Hibernians bounced back from the defeat to Valletta as they beat Sliema Wanderers 2-1 to move second, one point behind the leaders.
The Blues, therefore, remain sixth on 30 points, five ahead of Balzan.
Photo: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
Henry Bonello, Andrew Decesare and Luigi Ruggiero were missing for Sliema but Shaun Bajada was making his debut after joining the club from Valletta. Marcelo Dias returned for Hibernians but Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares and Steve Pisani were all unavailable.
Hibernians took the lead on the 9th minute when off a Jackson Lima freekick from the right, Clayton Failla headed the ball home past goalkeeper Glenn Zammit.
Sliema equalised on the 20th minute thanks to an Ivan Woods freekick deflected by a defender past goalkeeper Mario Muscat.
A minute later, Allan Kardeck dos Santos concluded wide after a Marcelo Dias cross created havoc inside the area.
The Paolites regained the lead on the 50th minute when off a Jackson Lima corner from the right, Andrew Cohen’s effort was blocked on the goal line and Allan Kardeck dos Santos placed the ball at the back of the net from close range.
Glenn Zammit performed a good save on an Andrew Cohen freekick on 57 minutes and on the other side of the pitch, Ivan Woods headed high off a Shaun Bajada corner from the left a minute later. A freekick by Shaun Bajada ended just wide on the 75th minute.
The Wanderers went close with an Alain Faccini diving header off a cross by Woods from the left on 83 minutes. A minute later, Hibs appealed for a penalty after a defender apparently handled the ball inside the area.
Jackson Lima was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HIBS Mario Muscat, Ryan Camilleri, Adrian Pulis, Zoran Levnajic, Bjorn Kristensen, Andrew Cohen, Jackson De Lima Siqueira (90+2’ Scott Chircop), Allan Kardeck dos Santos (60’ Jean Paul Farrugia), Clayton Failla, Johann Bezzina, Marcelo Dias.
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Udo Nwoko, Keith Tanti, Jurgen Degabriele, Neil Chetcuti.
Coach: Michael Woods
Asst. Coach: Darren Abdilla
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Alex Muscat, Lucar Martinelli, Paltemio Barbetti, Mark Scerri, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Ivan Woods, Ariel Laudisi (65’ Miguel Ciantar), Shaun Bajada, Alain Faccini (85’ John Mintoff), Stefano Bianciardi.
Subs not used: James Abela, Ryan Dalli, Josef Mifsud, Matias Muchardi, Beppe Muscat.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Asst. Coach: JoJo Bajada
Referee: Mario Apap
Assistant Referees: Paul Apap, Albert Borg Cardona
Fourth Official: Alan Mario Sant
Yellow Cards: Kristensen, Allan Kardeck, Barbetti, Martinelli, Failla, Gatt Baldacchino
Scorers: 9’ Clayton Pisani, 20’ Ivan Woods, 50’ Allan Kardeck dos Santos
Photo: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
A hat-trick by new French striker Loic Lumbilla enabled Hamrun Spartans to return to winning ways after eight consecutive defeats as they defeated Rabat Ajax 3-1.
A win which puts the Spartans three points clear of Melita and condemns Rabat to a twelfth defeat in eighteen matches.
The Magpies lacked Yan Cauchi, Christopher Schembri, Ryan Micallef and Adam Smeir while Hamrun could not count Glen Azzopardi and Massimo Grima on the suspended apart from the injured Terence Scerri. However they had Albanian defender Bledjon Guga and French striker Loic Lumbilla making their debut.
The Spartans managed to take the lead on the 16th minute when off a cross from the right by Terence Vella, Ryan Spiteri headed the ball down with goalkeeper Jonathan Azzopardi saving the ball partially and off the rebound, Loic Lumbilla placed the ball at the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Hamrun doubled the score when off a pass by Terence Vella from the right, Loic Lumbilla controlled before hitting home.
Six minutes from the end of the first half, Loic Lumbilla scored the third goal when he converted a penalty after being floored inside the area by goalkeeper Azzopardi.
Early in the second half, David Azzopardi had a shot from the edge of the area ending just wide and on the 52nd minute, a Diego Carrillo effort was neutralised by substitute goalkeeper Curmi. Five minutes later, Jose Luis Armario Negrin almost pulled one back for Rabat as a clearance hit the Spanish striker but the ball scraped past the post.
A freekick by Diego Carrillo was neutralised by the Hamrun custodian on 65 minutes. Ten minutes later, another shot by Carillo was blocked into a corner by Bledjon Guga.
Rabat scored a consolation goal nine minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Diego Carrillo inside the area. From the penalty spot, Justin Felice converted.
Loic Lumbilla was voted BOV Player of the Match.
RABAT Jonathan Azzopardi, Ivan Carapic, Joseph Caruana (28’ Manuel Moral Fuster), Justin Felice, Jose Luis Armario Negrin, Dylan Falzon, Patrick Borg (43’ Gaetano Gesualdi), Clive Brincat, Diego Carrillo Pendas, David Azzopardi, Clifford Gauci.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Luke Cauchi, Wayne Borg, Shaun Gauci, Chris Vella
Coach: Silvio Vella
Asst. Coach: Joseph Galea
HAMRUN Andrea Cassar (34’ Anthony Curmi), Roderick Fenech, Gianluca Calabretta, Ryan Spiteri (64’ Christian Cassar), Adrian Borg, David Camilleri, Luke Grech, Daniel Zerafa, Terence Vella (76’ Ayrton Micallef), Bledjon Guga, Loic Lumbilla Kandja.
Subs not used: Melvin Busuttil, Duane Azzopardi, Rodney Refalo, Gianluca Debattista.
Coach: Stefan Sultana
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: Chris Francalanza, Luke Portelli
Fourth Official: Andre Arciola
Yellow Cards: P. Borg, A. Borg, J. Azzopardi, D. Camilleri
Scorers: 16’ Loic Lumbilla, 20’ Loic Lumbilla, 39’ Loic Lumbilla; 81’ Justin Felice