Wilkson 19; Grech 22pen, 90; Kristensen 35; Shodiya 51, 53; Winchester 68, 71
LIJA ATHLETIC 1
Hibernians: M. Calleja Cremona-6, F. Apap-6 (56 Z. Grech-5), L. Almeida-6, J. Grech-7, J. Degabriele-5 (65 C. Zammit-6), B. Kristensen- 7( 56 A. Attard-6), D. Vella-6.5, G. Izquier-6 (70 M. Ellul), H. Shodiya-7 ( 56 R. Winchester-7), A. Agius-6, Wilkson-6.5.
Lija Athletic: L. Bonniċi-3, J. Cassar-5 (46 M. Clinch-3), L. Muscat-4, D. Scerri-4, N. Micallef-4, J. Brandan-5, R. Darmanin-5 (74 L. Soares), J. Cruz Gil-4, N. Mclaren-5.5 (60 R. Dalli), A. White-4, Alhinho-4.
Referee Alex Johnson
Yellow card: Apap, White, Muscat, Clinch, Ellul
Although Lija already sprang a surprise when they held title aspirants Birkirkara to a goalless draw, it was too much to expect another shock result from them at the expense of Hibernians.
The Paolites, back on the winning trail with a victory over Mosta, were in no mood for mercy. It was a comprehensive win by a team that struck good form to combine beautifully and effectively something which yielded them the end result in football – goals. However their somehow shaky defence ensured the outcome was never guaranteed in the opening half.
On 19 minutes, Gabriel Izquier opened the Lija back door with a neat flick to send Bjorn Kristensen free down the left and the Malta midfielder rolled the ball across for Josè Teixeira Wilkson to lash home.
Hibernians were full of enterprise and on 22 minutes, got a second when Leon Muscat handled a header by Fernando Apap and Jake Grech stepped up to fire home from the spot in typical fashion, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
But if Lija were shocked, it did not take them long to regain their composure and a minute later, they reduced the deficit. Ryan Darmanin fielded the ball with his back to goal and laid it off to Javier Fernando Brandan who steered it into the net.
The Athletic gradually came more into the game with Brandan having a shot pushed onto the woodwork by Matthew Calleja Cremona.
The pendulum swung more more after 35 minutes when Kristensen chested down Haruna Shodiya’s cross and volleyed home to make it 3-1 for Hibernians.
Lija made a change at half-time bringing on Mc Allister Clinch to shore up a porous right side. But it did not help them to repel Hibs’ raids down the flanks. Jurgen Degabriele’s clever pass allowed Wilkson to go down the flank and cross low from the left for Haruna Shola Shodiya to fire home with the considerable aid from Grech who had initially fooled Andrè White with a dummy pass.
The fifth goal arrived on 53 minutes as Shodiya rose high above the Lija defence to head in the ball. That was the cue for Stefano Sanderra to effect a triple substitution as Aytron Attard, Zachary Grech and Renold Winchester came on for Kristensen, Shodiya, Apap. Attard down the right the ball cut back for Winchester to side-foot home.
Winchester was in on the act again on 71 minutes, sprinting clear of the Lija defence to reach Dunstan Vella’s pass, outsprinting the onrushing Luke Bonniċi before coolly depositing the ball into an empty net.
Grech then struck again from close range in the dying minutes with a powerful first-timer which gave Bonniċi no chance and complete a memorable day for Hibernians.