Hamrun Spartans moved a step closer to securing their Premier Leauge status after defeating Marsaxlokk 3-1 to move eight points clear of Mqabba who are currently second from bottom.
The team led by Stefan Sultana scored three in the first half and controlled their opponents without particular difficulty after the break.
The Spartans lacked Gianluca Calabretta and Dene Shields but Matthew Gauci was back after serving a one-match ban. On the other hand, Jonathan Xerri returned for Marsaxlokk but Peter Taiye Oladotun was missing.
Hamrun had the first attempt at goal with Kevin Sammut testing Cassar with a low shot from inisde the area on the 4th minute. A few seconds later, an Alex Cesar Pedrozo effort was turned into a corner by Omar Borg.
The Spartans took the lead on the 5th minute when Anderson Mendes Ribeiro received a cross from the left by Massimo Grima and beat Christian Cassar with a diagonal shot.
The Southseasiders replied with a Jean Paul Farrugia effort which was turned into a corner on the 8th minute.
Marsaxlokk equalised on the 14th minute thanks to Gary Caruana who concluded a good move with a powerful shot from inside the area which gave goalkeeper Omar Borg no chance.
Hamrun regained the lead on 22 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Anderson Mendes Ribeiro was brought down inside the area. From the penalty spot, the Brazilian striker’s shot was too strong for Cassar to stop.
Five minutes later, the Spartans scored the third goal when a Matthew Gauci corner created havoc inside the penalty area with Massimo Grima placing the ball at the back of the net from close range.
Hamrun continued to hold the initiative, going close on 61 minutes with a close-range shot by Ribeiro which was blocked into a corner by the Marsaxlokk goalkeeper. Ribeiro then had a shot from the edge of the area blocked by Cassar on 86 minutes and a minute later, Sacha Borg tried his luck for Marsaxlokk with a freekick from the right which was neutralised by Omar Borg.
Anderson Mendes Ribeiro was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HAMRUN Omar Borg, Glen Azzopardi, Matthew Gauci, Steve Bonnici, Ronni Hartvig, Massimo Grima, Daniel Zerafa, Rupert Mangion (76’ Roderick Fenech), Anderson Mendes Ribeiro, Gaetan Spiteri (80’ Luke Grech), Kevin Sammut (83’ Ayrton Micallef).
Subs not used: Andrea Cassar, Lee James Agius, David Camilleri, Ryan Spiteri.
Coach: Stefan Sultana
Asst. Coach: Marco Grech
M’XLOKK Christian Cassar, Sacha Borg, Jermain Brincat (46’ Clive Brincat), Patrick Borg, Trevor Templeman, Jonathan Xerri, Modesto Valeriani (65’ Paul Paris), Darren Attard (79’ Luke Agius), Gary Caruana, Jean Paul Farrugia, Alex Cesar Pedrozo.
Subs not used: Christian Gafa, Gabriel Buttigieg, Sunday Eboh, Craig Debattista.
Coach: Anton Cremona
Asst. Coach: Louis Cutajar
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: Mitchell Scerri, Joe Camilleri
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: J. Brincat, Templeman, C. Brincat
Scorers: 5’ Anderson Mendes Ribeiro (H); 14’ Gary Caruana (M); 22’ Anderson Mendes Ribeiro pen (H); 27 Massimo Grima (H)
Meanwhile Sliema Wanderers and Balzan Youths shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with the Blues therefore staying three points ahead of their opponents.
By failing to collect the three points from this game, both sides have now gone seven games without a win.
The Wanderers lacked Henry Bonello, Rumen Galabov, Andrew Decesare, Mark Scerri, Cleavon Frendo and Jeremiah Ani. Clifton Ciantar, Roderick Farrugia and Yessous Camilleri were missing for Balzan but they welcomed back Pedro dos Santos Calcado.
Emiliano Lattes had the first attempt at goal on the 3rd minute with Matthew Camilleri turning the ball into a corner. On the 14th, Camilleri turned into another corner a header by Clifford Gatt Baldacchino. On the other side the pitch, Pedro Calcado concluded a good run with a low shot which ended just wide as he tried to anticipate Curmi.
Anicet Eyenga was unlucky to hit the foot of the post on 26 minutes when served by Trevor Cilia. Pedro Calcado then hit wide for Balzan when served by Miguel Ciantar on 36 minutes.
Five minutes in the second half, substitute Lydon Micallef concluded a good run on the left flank with a powerful shot which was turned into a corner by Anthony Curmi. From the resulting corner, a shot from the edge of the area by Nikola Tasic was neutralised by Curmi. Anicet Eyenga then had a close-range shot deflected into a corner when served by Mitev from the left.
Pedro Calcado hit just wide off a direct freekick for Balzan on 55 minutes. One minute later, a diagonal shot by Miguel Ciantar from the right scraped past the post.
Balzan took the lead on 62 minutes when Pedro dos Santos Calcado was brought down inside the penalty area by Clifford Gatt Baldacchino. Referee Alan Mario Sant ordered a penalty and the Brazilian striker made no mistake from the penalty spot.
The Youths were reduced to ten men on 75 minutes when Alan Mario Sant sent off Lydon Micallef.
Sliema levelled matters three minutes from time when off an Alex Muscat cross from the right, Anicet Eyenga headed home past goalkeeper Matthew Camilleri from close range.
On the 90th, Danial Mitev had a fine shot from the edge of the area ending just over the bar.
Pedro dos Santos Calcado was voted BOV Player of the Match.
SLIEMA Anthony Curmi, Nikola Bogdanovic, Josef Mifsud, Ryan Grech (74’ Ryan Fenech), Anicet Eyenga, Danial Mitev, Steve Bezzina, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Trevor Cilia, Emiliano Lattes, Beppe Muscat (74’ Alex Muscat).
Subs not used: Keane Cutajar, Gabriel Aquilina, Andrew Caligari, Glen Chircop, Dejan Vukovic.
Coach: Danilo Doncic
Asst. Coach: Saviour Debono Grech
BALZAN Matthew Camilleri, Rennie Forace, Jonathan Francica, Nikola Tasic, Bledjon Guga, Jamie Pace, Bjorn Bondin, Dylan Grima (Silvan Ciscaldi), Glenn Bonello (27’ Miguel Ciantar), Pedro dos Santos Calcado, Martin Deyanov (46’ Lydon Micallef).
Subs not used: Fredrick Tabone, Michael Borg, Nicholas Zammit, Kevin Camilleri.
Coach: Joe Borg
Team Manager: Ivan Zammit
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Alex Grech
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: Grech, Gatt Baldacchino, Calcado
Red Cards: 75’ Lydon Micallef
Scorers: 62’ Pedro dos Santos Calcado (pen)