GŻIRA UNITED 0
J. Haber-6, G. Mentz-5, S. Borg-6, N. Muscat-5, C. Escobar-5, D. Xuereb-5 (46 N. Portelli-6), M. Davis-5 (75 O. Elouni), J. Mendoza-5, R. Correa-5, A. Samb-5, Jefferson-5.
M. Calleja Cremona-6.5, F. Apap-6.5, L. Almeida-6.5, A. Attard-6, J. Grech-7, B. Kristensen-6, G. Artiles-6, S. Haruna-6, A. Agius-6.5 (65 U. Edafe-6), J. Wilkson-6 (74 J. Degabriele), K. Laukzemis-6.
Referee Emanuel Grech.
Yellow cards Davis, Laukzemis, Jefferson, Edafe, Muscat, Attard.
BOV Player of the match Jake Grech (Hibernians).
A Jake Grech first-half goal was enough for Hibernians to overcome Gżira United and go top of the Premier League standings.
It was a clinical performance from the Paolites who may not have set any houses of fire against Gżira but displayed a superior tactical guile to outwit their title rivals and claim three vital points that lifted them at the top of the standings on 23 points, one ahead of Ħamrun Spartans and Sliema Wanderers.
The match was a hard-fought affair in the opening stages as both sides worked their socks off to close all avenues for their opponents with the result that scoring chances were scarce.
In fact, for much of the first half the two teams never managed to create any danger to the opposing goalkeeper as their distribution of the ball left much to be desired.
However, that all changed on 36 minutes when Hibernians broke the stalemate in their first serious raid towards the Gżira goal.
The move was initiated by Bjorn Kristensen who chipped the ball into the path of Jose Wilkson who quickly transferred the ball into the path of the sprinting Jake Grech who unleashed a firm drive into the top corner of the net.
Two minutes from the break, Hibernians almost shoot to their foot when Andrei Agius, under pressure from Jefferson, passed the ball backwards to goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona who missed the ball but luckily it finished wide.
After the break, Gżira coach Darren Abdilla withdrew Dexter Xuereb and roped in Nevin Portelli in a bid to add more firepower to his team’s forward line.
The Maroons had to wait until the hour mark to threaten when Riccardo Correa burst through on the left and sent a low cross into the path of Jefferson who, however, fired wide.
On 65 minutes, Hibernians suffered a blow when defender Andrei Agius picked up a knee injury after a challenge on Correa and was replaced by Uzeh Edafe.
The Maroons tried to exploit Agius’ forced withdrawal and three minutes later Amadou Samb picked Jefferson who fired over.
However, it was Hibs who almost doubled their lead on 70 minutes when they were awarded a free-kick and Gabriel Artiles’ inswinger came off the bar.
Gżira threw caution to the win in the final stages but Hibernians held on for an important victory.