Sliema Wanderers kept the pace with the teams on top as they defeated Hamrun Spartans 2-1 in a match which came to life only in the last twenty minutes. The Blues join Mosta and Hibernians on the 19-point mark, five behind leaders Valletta.
This was the fifth win in six matches for Alfonso Greco’s side. On the other hand, for Hamrun, this was the first defeat after four positive results. The Spartans therefore remain seventh.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg / MFA
Massimo Grima returned for Hamrun after serving a one-match ban. The Wanderers, on the other hand, welcomed back Matias Muchardi but lacked Stefano Bianciardi and Paltemio Barbetti.
After a most disappointing first half, the Wanderers went close to taking the lead with a Miguel Ciantar effort hitting the upright following a corner by Ariel Laudisi and off the rebound, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino’s conclusion was blocked by a defender on 56 minutes. Hamrun replied with a Terence Vella shot from outside the area which was parried by Henry Bonello on the 64th.
The Spartans were reduced to ten men on 65 minutes as Lyubomir Vitanov was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for protests.
Sliema took full advantage as six minutes later, substitute Alain Faccini, who had just replaced Ariel Laudisi, managed to break the deadlock with a fine shot from inside the area after concluding a solo effort.
On the 78th minute, Faccini sent an inviting cross for Luigi Ruggiero whose diagonal shot from the left just missed the target.
Two minutes later, Sliema secured the three points thanks to a goal by another substitute, Miguel Ciantar, who beat goalkeeper Andrea Cassar from inside the area after a Luigi Ruggiero effort was partially saved by the Hamrun custodian.
Five minutes from time, Hamrun reduced the gap when they were awarded a penalty after Angel Yoshev was brought down inside the area. From the penalty spot, David Camilleri made no mistake.
Luigi Ruggiero was voted BOV Player of the Match.
SLIEMA Henry Bonello, Alex Muscat, Luca Martinelli, Branislav Timotic, Mark Scerri, Luigi Ruggiero, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Ivan Woods, Ariel Laudisi (69’ Alain Faccini), Matias Muchardi, Beppe Muscat (28’ Miguel Ciantar).
Subs not used: Glenn Zammit, John Mintoff, Omar El Ghaouti, Andrew Decesare, Josef Mifsud.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Asst. Coach: JoJo Bajada
HAMRUN Andrea Cassar, Massimo Grima (54’ Daniel Zerafa), Ryan Spiteri, Terence Vella (72’ Nikolay Bozhov), Gianluca Calabretta (75’ Luke Grech), Adrian Ivanov, Roderick Fenech, Lyubomir Vitanov, Angel Yoshev, Anton Vergilov, David Camilleri.
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Glenn Azzopardi, Adrian Borg, Luke Grech, Christian Cassar.
Coach: Stefan Sultana
Asst. Coach: Atanas Marinov
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: Mariano Debono, Chris Francalanza
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: Calabretta, Vitanov, Fenech, Martinelli, Timotic, Faccini, Vergilov
Red Cards: 65’ Vitanov
Scorers: 71’ Alain Faccini (S); 80’ Miguel Ciantar (S); 85’ David Camilleri pen (H)
Meanwhile a goal four minutes in added time denied Birkirkara the opportunity to move to just two points behind leaders Valletta as they were held in a 1-1 draw by Qormi.
The Stripes are now alone in second place on twenty points, four behind Valletta and one ahead of Hibernians, Mosta and Sliema. On the other hand, for Qormi, this was the first positive result since Jesmond Zerafa took over as new coach.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg / MFA
Birkirkara lacked Zach Muscat, Joselito dos Reis and Shola Shodiya Harun while Jhonnattann da Conceicao was named among the substitutes. Qormi, on the other hand, were in full strength apart from Gaetan Spiteri.
The Stripes had the first attempt at goal on the 17th minute when Ryan Camenzuli took a loose ball outside the area and hit low but his attempt ended just wide. Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza then headed high off a cross by Paul Fenech ten minutes later.
Birkirkara managed to take the lead on 39 minutes when off a Ryan Camenzuli freekick from the right, Nikola Vukanac rose high to head home in style past goalkeeper Matthew Farrugia.
Substitute goalkeeper Steve Sultana, who replaced the injured Farrugia, performed a good save on Jhonnattann on 69 minutes.
Two minutes later, Edward Herrera was sent off for Birkirkara following a rough tackle on Bilbao Zarate.
In the dying minutes, Reuben Gauci performed a good save on a Kris Thackray freekick.
The fourth official signalled eight minutes of added time, keeping alive Qormi’s hopes of securing a positive result from the game.
In fact, four minutes in added time, Qormi notched the equaliser when off a cross by Edison Bilbao Zarate, Sebastian Siritto hit the crossbar and off the rebound, Abubakar Bello-Osagie slammed the ball home.
A minute later, Marco Borg showed the red card to Edison Bilbao Zarate but the referee admitted the genuine mistake as he had thought it was the Chilean midfielder’s second yellow card.
Ryan Camenzuli was voted BOV Player of the Match.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia (60’ Steve Sultana), Kris Thackray, Roderick Sammut, Matthew Bartolo (62’ Leighton Grech), Vincenzo Pisani (81’ Sebastian Aurelio Siritto), Joseph Chetcuti, Abubakar Bello-Osagie, Luke Sciberras, Matthew Gauci, Edison Bilbao Zarate, Jonathan Bondin.
Subs not used: Carmelo Farrugia, Alessio Cassar, Gabriel Buttigieg, Dylan Pirotta.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Asst. Coach: Joe Brincat
B’KARA Reuben Gauci, Ryan Scicluna (62’ Jhonnattann da Conceicao), Nikola Vukanac, Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Camenzuli (81’ Godwin Mckay), Rowen Muscat, Gareth Sciberras, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Paul Fenech, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (87’ Antoine Borg), Edward Herrera.
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, Andre Cassar, David Spiteri, Shaun Deguara.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Asst. Coach: Peter Pullicino
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Albert Borg Cardona
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: Muscat, Sammut, Pisani, Sciberras, Chetcuti, Borg, Zarate
Red Cards: 71’ Edward Herrera
Scorers: 39’ Nikola Vukanac (B); 90+4′ Abubakar Bello-Osagie (Q)