Hibernians scored twice in the second half to beat Balzan 2-0 and keep the pace with second-placed Valletta.
For Balzan, this was the third defeat in five matches, remaining in eighth place, seven points behind sixth-placed Mosta.
Balzan had three new players in their starting line-up namely Brazilian defender Lucas Ramon dos Santos, midfielder Kurt Magro and Chilean midfielder Edison Bilbao Zarate but lacked Luke Sciberras. Hibernians, on the other hand, were in full strength apart from Johann Bezzina who is still recovering from an injury.
The Paolites were unlucky not to take the lead on 24 minutes when a Bjorn Kristensen fierce shot from outside the area hit the crossbar with goalkeeper Guilherme Lorenzi Schelski beaten. Balzan replied with a Lydon Micallef powerful drive which ended just wide one minute from the end of the first half.
Four minutes in the second half, off a Clayton Failla freekick, Rodolfo Soares went close with a header which was however turned into a corner by the Balzan goalkeeper. On the other side of the pitch, Jose Luis Armario Negrin exchanged the ball with Kurt Magro before the former’s conclusion was parried by Mario Muscat.
Hibs managed to take the lead on 52 minutes when off a cross by Marcelo Dias from the right, Edison Luis dos Santos tapped the ball home from close range.
The Paolites doubled the score three minutes later when off an assist by Tarabai for Clayton Failla, the latter’s shot was partially saved by Lorenzi Schelski and off the rebound, Obinna Obiefule placed the ball at the back of the net.
BALZAN Guilherme Lorenzi Schelski, Steve Bezzina, Lucas Ramon dos Santos, Justin Grioli, Andrew Scicluna, Fabio Vignaroli, Kurt Magro, Dylan Grima (62′ Gianluca Calabretta), Lydon Micallef (74′ Aaron Agius), Edison David Bilbao Zarate (70′ Ryan Darmanin), Jose Luis Armario Negrin.
Subs not used: Manuel Bartolo, Firas Aboulezz, Mark Spiteri, Jacob Cipriott.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
HIBS Mario Muscat, Ryan Camilleri, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares, Clayton Failla, Marcelo Dias (82′ Scott Chircop), Bjorn Kristensen, Andrew Cohen, Jackson di Lima Siqueira, Obinna Obiefule (88′ Jean Paul Farrugia), Edison Luis dos Santos (89′ Jurgen Degabriele).
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Matthew Bartolo, Brandon Muscat, Zoran Levnajic.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
Referee: Mario Apap
Assistant Referees: Paul Apap, Peter Abela
Additional Assistant Referees: Chris Lautier, Trustin Farrugia Cann
Fourth Official: Clayton Pisani
Yellow Cards: M. Dias, S. Bezzina
Scorers: 52′ Edison Luis dos Santos, 55′ Obinna Obiefule
BOV Player of the Match: Marcelo Dias