Hibernians bounced back from the mid-week defeat to Valletta as they beat bottom-placed Rabat Ajax 4-1. A win which puts them once again on level points with leaders Birkirkara but the latter have a game in hand.
The Magpies could only to control their opponents for the first half as once Hibs regained the lead early in the second half, Branko Nisevic’s side never looked back.
Rabat were a depleted side due to the absence of the suspended David Azzopardi and Dylan Falzon and the injured Pavle Velimirovic, Josef Tonna, Patrick Borg and Adam Smeir. On the other hand, Zoran Levnajic and Marcelo Dias were missing for Hibernians.
Hibernians managed to take the lead on the 16th minute when a diagonal shot by Obinna Obiefule hit the foot of the post and off the rebound, the same player placed the ball at the back of the net.
However Rabat equalised two minutes later when Ryan Camilleri floored Diego Carillo inside the area and from the penalty spot, Daniel Pelaez Bellido converted from the penalty spot.
Five minutes from the end of the first half, Jonathan Azzopardi performed a great save on a fine Tarabai header off a cross by Failla from the left.
The Paolites regained the lead on 54 minutes when off a Jackson Lima freekick from the left, Andrew Cohen headed the ball home past Azzopardi.
A minute later, Obinna Obiefule was unlucky not to increase the lead with a cute lob from the left after anticipating Azzopardi but the ball scraped past the post.
Azzopardi performed another good save on a Matthew Bartolo effort on 64 minutes.
Edison Luis dos Santos, served by Andrew Cohen, beat Jonathan Azzopardi with a shot from inside the area on the 70th to make it 3-1.
Substitute Brandon Muscat scored the fourth goal, less than a minute after replacing Jackson Lima with a low shot from the right.
HIBS Mario Muscat, Ryan Camilleri, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares, Jackson di Lima Siqueira (79′ Brandon Muscat), Andrew Cohen (84′ Scott Chircop), Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Matthew Bartolo, Obinna Obiefule, Edison Luis dos Santos (79′ Jean Paul Farrugia).
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Matthew Tabone, Timothy Tabone Desira, Jurgen Degabriele.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
RABAT Jonathan Azzopardi, Shaun Gauci, Zachary Tanti, Ivan Carapic, Joseph Caruana, Clifford Gauci, Malcolm Licari (66′ Aidan Azzopardi), Daniel Pelaez Bellido (88′ Etienne Scicluna), Moises Avila Perez, Diego Carrillo Pendas, Ryan Micallef (80′ Chris Vella).
Subs not used: Andrew Zammit, Darren Borg, Jonathan Bajada, Sacha Cortis.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
Referee: Andre Arciola
Assistant Referees: Sammy Attard, Albert Borg Cardona
Fourth Official: Adrian Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Camilleri, Tarabai, Carrillo, Licari, Azzopardi
Scorers: 16′ Obinna Obiefule (H); 18′ Daniel Pelaez Bellido pen (R); 54′ Andrew Cohen (H); 70′ Edison Luis dos Santos (H); 79′ Brandon Muscat (H)
BOV Player of the Match: Obinna Obiefule
At the Centenary Stadium, Naxxar Lions returned to winning ways as they beat Tarxien Rainbows 2-0.
The Rainbows had a player sent off mid-way through the second half and after missing a penalty, Naxxar scored twice to take home the three points.
For Tarxien, it was yet another disappointing result as this was the sixth defeat in eight matches.
Nicky Vella, Miguel Ciantar and Josef Mifsud returned for Tarxien but Vella was retained on the bench. Pablo Doffo was back for Naxxar after serving a one match ban but Thiago Lopes de Souza was ruled out through suspension.
Goal-mouth action was rare during the first half. On the 11th, Evaldo released Gilmar but the latter’s shot was parried by Curmi. On the other side of the pitch, a cross by Luca Martinelli was well-connected by Jorge Santos Silva whose attempt was partially blocked by Julian Azzopardi with Pablo Doffo clearing the ball into safety. In stoppage-time, a Steve Bonnici header, off a freekick by Jorge Santos Silva, was blocked by Julian Azzopardi.
Three minutes in the second half, an Everton Souza Santos attempt from outside the penalty box ended high. Three minutes later, Everton released Jorge Santos Silva inside the penalty box but the latter’s low diagonal shot was easily blocked by the keeper. A Jerry Ani effort ended just over the bar.
The Rainbows were reduced to ten men on 64 minutes as Josef Mifsud was given marching orders by the referee.
Naxxar were awarded a penalty on the 72nd minute when Carlo Mamo floored Andre Rocha da Silva inside the area. However Andre Rocha da Silva’s central shot was deflected by Curmi into a corner.
Meanwhile Tarxien coach Clive Mizzi was sent off by referee Clayton Pisani.
The Lions managed to break the deadlock on the 74th when off a Pablo Doffo corner, Angus Buhagiar headed home past Curmi.
Five minutes later, Victor Bellia advanced on the right, serving Terence Scerri who tapped the ball home.
In the final stages, Tarxien tried their best to reduce the gap, going close with a Carlos Menendez Hevia effort and then with a shot by Miguel Ciantar which were both deflected by Julian Azzopardi into corners.
TARXIEN Anthony Curmi, Carlo Mamo, Fernando Lopez Alcantara (80’ Marko Potezica), Luca Martinelli, Manuel Caruana (58’ Carlos Menendez Hevia), Ronaille Calheira Seara, Miguel Ciantar, Everton Souza Santos, Ryan Sammut (27’ Steven Bonnici), Josef Mifsud, Jorge Santos Silva.
Subs not used: Nicholas George Vella, Steven Sadowski, Andrew Agius, Karl Pulo.
Coach: Clive Mizzi
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Jeremiah Ani, Victor Bellia, Angus Buhagiar, Ryan Gilmour Cassar, Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro (84’ Daren Falzon), Andrew Decesare, Pablo Doffo, Andre Rocha Da Silva, Terrence Scerri (80’ Duane Bonnici), Evaldo Silva dos Santos.
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, Marlon Briffa, Jurgen Debono, Yuri Martines De Oliveira, Ousseni Zongo.
Coach: Winston Muscat
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Malcolm Spiteri
Yellow Cards: Mifsud, Andre Rocha, Martinelli, Decesare, Scerri
Red Cards: 64’ Josef Mifsud
Scorers: 74’ A. Buhagiar, 79’ Terence Scerri
BOV Player of the Match: Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro