SLIEMA WANDERERS 3
Farrugia 59, 90
Jean Paul Farrugia grabbed a brace to earn Sliema Wanderers a 3-1 comeback victory over Hibernians in their season opener.
Andrea Pisanu, on his first full season as a Premier League coach, deployed a fast-paced and high-pressing Sliema side that frustrated Hibernians for long periods as the Paolites were struggling to create goalscoring chances.
The Blues had a number of new faces in their side such as Japanese Riki Kakinuma who impressed on the right wing and Ruslan Kisil, of Ukraine, who also left a good impact on the game.
Hibernians, on their part, were at the back of the Europa League defeat at the hands of Fehervar of last Thursday.
Coach Stefano Sanderra kept faith with most of the players, making just a handful of changes including Rundell Winchester who started upfront alongside Jurgen Degabriele and Shola Shodiya.
Sliema were the better team from the start, attacking in numbers and pressing Hibernians from the final third with their forward line.
The Blues had their first chance of the game through Kisil who tried his luck from a long-range free-kick but his effort sailed over the bar.
However, it was Hibernians who drew first blood on their first attempt on goal when Ferdinando Apap headed home from a corner on 19 minutes.
Sliema tried to stage a reaction and on their next goalscoring opportunity they managed to level terms through a flying header from Italian midfielder Juri Cisotti.
The game ebbed and flow with both Sliema and Hibernians trying to penetrate with their offensive schemes but resiliency was the name of the game for the majority of the opening 45 minutes.
On the brink of half-time, Hibs were forced to replace the injured Winchester with Malta international Jake Grech.
After the break, Sanderra deployed Jose Wilkson for more offensive power as the former Senglea player now joined Degabriele and Shodija in the attacking trio.
Wilkson almost left an impact straight away when he hit a volley from inside the penalty box just to see goalkeeper Galea deny his effort.
This chance came back to haunt them as just a minute later the Blues turned the score to their favour. Kakinuma sped down the right wing before he whipped in the ball into the box on which Farrugia capitalised to open his 2020/2021 account with Sliema.
Past the hour mark, Wilkson almost found an equaliser for Hibernians when he ran towards goal before firing a low drive that struck the woodwork.
In the 67th minute, Malta international Degabriele went for a solo effort but his conclusion flew wide.
Hibernians continued to press for a leveller, with coach Sanderra making more changes to his team but their chances to gain something from this match were dealt a heavy blow when Andrei Agius was sent off in stoppage time. In the dying stages of the game, Sliema wrapped up the win through another strike from Farrugia who capitalised on a well-worked counter-attack to earn his side the first three points of the season