Hibernians returned to winning ways as they defeated Senglea Athletic 2-1 at the National Stadium on Saturday despite being reduced to ten men early in the second half.
The Paolites join Senglea, Sirens and Floriana on the seven-point mark but the Greens have a game in hand. For Senglea, this was the first defeat after collecting seven points from the first three matches thanks to a draw with Sirens and back-to-back wins over Birkirkara and Mosta.
Hibernians took the lead on the 8th minute when off a freekick by Jake Grech from the left, the ball was deflected by a defender and Leonardo Nanni hit home past Curmi from a close angle.
Senglea went close to equalising four minutes later with a close-range effort by Jan Tanti, off a cross by Leighton Grech and off the rebound, Wilkson Teixeira’s header was cleared off the goal line by Ferdinando Apap.
The Paolites doubled the score on the 27th minute through Terence Groothusen who received an assist on the right flank, beating Curmi with a powerful shot which was slightly deflected by a defender before ending at the back of the net.
Hibernians were reduced to ten men on 57 minutes when Marko Jovicic fouled substitute Wilfried Zamble just outside the area after the latter had anticipated him with a header which was however cleared into safety by a defender. From the resulting free kick, on the 62nd minute, Jose Wilkson Teixeira beat substitute goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona to pull one back for Senglea.
The dismissal of the Hibs goalkeeper and the goal filled Senglea with great determination and Taisei Marukawa almost levelled matters on the 64th minute with a first time effort following a cross by Leighton Grech but Calleja Cremona, aided by the upright neutralised his attempt.
HIBS Marko Jovicic, Timothy Tabone Desira, Ferdinando Apap, Joseph Mbong, Jake Grech (60’ Matthew Calleja Cremona gk), Terrence Groothusen (67’ Charles Atsina), Bjorn Kristensen, Dunstan Vella, Gabriel Izquier Artiles, Andrei Agius, Leonardo Nanni (74’ Leonardo Marcio Barbosa da Silveira).
Subs not used: Matthew Ellul, Myles Beerman, Michael Gatt, Ayrton Attard.
Coach: Stefano Sanderra
Asst. Coach: Ryan Pulis
SENGLEA Anthony Curmi, Sigitas Olberkis, Elvis Sakyi, Leighton Grech, Manolito Micallef, Taisei Marukawa, Jose Wilkson Teixeira, Jan Tanti (46’ Wilfried Zamble), Mirko Todorovic (78’ Andrei Spiteri), David Xuereb (86’ Sean Cipriott), Marcelo Dias.
Subs not used: Daniel Farrugia, Dejan Debono, Karl Pulo, Justin Micallef.
Coach: Steven Vella
Goalkeepers Coach: Mario Muscat
Referee: Stefan Pace
Assistant Referees: Thomas Debono, Duncan Spencer
Fourth Official: Daniel Portelli
Yellow Cards: Dias, Zamble, Olberkis, L. Grech
Red Cards: Jovicic
BOV Player of the Match: Taisei Marukawa