Hard-fought victory for Hibs
Ħamrun S 1 Ħibernians 2
Hibernians turned a modicum of pressure on champions and early pace-setters Valletta with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Ħamrun Spartans.
The Paolities looked to have the issue settled by the end of the first half after storming into a two-goal lead and held the initiatives for long stretches. The Spartans toiled hard to establish a stronghold in the match in the first-half and found it hard to expose any cracks in their opponents’ defensive armour.
With winger Andrew Cohen and Clayton Failla back fully fit and in fine form, everyone was aware that the game was bound to revolve around these two in some way, though few could anticipate his moment of impact coming so early.
Ħamrun Spartans goalkeeper Andrea Cassar needed to be alert as early as the seventh minute to block an effort by Failla with angled drive after exchanging passes with Ribeiro.
From the ensuing corner by Lima, Rodolfo Soares and Roderick Fenech rose over friends and foes for a head-to-head challenge, only to neutralise eachother as the ball falling into the path of Cohen who buried the ball home with a curling shot.
Former Ħamrun striker Ribeiro stretched their lead 12 minutes with a beautifully-struck volley. Cohen picked the unmarked Brazilian striker who hit a fierce shot into the far corner of the goal.
Cohen tried to infuse some pace and urgency into their game after the break. The Spartans were struglging to cope with the sheer quality of the nippy striker’s delivery from the right channel. A cross from the winger flew towards Jackson Lima who shot firmly but Cassar leapt into the air to push the ball around the post after 49 minutes. Three minutes later, Cohen swung in another excellent ball towards Pulis who headed wide.
After this flurry of oppornuties for Hibs, the game went into a lull again.
Ħamrun finally enjoying a spell of pressure with Yoshev in particular looking menacing down the left, giving Ryan Camilleri, a torrid time.
His influence dictated the tempo of Ħamrun’s attacks with Hibernians struggling to pick him up.
But only compaceny could allow Ħamrun back in the game now and when Grech pass straight to Yoshev hope flickered as Muscat fumbled the Bulgarian’s shot into the net. Yoshev’s goal revived Ħamrun’s hopes and set up an interesting finale.
Ħamrun were also threatening on the right flank thanks to the pace and direct running of Calabretta and Ħamrun should have brought the equaliser in the 69 minutes, only for Vella after beating Hibernians’
offside game, to somehow sweep a simple opportunity wide. Massimo Grima then mustered two scoring opportunities in quick succession in five minutes.
After 72 minutes, Grima’s free-kick was touched over the bar by Mario Muscat. Five minutes later, Grima past his marker, before unleashing a long-range thunderbolt that flew just over the bar.
Tempers flared on the Hibernians bench after seeing such a swing in momentum as Woods was ordered to leave the dug-out following a heated argument with fourth official Marco Borg.
Ħamrun's bold comeback just fell short, however. And in stoppage time, Fenech denied Hibernians a third goal as he repelled Farrugia’s effort after the striker had been sent clear by Jackson Lima.