In a game of unrelenting drama and excitement, Hibernians edged past rivals Balzan 2-1 in the first big match between these two sides.
Hibernians had some new faces in their line-up. There was the debut from the first minute of Brazilian Celino Alves as well as the notable Bjorn Kristensen who plays 11-a-side football with the Paolites. Most of all Hibernians had a new coach in their squad as Kevin Mifsud, former national team mentor, took the reins of the team. Balzan player-coach Gabriel Dobre had a full squad with the exception of Clint Cope, still injured.
The match was played in front of a sizable crowd that came to see the big match played at the Corradino Pavillion.
Balzan held the initiative in the first minutes and tried their luck at goal on several occasions with Hibs keeper Cassar extremely busy.
On the other hand, Hibernians operated on counter-attacks to get past Balzan’s solid defence.
Hibernians broke the deadlock early in the second half after Portuguese Rui Miguel Ribeiro de Almeida advanced from the left flank and hit home with an accurate shot to make it 1-0.
Balzan restored equilibrium in the 38th minute after a series of passes which found Gabriel Dobre ready to conclude at goal.
However 36 seconds later, Hibernians were awarded a free shot. Xavier Saliba’s first shot was saved by Xerxen but off the rebound the Paolites captain fired home to regain the advantage for his team.
With one minute left, the Paolites defended bravely and secured the three points that helped them maintain their perfect record and give Balzan the first defeat of the season.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg
BALZAN Nicholas Farrugia, Nicola Del Re, Rennie Tanti, Gabriel Dobre, Giancarlo Sammut, Andrea Dan, Jovica Milijic, Carlos Scicluna, Zeljko Anicic, Matthew Xerxen, Glenn Bonello, Christian Wismayer.
HIBS Brian Baldacchino, Christian Cassar, Alves Celino Freitas, Cedric Sciberras, Matthew Attard, Darren Agius, Melvin Borg, Jesmond Micallef, Rui Miguel Ribeiro De Almeida, Xavier Saliba, Bjorn Kristensen, Levan Kobaidze.
Referee 1: Robert Darmanin
Referee 2: Pierre Bonnici
Timekeeper: Jonathan Balzan