Paolites lose plot as Woods fires hat-trick
Sliema Wanderers 4
Woods 39, 72 pen, 90+3; Muchiardi 90+1;
This result could be a defining moment for Sliema Wanderers this season.
Yesterday, Alfonso Greco’s team sent a clear message of intent after they eased past Hibernians to chalk up their third successive victory and now they surely deserve to be taken more seriously when it comes to championship matters.
After a slow start to the current campaign, Greco is bringing the vintage out of his players as the Wanderers are slowly gathering momentum.
Thanks to a pacy and muscular performance, Sliema punched holes in Michael Woods’ creaky side.
In Luigi Ruggiero, John Mintoff, Matias Muchardi and Paltemio Barbetti, Greco has midfield deft and speed with Ruggiero, in particular, possessing a turbo booster that glides him away from the opponents.
Yesterday, goalkeeper Mario Muscat and Brazilian striker Marcelo Dias were restored to Hibs’ starting XI after suspension had kept them out of the 1-0 upset to Valletta.
Jonathan Pearson was the most notable absentee from the Paolites’ formation as he failed to recover from injury with Adrian Pulis deputising for the defender.
Officials from Northern Ireland officiated this match. Raymond Crangle was referee, David Anderson and Andrew Stevenson his assistants and Andrew Davey the fourth official.
And Crangle had to deal with the first contentious episode after just 12 minutes when Hibs had the ball in the net only for the ref to annul the goal as Rodolfo Soares was deemed to have been in an offside position when meeting Jackson Lima’s free-kick.
Seven minutes later, John Nwoba was guilty of squandering an open chance when he scuffed his shot over the Sliema bar with the goal at his mercy.
The Paolites were producing the more cohesive stuff as the constant movement of Marcelo Dias and Nwoba prevented Sliema from making inroads.
But on 23 minutes, the Wanderers mustered a good move when Ivan Woods released Ruggiero. The Italian’s persistence on the left enabled him to break free from Ryan Camilleri before curling an effort just wide of the far post.
It should have been one-nil for Hibs after 27 minutes when Nwoba beat his marker but Clifford Gatt Baldacchino lunged in a goal-mouth scramble with the Nigerian striker. And somehow the ball stayed out when the ball bounced back on Nwoba and hit the foot of the post leaving the striker dismayed to contemplate what might have been.
Three minutes later, Andrew Cohen’s right-wing cross whizzed across the face of Sliema’s goal but Dias and Nwoba just failed to make contact.
Hibs were dominating possession but they were stunned on 39 minutes as Sliema broke away to break the deadlock.
Ruggiero’s deflected shot became an assist for the unmarked Woods who exercised his neck muscles to reach the ball and arch a header over keeper Muscat.
Just before half-time, Lima tried his luck from 25 metres out and Henry Bonello needed to dive to his left to beat the ball away.
Hibs suffered a blow on the hour mark when Cohen had to leave with an ankle injury after going down in the box when colliding with substitute Andrew Dececare.
Strangely though, on his way out, Cohen was booked by the referee for simulation. Steve Pisani was drafted in Cohen’s place.
After 68 minutes, Johann Bezzina’s clever flick found Lima who fed the unmarked Nwoba in the box but the latter was denied by Ruggiero who rose above the Nigerian to block his effort.
Moments after that Sliema launched a breakaway that resulted in a second goal when they were awarded a penalty after Soares was harshly judged to have impeded Mintoff’s run inside the box. From the spot-kick, Woods sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
At this point, it was evidently clear that there was no way back for Hibs.
Six minutes from time Muscat ventured himself out of the box only to give away possession but Camilleri came to his side’s rescue to clear Muchardi’s effort off the line.
But things got worse for the Paolites in added time when Muchardi put his name among the scorers with an angled shot after the Argentine had been sent clear by Mintoff.
Three minutes into added time, the Wanderers scored their fourth.
Mintoff, once more, was the architect as he strode forward before threading a nodded pass to Woods who completed his hat-trick with an easy shot in the corner of Muscat’s goal.
H. Bonello-6.5 (81 G. Zammit), L. Martinelli-4 (46 A. Decesare-5), A. Muscat-6, C. Gatt Baldacchino-6, S. Bianciardi-6.5, L. Ruggiero-6.5 (62 A. Laudisi-5), I. Woods-7, P. Barbetti-6.5, J. Mintoff-7.5, M. Muchardi-8, B. Muscat-6.
M. Muscat-5, A. Pulis-5, R. Camilleri-6, R. Soares-5 (73 Ribeiro), J. Vandelannoite-6, B. Kristensen-5.5 A. Cohen-6 (60 S. Pisani-5), U. Nwoko-4 (46 J. Bezzina-5.5), M. Dias-6, J. Nwoba-5.5, J. Lima-6.5.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (N. Ireland).
Yellow cards: Biancardi, Woods, Cohen, R. Camilleri.
BOV Player of the match: Ivan Woods (Sliema Wanderers).