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Żejtun made to pay the penalty

Hibernians's Jurgen Degabriele controls the ball against Zejtun Corinthians. Photo: Joe Borg/MFA

ŻEJTUN CORINTHIANS 2

Reid 36pen, de Fex 39

HIBERNIANS 3

Shodiya 12, Degabriele 16, Grech 82pen

Żejtun: I. Kone-6, D. Albanese-6.5, L. Gama-6.5, A. Carabott-4, K. Reid-6.5, M. Pereira-5, G. Bugeja-5 (61 D. Agius-), R. Faria-7, E. Herrera-5, N. Tabone-5, R. De Fex-7 (83 J.Suda).

Hibernians: M. Calleja Cremona-6, F. Apap-6, L. Almeida-5.5, A. Attard-4, J. Grech-6, J. Degabriele-6 (83 Z. Grech), D. Vella-5, G. Izquier-6, S. Shodiya-5.5, A. Agius-6, Wilkson-6 (72 R.Winchester)

Referee: Stefan Pace

Yellow card: Pereira, Faria, de Fex, Vella, Wilkson, Apap, BOV player of the match: Rafael de Fex (Żejtun Corinthians)

It looked odds on that Hibernians, the new leaders in the Premier League, would sweep past Żejtun Corinthians after earning a two-goal cushion inside the first quarter of the hour. But Żejtun clawed their way back from two goals down and at the end of the day it had to be a late goal netted by Jake Grech from the penalty spot that divided the two teams.

However, it was Żejtun who stole the show on Friday, especially their lethal Rafael de Fex, whose fine skills earned him the best player honour. At the end Hibernians’ bonus start came in useful.

After two efforts which missed the Hibs target, Żejtun were pushed into their own half with Jake Grech trying to exploit his mobility. On 12 minutes, the Malta midfielder took a ball on the left made progress and found space outside the box, before serving the darting Shola Shodiya who hit the ball behind the Żejtun goalkeeper.

Play remained mostly confined inside Żejtun’s territory with the Corinthians being forced to plug the gaps. Suddenly, Jurgen Degabriele cashing in on a ghastly Edward Herrera misplaced header, took the loose ball to veer sideways before sending a cute lob over the stranded Ibrahim Kone.

Hibernians maintained the edge and Grech was on another thrusting move but hit over the target. On 36 minutes, Żejtun however, received a lifeline in the shape of a penalty. Referee Stefan Pace ruled that Leandro Almeida tripped Kemar Reid in the box. The Jamaican striker stepped up for the penalty kick and sent Matthew Calleja Cremona the wrong way.

The Paolites were in for another shock three minutes later. Rafael de Fex rounded off an expert piece of work with a great shot searing through to the the corner of the net for a wonderful equaliser.

Ricardo Faria nipped in to rob possession, went into the box but Calleja Cremona went down to block the effort as Żejtun kept the initiative.

After the break, Hibernians worked their way back to force pressure on the Corinthians. There was a veritable hot assault  on the Żejtun’s fort on 55 minutes when Artiles Izquier sent in a teasing cross across the face of goal but Degabriele could not make a decent contact with the ball in front of gaping goal.

 On 70 minutes, there was an excellent save from Calleja Cremona on Ricardo Faria after some good work of the Brazilian down the left flank.  Nine minutes from time, Dunstan Vella running in to meet a loose ball was tripped by Adrian Carabott inside the box and Grech converted from the spot-kick.

Żejtun’s last minute reaction nearly produced a goal but Diego Albanese saw his header blocked by Calleja Cremona.

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