Birkirkara returned to winning ways as a goal by the usual Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais mid-way through the first half enabled them to beat Sliema Wanderers 1-0. The Stripes move to seven points behind leaders Hibernians and five ahead of third-placed Valletta and Balzan.
For Sliema, this was the first defeat in over a month after dropping just two points from their previous four matches.
With Alex Muscat, Paltemio Barbetti and Stefano Bianciardi still ruled out injured, Sliema had only one change as the returning Clifford Gatt Baldacchino was included in the starting line-up with Trevor Cilia starting on the bench. Birkirkara, on the other hand, lacked Nikola Vukanac with Shola Shodiya making it to the starting line-up for the first time this season.
Birkirkara held the initiative in the opening minutes, taking the lead on the 22nd when off a perfect pass by Shola Shodiya from the left, Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais placed the ball at the back of the net from close range.
Sliema replied with a close-range effort by Michael Mifsud which was blocked by Haber two minutes later.
In the second half, Sliema showed some improvement but this was not enough for the Blues to break the deadlock. The Stripes, on the other hand, never tested goalkeeper Glenn Zammit seriously.
On 78 minutes, a few seconds after Rafael Ledesma was substituted by Shevchenko, the Brazilian midfielder was shown a yellow card for time-wasting and after applauding the referee’s decision, he was sent off.
One minute from time, Birkirkara almost doubled the score but Edward Herrera’s effort from outside the area scraped the post.
B’KARA Justin Haber, Matheus Bissi da Silva, Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais (84′ Leighton Grech), Haruna Shola Shodiya (66′ Edmond Agius), Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma (77′ Vyacheslav Shevchenko), Paul Fenech, Zach Muscat, Ryan Scicluna, Edward Herrera, Ryan Camenzuli.
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, Antoine Borg, Gareth Sciberras, Kurt Zammit.
Coach: Paul Zammit
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Luca Martinelli, Filippo Andrea Scozzese, Guy Gnabouyou (79′ Trevor Cilia), John Mintoff, Mark Scerri, Michael Mifsud, Andrea Pisanu, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Marko Potezica (70′ Filippo Talato), Fabio Mangiacasale.
Subs not used: Daniel Balzan, Iousef Meli, Peter Xuereb, Carl Cassar, Beppe Muscat.
Coach: Stephen Azzopardi
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, William Debattista
Fourth Official: Philip Farrugia
Yellow Cards: Rafael Ledesma, Pisanu, Cilia
Red Cards: 78′ Rafael Ledesma
Scorers: 22′ Liliu
BOV Player of the Match: Ryan Scicluna