Demba Toure scored one minute in added time as Naxxar Lions earned a precious point in a 2-2 draw with leaders Hibernians. The Paolites therefore extended their unbeaten run to twenty-seven matches but now enjoy an eight-point lead over Birkirkara and nine over Valletta.
Naxxar, on the other hand, move to safer waters as they join Sliema Wanderers in the sixth place on eighteen points.
Hibs went in search of an early goal and Jorge Pereira’s overhead kick, off a cross by Failla, on the 5th minute was parried by Azzopardi
Naxxar took the lead on the 22nd minute when Demba Toure released Jorge Santos Silva who advanced upfield before slotting the ball past Henry Bonello.
Hibs went close to equalising with attempts by Cohen and Failla. A back header by Jean Paul Farrugia was then parried by the Naxxar goalkeeper on the 31st minute.
On the 33rd minute, Hibernians equalised when off Jackson Lima’s corner, Jorge Pereira da Silva headed the ball home following a slight deflection by a defender.
One minute in added time, before half-time, Hibs forged ahead when off a Clayton Failla from the right, Jackson di Lima Siqueira headed the ball past Azzopardi to make it 2-1.
During the second half, Hibs pushed for more and the Naxxar goalkeeper managed to turn into a corner a Marko Rajic effort on the 64th. Five minutes later, a head by Cohen ended just wide. Rajic then sent Jorginho through but the latter’s effort to lob the ball over the goalkeeper failed as Azzopardi managed to save.
However on the 91st minute, Naxxar restored equilibrium when the Hibs rear-guard failed to clear the ball off a Naxxar freekick, Mattia del Negro served Demba Toure who tapped the ball home to the joy of his team-mates.
HIBS Henry Bonello, Rui da Gracia Gomes, Jonathan Pearson (73’ Keith Tanti), Jackson di Lima Siqueira, Rodolfo Soares, Andrew Cohen (79’ Johann Bezzina), Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Marko Rajic, Jorge da Silva Periera, Jean Paul Farrugia (76’ Joseph Essien Mbong).
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Timothy Tabone Desira, Jurgen Degabriele, Luis Andre de Melo Lima
Coach: Branko Nisevic
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Andrew Scicluna, Ibok Edet, Terrence Vella (46’ Ryan Gilmour Cassar), Mattia Del Negro, Demba Toure, Daren Falzon (62’ Jurgen Debono), Pablo Doffo (65’ Frank Temile), Angus Buhagiar, Jorge Santos Da Silva, Albert Bruce.
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, Victor Bellia, Clayton Falzon, Ryan Mercieca.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant referees: Edward Spiteri, Sammy Attard
Fourth Official: Esther Azzopardi
Yellow Cards: Bruce, Falzon, Buhagiar, Kristensen, Mbong
Scorers: 22’ Jorge Santos Silva, 33’ Jorge Pereira Da Silva, 45+1′ Jackson di Lima Siqueira, 90+1; Demba Toure
BOV Player of the Match: Jackson Lima
Attendance at the Hibernians Stadium: 1,396
Meanwhile at the National Stadium, Valletta registered a fourth consecutive win as they beat Mosta 3-1. A win which leaves them in third place, one point behind Birkirkara and eight ahead of rivals Floriana.
Valletta managed to take the lead on 28 minutes thanks to Ikenna Paul Hillary whose low shot from the edge of the area beat goalkeeper Omar Borg.
Mosta went close to equalising early in the second half through Udo Fortune following a cross by Gary Roberts.
However on the 59th minute, the Blues levelled matters as Gary Roberts slotted the ball past goalkeeper Pietro Marino from inside the area.
The Citizens regained the lead on the 65th minute when off a perfect assist by Ryan Fenech from the left, substitute Llywelyn Cremona hit home past goalkeeper Omar Borg.
Shaun Bajada almost made it 3-1 on the 73rd minute, direct from a corner but the Mosta goalkeeper palmed the ball out into a corner.
Six minutes from time, Valletta sealed the issue with a third goal as Hamza Barry concluded a solo effort with a low diagonal shot from the left which beat Omar Borg.
VALLETTA Pietro Demetrio Marino, Jonathan Caruana, Ian Azzopardi, Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Ryan Fenech, Hamza Barry, Roderick Briffa (34′ Llywelyn Cremona), Ikenna Paul Hillary, Shaun Bajada (85′ Luke Dimech), Abdelkarim Nafti (88′ Kurt Borg).
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Leon Camilleri, Triston Nappa Licari, Joshua Buttigieg.
Coach: Gilbert Agius
MOSTA Omar Borg, Tyrone Farrugia, Ryan Grech, Ian Zammit, Udo Fortune, Haruna Babangida (89′ Aaron Sammut), Kurt Magro (75′ Alieu Darbo), Ousman Koli, Gary Roberts (89′ Gordon Saliba), Mark Brincat, Dyson Falzon.
Subs not used: Kyle Gerada, Yannick Ossok, James Brincat, Matteo Di Vita.
Coach: Peter Smith
Referee: Andre Arciola
Assistant Referees: Roberto Vella, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: none
Scorers: 28′ Ikenna Paul Hillary, 59′ Gary Roberts, 65′ Llywelyn Cremona, 84′ Hamza Barry
BOV Player of the Match:
Attendance at the National Stadium: 744