Leaders Valletta moved a step closer to the 21st championship in the history of the club after defeating Hibernians 3-2 in a top-of-the-table clash. A win which puts the Citizens six points clear with five games to go.
The Paolites managed to take the lead mid-way through the first half but by half-time, Valletta had restored equilibrium, taking the lead after the break.
Goalkeeper Mario Muscat and Adrian Pulis were back for the Paolites after missing the last game but Jackson Lima was missing after an appeal to have his one-match ban lifted was turned down. Valletta lacked the suspended Steve Borg and Alfred Effiong.
The Citizens had the first attempt at goal on the 9th minute with a close range effort by Denni Rocha dos Santos neutralised by Mario Muscat. Six minutes later, a powerful shot by Gilbert Agius from the edge of the area was parried by the Hibs custodian.
On the 18th, Tarabai anticipated the Valletta defence and his low shot hit the upright, ending into the net. However the referee ruled that the Hibs striker was in an offside position.
Edison Luis dos Santos was not to be denied on the 23rd minute when off a through pass by Andrew Cohen, he anticipated a defender and hit low past Hogg.
Valletta replied with a freekick by William Barbosa which was blocked by Muscat on 29 minutes. Three minutes later, Edward Herrera advanced on the right flank and crossed the ball for Tarabai in the centre but Hogg anticipated before the Brazilian striker could do any damage.
The Citizens equalised on 38 minutes when a corner from the right flank by Denni Rocha Dos Santos was well connected by a Gilbert Agius header which ended into the net.
Just before half time, Gilbert Agius advanced on the right flank and crossed the ball for Michael Mifsud but the latter failed to connect from a central position.
Five minutes in the second half, Ousseni Zongo advanced on the right and then pulled to the centre but his powerful shot from outside the area ended a little bit wide. On the hour, a through pass by Panadetiguiri was controlled well by Michael Mifsud but the latter’s conclusion ended wide.
Valletta took the lead on 64 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Denni was brought down inside the area. From the penalty spot, William Barbosa converted with a powerful shot which beat Muscat.
Roderick Briffa made it 3-1 on the 80th when off a corner from the left by Pulitano Jimenez, he placed the ball at the back of the net.
Deep into stoppage time, Hibernians were awarded a penalty after William Barbosa handled the ball. From the penalty spot, Clayton Failla converted.
Valletta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg then received a second yellow card and was therefore sent off by referee Chris Lautier. Since the Citizens had already performed three substitutions, he was replaced by Panandetiguiri in goal.
Denni Rocha dos Santos was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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HIBS Mario Mucat, Jonathan Pearson (85′ Ryan Camilleri), Aaron Xuereb (81′ Steve Pisani), Rodolfo Soares, Clayton Failla, Bjorn Kristensen, Edward Herrera, Andrew Cohen, Jason Vandelannoite, Marcelo Dias, Edison Luis dos Santos.
Subs not used: Nicholas Grima, Adrian Pulis, Ayrton Azzopardi, Johann Bezzina, Peter Anizoba Chizoba.
Coach: Mark Miller
Assistant Coach: Richard Mercieca
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Saidou Mady Panandeitguiri, Ian Azzopardi (24’ Roderick Bajada), Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Gilbert Agius (46′ Terence Scerri), Ousseni Zongo (79′ Nahuel Jimenez Pulitano), Denni Rocha Dos Santos, William Barbosa, Michael Mifsud
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Aleksandrs Cekulajevs, Terence Scerri, Filippo Andrea Scozzese, Samir Arab.
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Chris Lautier
Assistant Referees: Mariano Debono, Alex Grech
Fourth Official: Esther Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Bajada, Vandelannoite, Denni, Pearson
Red Cards: 90′ Hogg
Scorers: 23′ Edison Luis dos Santos (H); 38’ Gilbert Agius (V); 64′ William Barbosa pen (V); 80′ Roderick Briffa (V); 90′ Clayton Failla pen (H)
Floriana returned to winning ways as they turned defeat into victory defeating Sliema Wanderers 3-1 to extend the Blues’ winless streak to five matches.
The Greens move third, one point ahead of Birkirkara, who however have a game in hand while the Wanderers remain fifth.
Sliema lacked Rumen Galabov, Andrew Decesare and the suspended Clifford Gatt Baldacchino. Floriana, on the other hand, welcomed back Owen Bugeja but Joseph Borg and Christian Caruana were ruled out through suspension.
The Wanderers went close to taking the lead on the 7th minute thanks to an Alex Muscat effort from inside the area which hit the upright. On the 19th, Anicet Eyenga controlled a cross from the left but his conclusion was blocked by Manuel Bartolo.
Sliema forged ahead on the 20th when off a cross by Ryan Grech from the left, Emiliano Lattes placed the ball at the back of the net with a back-header.
Ryan Fenech hit the crossbar with a shot from outside the area on 32 minutes.
Two minutes later, Floriana levelled matters when off a Pablo Doffo freekick, an Owen Bugeja attempt was blocked by Bonello off the goal line and off the rebound, Andre Grabowski’s first attempt was blocked by Bezzina and once again off the rebound, Grabowski hit home.
It was the turn of Onome Sodje to hit the upright for Floriana on the 40th when served by Andre Grabowski on the left.
Floriana took the lead on 59 minutes when off a Pablo Doffo freekick from the left, Andre Grabowski headed the ball into the direction of Eric Akoto who slammed the ball home from close range.
Emiliano Lattes tried his luck with a solo effort on the right flank, concluded with a low shot which ended just wide on 65 minutes.
The Greens extended the lead on 78 minutes when off a pass by Clyde Borg, Onome Sodje anticipated Josef Mifsud and hit low past Bonello.
Andre Grabowski was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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SLIEMA Henry Bonello, Alex Muscat, Ryan Fenech, Nikola Bogdanovic (76′ Danial Mitev), Josef Mifsud, Ryan Grech, Mark Scerri (63′ Jeremiah Ani), Anicet Eyenga, Steve Bezzina, Trevor Cilia (68′ Cleavon Frendo), Emiliano Lattes.
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Andrew Caligari, Beppe Muscat.
Coach: Danilo Doncic
Assistant Coach: Saviour Debono Grech
FLORIANA Manuel Bartolo, Duncan Pisani (84′ Tyrone Farrugia), Manolito Micallef, Eric Akoto, Owen Bugeja, Pablo Doffo, Thomas Paris, Andre Grabowski, John Mintoff (72′ Clyde Borg), Ivan Woods, Onome Sodje (90′ Alandson da Silva).
Subs not used: Patrick Jansen, Malcolm Licari, Brooke Farrugia, Ryan Darmanin.
Technical Director: Joe Brincat
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Edward Spiteri
Fourth Oficial: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: Mintoff, Akoto, Mifsud
Scorers: 20′ Emiliano Lattes (S); 34′ Andre Grabowski (F); 59′ Eric Akoto (F); 78′ Onome Sodje (F)