Tarxien Rainbows brought leaders Hibernians’ unbeaten record to an end as a goal by Brazilian striker Ronaille Calheira Seara after twelve minutes gave them a win over their bitter rivals.
Hibernians, who had registered nine wins in eleven matches, dropping their only points in two draws in the first round, now share the top spot with Birkirkara. The Rainbows, on the other hand, are back in the battle for a place in the Championship Pool as they move to just two points behind sixth-placed Naxxar.
Tarxien lacked Andrew Agius and Marko Potezica but goalkeeper Nicky Vella was back after serving a one-match ban. Jonathan Pearson was missing for Hibernians.
The Rainbows showed more enthusiasm and initiative during the first half. In fact, on the 6th minute, an insidious low shot from inside the penalty box by Miguel Ciantar was deflected by Ryan Camillieri into a corner. Five minutes later, a well-placed freekick by Jorge Santos Silva from outside the area was deflected by Mario Muscat into another corner.
Tarxien took the lead on the 12th when off a corner from the right, Ronaille Calheira Seara headed home past the Hibs custodian.
The Paolites replied with an Andrew Cohen freekick ending high on 23 minutes. A minute later, Marcelo Dias had a close-range effort, turned into a corner by Nicky Vella. On 31 minutes, Cohen sent Dias through and the latter advanced into the area, being shadowed by two Tarxien defenders, but his conclusion ended a little bit high over the crossbar. A diagonal shot by Jean Paul Farrugia, served by Tarabai, scraped past the post on 42 minutes.
After the break, Hibs showed greater determination in search of the equaliser. Nicky Vella performed a good save on a Tarabai effort on 57 minutes. Seven minutes later, Hibs were unlucky not to level matters but Marcelo Dias hit the upright. On the other side of the pitch, Mario Muscat performed a good save on a powerful shot by Ronaille Calheira. A Jackson Lima direct freekick from outside the area ended into the Tarxien goalkeeper’s safe hands on 76 minutes. Vella performed a good save on a shot from close-range by Tarabai on 85 minutes and just before the final whistle, a header by Jean Paul Farrugia beat the Tarxien goalkeeper but the referee deemed the Hibernians player to be in an offside position.
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HIBS Mario Muscat, Ryan Camilleri, Rodolfo Soares, Marcelo Dias, Andrew Cohen, Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Jackson Lima, Edison Luis dos Santos, Matthew Bartolo (62’ Zoran Leynail), Jean Paul Farrugia.
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Matthew Tabone, Scott Chircop, Timothy Tabone Desira, Brandon Muscat, Jurgen Degabriele.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
TARXIEN Nicholas George Vella, Carlo Mamo, Manuel Caruana (80’ Steven Sadowski), Fernando Lopez Alcantara, Luca Martinelli, Ronaille Calheira Seara, Miguel Ciantar (90’ Karl Pulo), Everton Souza Santos (90’ Nigel Vella), Ryan Sammut, Josef Mifsud, Jorge Santos Silva.
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Matthew Cassar, Luke Zahra, Steven Bonnici.
Coach: Clive Mizzi
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Jurgen Spiteri
Fourth Official: Malcolm Spiteri
Yellow Cards: Fernando Lopez, Ronaille Calheira, Mamo, Ciantar, Tarabai, Martinelli, Kristensen
Scorers: 12’ Ronaille Caiheira Seara
BOV Player of the Match: Nicholas George Vella
Meanwhile at the Centenary Stadium, Floriana closed in on Naxxar Lions in the race for a place in the Championship Pool, beating them 1-0.
The Greens are now joint-seventh with Balzan and Tarxien Rainbows, just two points behind sixth-placed Naxxar.
After having a goal disallowed for an offside, Steve Pisani went close to putting Floriana ahead on 22 minutes with a diagonal shot which however ended just wide.
On the other side, a well-placed shot by Daren Falzon was neutralised by Daniel Hanford on 36 minutes.
Floriana managed to break the deadlock on 43 minutes when a shot by Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa was slightly deflected by Pablo Doffo past goalkeeper Julian Azzopardi.
One minute later, the Greens went close to doubling the score but Azzopardi made a great save at point blank on Christian Caruana intelligently served by Igor Coronado.
Daniel Hanford came to the rescue for Floriana with a great save on a fine freekick by Daren Falzon on 69 minutes, turning the ball into a corner. But in the remaining minutes, the Greens managed to keep their opponents under control in order to take home three precious points.
FLORIANA Daniel Hanford, Andre Scicluna, Emmanuel Ibok Edet, Steve Pisani (80′ Luca Casha), Christian Caruana, Igor Coronado, Diogo Pinheiro de Sousa (71′ Giacomo Favero), Clyde Borg, Joseph Borg, Gary Muir, Sacha Borg.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Sunday Eboh, Darrell Baldacchino, Brooke Farrugia, Isaac Galea.
Coach: Ian Dawes
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Victor Bellia, Duane Bonnici (77′ Marlon Briffa), Angus Buhagiar, Ryan Gilmour Cassar, Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro, Pablo Doffo, Daren Falzon, Thiago Lopes de Souza, Andre Rocha da Silva, Ousseni Zongo.
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, Jeremiah Ani, John Debono, Jurgen Debono, Yuri Martines de Oliveira, Yaron Sammut.
Coach: Winston Muscat
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Sammy Attard
Additional Assistant Referees:
Fourth Official: Paul Caruana
Yellow Cards: Andre Rocha, Scicluna, Thiago Lopes, Gilmar Ribeiro
Scorers: 43′ Diogo Pinheiro de Souza
BOV Player of the Match: Victor Bellia