Andrei Agius rescues a point for Hibernians deep into added time

Birkirkara seemed to be heading for a narrow win over leaders Hibernians but Andrei Agius struck late in added time to preserve the Paolites’ unbeaten record.

Nikola Vukanac had put Birkirkara ahead with sixteen minutes to go but Hibs had other thoughts and managed to equalise just before the final whistle to stay fifteen points clear of the Stripes although Valletta could narrow the gap should they win on Sunday.

With Marcelo Dias ruled out injured, Joseph Mbong was drafted in the starting line-up. On the other hand, Birkirkara welcomed Nikola Vukanac back in the starting line-up after serving a one-match ban. His inclusion was the only change from the team which defeated Floriana as he replaced Eliandro Gonzaga.

The two teams shared the exchanges throughout the first half with play concentrated in midfield and neither side having particular goal-scoring opportunities.

Fourteen minutes in the second half, Edison Luis dos Santos went close to putting Hibs ahead with a rising shot from the edge of the area which scraped past the post. Birkirkara replied with a Ryan Camenzuli effort, served by Shodiya, blocked into a corner by Kristensen on 68 minutes. Clayton Failla went close with a direct freekick but in a swift counter-attack for the Stripes, Rafael Ledesma could have put ahead but the ball was cleared into a corner by a defender.

From the resulting corner, Birkirkara took the lead on the 74th when off a Rafael Ledesma corner, the ball reached Nikola Vukanac who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Henry Bonello.

Three minutes from time, Andrew Cohen was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a freekick from the left.

Three minutes in stoppage time, Birkirkara were reduced to ten men after Alejandro Mendoza picked a second yellow card for handling the ball.

From the resulting freekick by Cohen, it was Andrei Agius who headed the ball home past Justin Haber to restore equilibrium and extend the unbeaten record to twenty matches.

B’KARA Justin Haber, Edward Herrera (74′ Eliandro dos Santos Gonzaga), Nikola Vukanac, Haruna Shola Shodiya (80′ Edmond Agius), Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma (83′ Matheus Bissi da Silva), Gareth Sciberras, Zach Muscat, Paul Fenech, Ryan Camenzuli, Ryan Scicluna, Alejandro Mendoza Corujo.
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, Antoine Borg, Andrea Curmi, Kurt Zammit.
Coach: Paul Zammit

HIBS Henry Bonello, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo Soares, Andrew Cohen, Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Johann Bezzina (80′ Jackson di Lima Siqueira), Andrei Agius, Edison Luis dos Santos, Joseph Essien Mbong (80′ Jurgen Degabriele), Jorge da Silva Pereira.
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Keith Tanti, Timothy Tabone Desira, Dunstan Vella, Kurt Cutajar.
Coach: Branko Nisevic

Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: Roberto Vella, Sammy Attard
Additional Assistant Referees: Alan Mario Sant, Adrian Azzopardi
Fourth Official: Thomas Debono
Yellow Cards: Shodiya, Mendoza, Failla, Fenech, Z. Muscat
Red Cards: Alejandro Mendoza
BOV Player of the Match: Nikola Vukanac
Attendance: 1,757