Champions Valletta maintained their hundred per cent record as a goal by Joao Gabriel da Silva enabled them to beat rivals Hibernians 1-0.
For the Paolites, this was the first defeat after winning the first five matches and now lie in second place together with Birkirkara.
Valletta were a better side during the first half but after the break, Hibernians improved but the Citizens still created better goal-scoring opportunities.
Hibernians welcomed back Jason Vandelannoite after a one-month ban while Udo Nwoko returned for the Paolites after an absence of six years. Apart from Clayton Failla, goalkeeper Mario Muscat and Marcelo Dias were ruled out through suspension while Jean Paul Farrugia was ruled out injured. Valletta, on the other hand, lacked Ricardo Filho and Ian Azzopardi.
Valletta had the first attempt at goal on the 9th minute with a powerful drive by Gabriel ending just wide. Two minutes later, Michael Mifsud tried to lob the ball over the goalkeeper but ended just over the bar. On the 18th minute, Jackson Lima headed wide off a cross by Cohen from the left.
Michael Mifsud was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a powerful shot on 23 minutes following an inviting pass by Denni from the right. Two minutes later, Gabriel released Denni on the right but the latter’s shot was blocked by Daniel Balzan.
John Nwoba failed to connect off an inviting cross by Andrew Cohen two minutes in the second half with the ball saved by Manuel Bartolo, aided by a defender. Daniel Balzan then performed a good save on Michael Mifsud, served by Shaun Bajada.
Bartolo saved partially a freekick by Jackson Lima on 58 minutes and off the rebound, Andrew Cohen hit wide from close range. On the other side of the pitch, William Barbosa hit the upright with a direct freekick on the 65th.
Valletta managed to score the all-important goal on the 74th minute when Shaun Bajada served Gabriel da Silva whose low shot ended in the bottom left corner.
Denni Rocha dos Santos was voted BOV Player of the Match.
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HIBS Daniel Balzan, Ryan Camilleri, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares, Andrew Cohen, Bjorn Kristensen (68’ Steve Pisani), Jason Vandelannoite, Udo Nwoko (77’ Johann Bezzina), Zoran Levnajic (85’ Anderson Mendes Ribeiro), John Nwoba, Jackson di Lima Siqueira.
Subs not used: Christian Cassar, Adrian Pulis, Ayrton Azzopardi, Brandon Muscat.
Coach: Michael Woods
Asst. Coach: Richard Mercieca
VALLETTA Manuel Bartolo, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg, Ryan Fenech (44’ Shaun Bajada), Joao Gabriel da Silva, Leandro da Silva Almeida (91′ Edmond Agius), Roderick Briffa, Dyson Falzion, Denni Rocha dos Santos, William Barbosa, Michael Mifsud.
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Kurt Magro, Ian Zammit, Llywelyn Cremona, Gilbert Agius.
Coach: Mark Miller
Asst. Coach: Gilbert Agius
Referee: Chris Lautier
Assistant Referees: Mariano Debono, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Adrian Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Levnajic, Borg
Scorers: 74’ Joao Gabriel da Silva
Meanwhile a hat-trick by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza paved the way for Birkirkara as they returned to winning ways, defeating Tarxien Rainbows 4-1.
Birkirkara took the lead on the 4th minute when off a good move by Jhonnattann, Edward Herrera’s cross was well-met by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza who headed the ball home.
Tarxien replied with a diagonal shot by Andrezinho from the right ending just wide.
On the 17th minute, the Stripes doubled the score when Edward Herrera released Jhonnattann on the right and off the latter’s cross, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza flicked the ball home.
In a swift counter-attack, Shola Shodiya served Jhonnattann on the right and the latter’s shot was deflected into a corner. On the other side of the pitch, Roderick Bajada sent Luiz Romulo de Castro through but the latter’s conclusion was neutralised by Reuben Gauci on the 40th.
Tarxien pulled one back one minute from half time when a Daniel Mariano Bueno effort was not held by Reuben Gauci and Mark Tanti hit home from close range.
Eight minutes in the second half, a Jhonnattann effort was cleared off the goal-line by Carlo Mamo.
Tarxien were reduced to ten men on 59 minutes as Evaldo Silva dos Santos was sent off by referee Richard Harrington for hitting Mifsud Triganza.
Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza received another perfect pass by Jhonnattann and advanced into the area before hitting low past David Cassar on 68 minutes for the Stripes’ third goal.
A shot by Joselito from outside the area, deflected by a defender, was tipped into a corner by David Cassar on the 81st.
In added time, Birkirkara added another goal thanks to substitute Ryan Camenzuli whose powerful angled shot from the left was not held by the Tarxien custodian.
Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza was voted BOV Player of the Match.
TARXIEN David Cassar, Carlo Mamo, Evaldo Silva dos Santos, Justin Grioli, Roderick Bajda, Andre Reinaldo de Souza Esposito, Mark Tanti (61’ Danilo Meira Santos), Daniel Mariano Bueno, Luiz Romulo de Castro (53’ Manuel Caruana), David Fenech, Orosco Anonam (55’ Steve Bonnici).
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Andrew Agius, Karl Pulo, Ryan Sammut
Coach: Clive Mizzi
Asst. Coach: Steven Vella
B’KARA Reuben Gauci, Nikola Vukanac, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, Harun Shola Shodiya (74’ Joselito dos Reis Santos), Gareth Sciberras, Paul Fenech, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (78’ Zach Muscat), Joseph Zerafa (63’ Ryan Camenzuli), Edward Herrera, Rowen Muscat.
Subs not used: Jonathan Martinelli, Godwin Mackay, David Spiteri, Antoine Borg.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Asst. Coach: Peter Pullicino
Referee: Richard Harrington (WAL)
Assistant Referees: Lewiss Edwards, Daniel Beckett (WAL)
Fourth Official: Bryn Markham-Jones (WAL)
Yellow Cards: de Castro, Zerafa, Bueno
Red Cards: 59’ Evaldo Silva dos Santos
Scorers: 4’ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (B); 17’ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (B); 44’ Mark Tanti (T); 90+2’ Ryan Camenzuli (B)