Stripes crush inept Mosta
Vukanac 4; Pereira 45; Jhonnattann 46, 49; Zerafa 57; Muscat 69; Joselito 87;
Birkirkara fully profited from Valletta’s upset to Tarxien Rainbows on Tuesday as they swept past Mosta to go top of the standings.
Galvanised by their vital win over Hibs, Birkirkara were aware that their meeting with the fading Blues was a golden opportunity to overhaul Valletta in the title race before their direct clash on Sunday.
And they seized the chance with both hands, storming into an insipid Mosta side from the off to coast to a crushing 7-1 win.
Jhonnattann was the star of the show as the Brazilian, discarded by Valletta last summer, hit a brace and set up three other goals.
As was to be expected, Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit sent out the same team that started the 1-0 defeat of Hibs. Their tactical module was 3-4-1-2 with Ryan Scicluna deployed in the proverbial hole behind the front duo of Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza and Jhonnattann.
Mosta coach Danilo Doncic made two changes from the 3-0 loss to Tarxien as Bryan Agius replaced the suspended Ferdinando Apap and Giancarlo Sammut was preferred to Jonathan Bajada.
Doncic settled on 4-3-3 with Mano Micallef and Danail Mitev playing either side of striker Bruno Chikwado Mbonu.
Birkirkara took less than four minutes to break the stalemate. Jhonnattann whipped in a cross from a left-wing free-kick and Nikola Vukanac outjumped his marker to head past Mosta keeper Jeffrey Farrugia.
Conceding a goal so early in the game will have further undermined Mosta’s brittle confidence after the Blues had succumbed to back-to-back heavy defeats in their previous outings.
Mitev had a shot saved by Justin Haber, yesterday facing his former team for the first time since his January move to Birkirkara.
Midway into the first half, Edward Herrera made a typical surging run into the box from the right but his low cross was cut out by Farrugia.
Birkirkara stayed in control.
They should have increased their advantage on 27 minutes when Alejandro Mendoza headed Jhonnattann’s free-kick towards the far post but Mifsud Triganza’s effort was touched away for a corner by the Mosta goalkeeper.
Mifsud Triganza had a gilt-edged chance to make amends when he found himself in space inside the Mosta box but his grounder drew another save from Farrugia.
Championship Pool matches are often described as ‘finals’ but in a season where interest in the Premier League has dwindled significantly, the atmosphere in the stands was muted.
Four minutes past the half-hour, Mosta surprisingly equalised.
Latching on to Ryan Grech’s through-pass, Mitev nipped behind the Birkirkara defence before lifting his shot beyond Haber’s reach.
The Stripes threatened to regain their lead almost immediately but Jhonnattann rifled over following a run by Joseph Zerafa.
Mosta’s leveller refocused Birkirkara’s minds. Mifsud Triganza summoned an acrobatic volley but Farrugia was up to the task.
It was then Carlos Campagnoli’s turn to deny Birkirkara as the Brazilian blocked another effort from Mifsud Triganza. A sea of yellow-shirted players continued to swarm forward in search of goal.
A minute from half-time, Vukanac’s header shook a post before Mosta cleared the danger. But, from the ensuing flag-kick, taken by Jhonnattann, Mosta failed to get the ball out of their box and Pereira pounced to beat Farrugia with a downward header.
Hardly 32 seconds from the start of the second half had passed when Birkirkara made it 3-1.
Mifsud Triganza was almost allowed a free run on the right and his measured cross was headed in by the unmarked Jhonnattann.
Mosta went into freefall.
More shambolic defending gifted Birkirkara a fourth goal as Herrera again profited from the gaps on Mosta’s left before slipping a cross towards Jhonnattann who tapped home.
The score became 5-1 on 57 minutes when Zerafa exchanged passes with Jhonnattann before driving a low shot past keeper Farrugia.
The sixth goal arrived midway through the half when Rowen Muscat, who just entered the fray, beat Farrugia with a ferocious shot from the distance.
Joselito, a late substitute for Jhonnattann, got in on the act three minutes from time, stabbing the ball home after Shola Haruna, another second-half substitute, had laid the ball into his path.
J. Haber-6, E. Herrera-6.5 (61 R. Muscat-6.5), N. Vukanac-6.5, A. Mendoza-6, J. Zerafa-7, R. Pereira-6.5 (61 S. Haruna-5.5), G. Sciberras-6.5, P. Fenech-6.5, Jhonnattann-8 (80 Joselito), R. Scicluna-6, J.P. Mifsud Triganza-6.
J. Farrugia-4, T. Farrugia-3, B. Agius-3, M. Micallef-4, G. Sammut-4 (77 O. Ugochukwu), R. Grech-5 (54 K. Zammit-4), D. Mitev-6, K. Magro-4, C. Campagnoli-5 (54 J. Bajada-4), F. Vignaroli-5, B. Mbonu-3.
Referee: Mario Apap.
Yellow card: Grech.
BOV player of the match: Jhonnattann (Birkirkara).