.
Roderick Briffa was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Ian Azzopardi, Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Jamie Pace (72’ Ramon Dos Santos), Kevin Sammut (84’ Ian Zammit), Omonigho Temile (74’ Dyson Falzon), Denni Rocha Dos Santos, Terence Scerri.
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Kurt Magro, Karl Azzopardi, Clifford Gauci.
Coach: Nardu Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
M’XLOKK Reuben Gauci, Malcolm Licari, Andrew Spiteri, Emil Yantchev, Florent Raimy, Gareth Sciberras, Peter Pullicino, Rumen Galabov, Martin Deanov, Trevor Templeman (70’ Gary Caruana), Alfred Effiong (88’ Ryan Darmanin).
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, Sunday Eboh, Ruben Guerreiro Gravata, Julio Alcorse, Luca Lodetti.
Coach: Patrick Curmi
Assistant Coach: Louis Cutajar
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: O. Temile, T. Templeman, Raimy, Galabov, Deanov
Birkirkara scored twice in the second half to return to winning ways as they defeated Hamrun Spartans 2-0, moving to just one point behind second-placed Floriana and Tarxien Rainbows who however have a game in hand.
For the Spartans, this was the third consecutive defeat after losing to Floriana and Hibernians in their previous two matches.
Both sides were unable to field their best formation. Birkirkara lacked Trevor Cilia while new signings Andrei Agius and Rodolfo Kumbrevicius were missing due to the failed arrival of the international clearance. Thomas Paris and Alan Tabone were missing after they moved on loan to Floriana and Vittoriosa respectively.
Hamrun coach Steve D’Amato, on the other hand, could not count on Ryan Fenech, Roderick Fenech and foreigners Martin Hrubsa and Dene Shields.
Hamrun had the first attempt at goal on the 12th minute when off a cross by Marcelo Pereira, Dylan Kokavessis hit just wide. On the 20th, off a cross from the right by Lee James Agius, Gaetan Spiteri’s first attempt was blocked by the goalkeeper and off the rebound, Dylan Kokavessis’ low shot was blocked by a defender off the goal line. Four minutes later, an Angus Buhagiar effort was turned into a corner by Omar Borg.
Following a cross by Gaetan Spiteri from the right, Dylan Kokavessis had a shot from close range blocked by Fraser on the 29th and off the rebound, the same Hamrun striker almost surprised the Birkirkara goalkeeper who saved in two attempts with the Hamrun players claiming the ball had crossed the goal-line.
Off a cross by Joseph Zerafa from the left, Terence Vella headed just over the bar on 37 minutes.
Birkirkara took the lead on 47 minutes when Shaun Bajada released Emiliano Lattes on the right and the latter advanced into the area before hitting past goalkeeper Omar Borg.
The Stripes could have increased the lead on 69 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Massimo Grima handled the ball following a shot by Terence Vella. However goalkeeper Omar Borg performed a fine save on Emiliano Lattes’ effort from the penalty spot.
However four minutes in added time, Birkirkara doubled the score when off a counter-attack, Michael Galea served Paul Fenech on the left and the latter’s rising shot beat the Hamrun custodian.
Emiliano Lattes was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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B’KARA Michael Fraser, Patrick Borg, Nikola Vukanac, Joseph Zerafa, Shaun Bajada (90’ Ryan Scicluna), Rowen Muscat, Paul Fenech, Terence Vella (79’ Andrew Decesare), Emiliano Lattes (93’ Michael Camilleri), Michael Galea, Angus Buhagiar.
Subs not used: Manuel Bartolo, Karl Pulo, Ian Schembri, Ryan Camenzuli.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Assistant Coach: Branko Nisevic
HAMRUN Omar Borg, Mark Anthony Bonnici, Massimo Grima, Rupert Mangion, Dylan Kokavessis, Lee James Agius (77’ Mead Mifsud), Marcelo Pereira, Gaetan Spiteri, Jovan Vukanic, David Camilleri, Steve Bonnici.
Subs not used: Ivan Casha, Brady Parnis, Glenn Azzopardi, Aaron Attard, Craig Debattista, Peter Anizoba.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Philip Agius, Mariano Debono
Fourth Official: Andre Arciola
Yellow Cards: S. Bajada, MA Bonnici, M. Grima, P. Borg, J. Zerafa, R. Mangion, J. Vukanic, N. Vukanac, E. Lattes
Scorers: 47’ Emiliano Lattes, 90+4’ Paul Fenech