Birkirkara returned to winning ways thanks to a narrow win over Balzan which puts them temporarily five points ahead of Valletta who take on Sliema on Sunday.
Balzan remain anchored at the bottom of the Championship Pool as this was their seventh consecutive defeat.
Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit could not count on the injured Alejandro Mendoza Corujo. Balzan, on the other hand, welcomed back Kurt Magro and Dylan Grima.
As expected, the Stripes had the lion’s share of ball possession in the first half but this did not intimidate Jesmond Zerafa’s well organised side, which defended well. Balzan however went close on the 15th when off a pass by Jose Luis Armario Negrin for Pedro dos Santos Calcado, the latter’s low shot ended inches wide past the upright. On the other side of the pitch, off a Herrera through pass, Jhonnattann dribbled past a couple of Balzan defenders but saw his low diagonal shot being deflected into a corner by the goalkeeper. Seven minutes from half-time, a powerful drive by Haruna Shola Shodiya ended up a little bit high over the crossbar.
The second half was a more exciting affair with Matheus Bissi da Silva going close on 53 minutes with a shot from outside the area ending just wide.
The Stripes had Joseph Zerafa sent off for a late tackle on Pedro Calcado on the hour.
However Birkirkara managed to take the lead on 69 minutes when the referee ordered an indirect freekick inside the area and Jhonnattann served Paul Fenech who fired a shot which left Balzan goalkeeper astounded.
Three minutes later, Balzan were also reduced to ten men as Fabio Vignaroli was sent off by referee Andre Arciola.
B’KARA Justin Haber, Zach Muscat (66’ Ryan Camenzuli), Nikola Vukanac, Mathias Bissi, Joseph Zerafa, Edward Herrera, Gareth Sciberras, Paul Fenech, Haruna Shola Shodiya (76’ Ryan Scicluna), Frank Temile (59’ Ronaille Calheira Seara), Jhonnattan Benites da Conceicao.
Subs not used: Reuben Gauci, Antoine Borg, Terence Vella, Kurt Zammit.
Coach: Paul Zammit
BALZAN Emmanuel Bartolo, Justin Grioli, Steve Bezzina, Andrew Scicluna, Kurt Magro (85’ Mark Spiteri), Fabio Vignaroli, Pedro dos Santos Calcado, Edison David Balbao Zarate, Jose Luis Armario Negrin, Dylan Grima (46’ Lydon Micallef), Ryan Darmanin.
Subs not used: Michael Falzon, Charles Fuller, Firas Aboulezz, Lucas Ramon dos Santos, Shawn Bugeja.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Andre Arciola
Assistant Referees: Alan Camillieri, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Philip Farrugia
Yellow Cards: F. Vignaroli, M. Bartolo, P. Fenech
Red Cards: 59′ Joseph Zerafa, 72′ Fabio Vignaroli
Scorers: 69’ Paul Fenech
BOV Player of the Match: Paul Fenech
Attendance at the Hibernians Stadium: 586
Meanwhile in a match from the Relegation Pool, Qormi collected three precious points in the battle against relegation as they beat Floriana 2-1 at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
Three points which enable them to join Naxxar Lions on the 20-point mark, five ahead of Vittoriosa Stars.
Qormi managed to take the lead on 13 minutes as Joao Gabriel da Silva concluded a fine effort with a shot from the edge of the area which beat Daniel Hanford.
The Greens went close on the 29th as Gary Muir was unlucky to hit the upright with a freekick from the right.
Four minutes later, Floriana levelled matters when Christian Caruana took full advantage of a misunderstanding between a Qormi defender and the goalkeeper and hit home from close range.
On 62 minutes, Bondin released Alfred Effiong on the right but Hanford blocked his attempt into a corner. Seven minutes later, the Floriana custodian turned into a corner a fine effort by Gabriel.
Qormi regained the lead on 72 minutes when off a cross from the left by Triston Caruana, Leighton Grech hit low past Hanford.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia (33′ Steve Sultana), Joao Gabriel da Silva, Leighton Grech, Alfred Effiong, Owen Bugeja (87′ Roderick Bajada), Emerson Vella, Duncan Pisani, Raffaele Simone Quintieri, Giorgio Gianola, Jonathan Bondin, Triston Caruana.
Subs not used: Stefano Zampa, Paolo Dandolo, Mohamed Bance, Leonardo Gabrieli, Dylan Pirotta, .
Coach: Karel Zeman
FLORIANA Daniel Hanford, Andre Scicluna, Emmanuel Ibok Edet, Steve Pisani, Christian Caruana (84′ Luca Casha), Igor Coronado, Diogo Pinheiro de Souza, Jonathan Xerri, Clyde Borg, Joseph Borg, Gary Muir.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Manuel Briffa, Brooke Farrugia, Rodrigo Felix Aguiar, Isaac Galea, Sacha Borg
Coach: Ian Dawes
Referee: Paul Caruana
Assistant Referees: Paul Apap, Sammy Attard
Fourth Official: Sandro Spiteri
Yellow Cards: Quintieri, Bugeja, Edet, Gabriel, J. Borg
Scorers: 13′ Joao Gabriel da Silva, 33′ Christian Caruana, 72′ Leighton Grech
BOV Player of the Match: Leighton Grech
Attendance at the Victor Tedesco Stadium: 531