A brace by Massimiliano Giusti gave Hamrun Spartans a fine 2-0 win over Birkirkara at the National Stadium on Sunday.
Hamrun now move on the 20-point mark, four behind Birkirkara.
Birkirkara had three changes from the team which defeated Tarxien as Matthew Guillaumier, Matteo Desira Buttigieg and Shaun Bajada replaced Ryan Scicluna and the suspended Joseph Zerafa and Srdjan Dimitrov. On the other hand, Jonathan Holland confirmed the same starting line-up after the win over Gzira.
The Stripes could have taken the lead on the 38th minute when they were awareded a penalty after Philip Chircop brought Matteo Desira Buttigieg down inside the area but Vito Plut’s effort from the penalty spot hit the crossbar.
Five minutes in the second half, Hamrun managed to break the deadlock when Jake Grech sent Massimiliano Giusti through and the latter flicked the ball past goalkeeper Miroslav Kopric.
The Stripes were reduced to ten men on 66 minutes when referee Sandro Spiteri gave marching orders to Nikola Vukanac after Patrick Teixeira ended on the ground just outside the area for what seemed a harsh decision on the Birkirkara defender.
Hamrun took full advantage as they doubled the score two minutes later, once again thanks to Massimiliano Giusti after he received the ball on the right and slotted the ball past Kopric.
HAMRUN David Cassar (63′ Matthew Farrugia), Luis Miguel Vergara Rodrigues, Philip Chircop, Luke Sciberras, Jorge Mesqueu Neto, Massimiliano Giusti (78′ Saturday Nanapere), Luke Grech, Leandro Wallace Motta dos Santos (90′ Trevor Cilia), Jake Grech, Sergio Raphael dos Anjos Raphael, Patrick Jean Teixeira Maia.
Subs not used: Daniel Debono, Mark Borg, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Darren Falzon.
Assistant Coach: Jonathan Holland
B’KARA Miroslav Kopric, Christian Bubalovic, Gareth Sciberras, Matthew Guillaumier, Mislav Andjelkovic, Matteo Desira Buttigieg (78′ Steve Bonnici), Vito Plut, Nikola Vukanac, Frank Temile, Shaun Bajada (70′ Ryan Scicluna), Cain Attard (46′ James Brincat).
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, Neil Micallef, Zack Cassar, Predrag Jovic.
Coach: Drazen Besek
Referee: Sandro Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Mitchell Scerri, Peter Abela
Fourth Official: Clayton Pisani
Yellow Cards: Attard, Giusti
BOV Player of the Match: Massimiliano Giusti
Meanwhile at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, Sliema Wanderers defeated neighbours Gzira United 1-0. This was therefore the seventh consecutive defeat for the Maroons.
For Sliema, Alex Muscat, Armando dos Santos Tarlaziz and Ryan Spiteri replaced Gary Muir, Peter Xuereb and Milos Galin. Gzira, on the other hand, had three changes as Jacob Borg, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino and Yanis Tonna replaced Andre White, Juan Corbalan and Zack Scerri.
The Wanderers scored the all-important goal four minutes from the end of the first half when off a cross by Mark Scerri, Jean Paul Farrugia flicked the ball past goalkeeper Mauro Boerchio.
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Armando dos Santos Tarlaziz (62’ Peter Xuereb), Alex Muscat, Roger de Sousa Vilas Boas, Stefano Bianciardi, John Mintoff, Matias Muchardi, Mark Scerri, Ryan Spiteri, Jean Paul Farrugia (90+3’ Milos Galin), Denni Rocha dos Santos (77’ Wisdom Solomon).
Subs not used: Miguel Bonnici, Giuseppe Muscat, Michele Sansone, Gabriel Aquilina.
Coach: John Buttigieg
GZIRA Mauro Boerchio, Jacob Borg (82’ Zachary Scerri), Gianmarco Conti, Antonio de Queiroz Machedo Neto, Yanis Tonna (73’ Juan Carlos Corbolan), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (46’ John Nwoba), Momodou Salieu Jallow, Jonathan Bondin, Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma, Souleymane Diamoutene, Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte.
Subs not used: Jamie Azzopardi, Andre White, Salvatore Grixti, Karl Pulo.
Coach: Darren Abdilla
Referee: Stefan Pace
Assistant Referees: Paul Apap, Chris Azzopardi
Fourth Official: Glen Tonna
Yellow Cards: Mandinho, Gatt Baldacchino, Bondin, Tonna, Scerri, Tony, Xuereb
Scorers: 41’ Jean Paul Farrugia
BOV Player of the Match: Jean Paul Farrugia
Renato Vella reporting from the Victor Tedesco Stadium