Hibernians earned three precious points as they came back from one goal down to beat Naxxar Lions 4-1 despite having a player sent off after just twenty-five minutes. A win which enables the Paolites to stay top of the BOV Premier League table.
The team led by Branko Nisevic held the initiative right from the start and although they went one goal down and had a player sent off, they showed great determination to equalise and forge ahead.
Zoran Levnajic was missing for Hibernians while Mattia Del Negro, Angus Buhagiar, Marlon Briffa and Louis Cutajar were absent for Naxxar.
Hibernians went close to taking the lead early in teh game when Thiago dos Santos risked committing an own goal, hitting the woodwork with a header in an attempt to clear the ball into safety off a cross by Marcelo Dias on the 10th.
Against the run of play, Naxxar took the lead on the 20th when off a good run by Jerry Ani on the right flank, his cross was well-met by the young Duane Bonnici who placed the ball at the back of the net from close range.
Jonathan Pearson picked two yellow cards on the 23rd and 25th to leave his side playing in ten men for the rest of the game.
However the Paolites did not give up and equalised on the 27th thanks to a fine Jackson di Lima Siqueira effort off a pass by Bjorn Kristensen.
Hibs were awarded a penalty on the 32nd after Ryan Gilmour Cassar was judged to have floored Tarabai inside the area and from the penalty spot, Clayton Failla made no mistake to make it 2-1.
Jean Paul Farrugia could have made it 3-1 just before half-time, when served by Failla, but his conclusion scraped past the post.
Following a good run by Marcelo Dias on the right on the 53rd, Andrew Cohen missed a good opportunity concluding high. A great attempt by Clayton Failla hit the upright with Julian Azzoaprdi beaten on 58 minutes. Three minutes later, an angled shot by Failla from the left was partially saved by the Naxxar goalkeeper. Azzopardi then performed good saves on close-range attempts by Kristensen and Tarabai. On the other side of the pitch, a freekick by Pablo Doffo was turned into a corner by Muscat, aided by the posts on 67 minutes.
Seven minutes from time, Hibs sealed the issue with a third goal thanks to Edison Luis dos Santos who slotted the ball past Azzopardi with a diagonal shot from the right.
Substitute Obinna Obiefule made it 4-1 on the 86th with a close-range header off a cross from the right by Cohen.
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HIBS Mario Muscat, Ryan Camilleri, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares, Jackson di Lima Siqueira, Marcelo Dias, Andrew Cohen, Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla (78′ Matthew Bartolo), Jean Paul Farrugia (69′ Obinna Obiefule), Edison Luis dos Santos (90+2′ Ayrton Azzopardi).
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Matthew Tabone, Scott Chircop, Brandon Muscat.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Andrew Decesare, Ryan Gilmour Cassar, Thiago Lopes de Souza, Evaldo Silva dos Santos, Victor Bellia, Pablo Doffo, Andre Rocha da Silva (79′ Ousseni Zongo), Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro, Jeremiah Ani (62′ Terence Scerri), Duane Bonnici (76′ Daren Falzon).
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, John Debono, Kurt Drago, Ryan Mercieca.
Coach: Winston Muscat
Referee: Kevin Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Peter Abela
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: Pearson, Decesare, Cassar, Bonnici, Kristensen, Andre Rocha, Dias, Thiago, Evaldo
Red Card: 25′ Jonathan Pearson
Scorers: 20′ Duane Bonnici (N); 27′ Jackson di Lima Siqueira (H); 33′ Clayton Failla pen (H)
BOV Player of the Match: Marcelo Dias
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At the Centenary Stadium, champions Birkirkara registered a fourth successive win as a brace by Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao gave them a 2-0 win over Vittoriosa Stars.
Birkirkara lacked Gareth Sciberras and Rowen Muscat while Vittoriosa could not count on Sheldon Grech, Gilbert Martin and the suspended Michael Camilleri.
Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao put the Stripes ahead on 23 minutes with a first-timer following a cross from the right by Edward Herrera.
Two minutes later, Birkirkara doubled the score when a shot by Shola Shodiya was not held by Sean Cini and off the rebound, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao placed the ball at the back of the net.
B’KARA Justin Haber, Edward Herrera, Alejandro Mendoza, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, Ryan Scicluna, Joseph Zerafa, Frank Temile (64′ Ryan Camenzuli), Daniel Zerafa, Haruna Shola Shodiya (78′ Demba Toure), Terence Vella (78′ Kurt Zammit), Zach Muscat.
Subs not used: Reuben Gauci, Antoine Borg, Paul Fenech, Matheus Bissi da Silva.
VITTORIOSA Sean Cini, Samir Arab, Malcolm Buttigieg, Marcio Teruel (64′ Mark Barbara), Marcelo Pereira, Clive Spiteri (88′ Ryan Mifsud), Siraj Arab (71′ Oluwafunmi Omoboy Ebiesuwa), Oscar Guerrero, Ramon dos Santos, Jose Filipe Aguiar, Clive Brincat.
Subs not used: Jean Matthias Vella, Justin Camilleri, Luke Vella Critien, Liam Gauci.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
Referee: Paul Caruana
Assistant Referees: Duncan Sultana, Jurgen Spiteri
Fourth Official: Sandro Spiteri
Yellow Cards: D. Zerafa, Z. Muscat, Ramon
Scorers: 23′ Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao; 25′ Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao