ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
Sirens: D. Cassar-6.5, R. Grech-6, Wellington-6, Raphael-6 (87 T. Agius), T. Jammeh-6, W. Domoraud-5.5, J. Walker-6, A. Borg-6, S. Tounkara-5, E. Callegari Torre-6, T. Espindola-6.5.
Ħamrun Spartans: E. Bartolo-7, D. Gojkovic-6, M. Guillaumier-6.5, J. Mbong-6, J. Ailton Soares-5, F. Sasere-5.5, I. Adeshina-6 (75 B. Cittadini), J.C. Corbalan-6, P. Djordjevic-6.5, K. Micallef-5.5 (55 S. Lagzir-5), E. Marcelina-7.
Referee: Slobodan Petrovic.
Yellow cards: Grech, Djordjevic.
BOV Man of the match: Emerson Marcelina (Ħamrun Spartans).
Ħamrun Spartans moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League standings when they edged past Sirens at the Centenary Stadium.
It was a hard-fought victory for the Spartans who struggled to play their usual game due to the gusty winds that blew at the Centenary Stadium and they had to be grateful for some fine interventions from their goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo who kept them in the game, particularly in the first half.
Coach Mark Buttigieg’s decision to move Predrag Djordjevic in a more attacking role turned out to be their trump card as it was the Serbian who headed home the all-important goal that earned the team a priceless victory.
The first half was played in difficult conditions for both sides as the strong gusts of winds blowing at the Centenary Stadium made it tough for both sets of players to produce free-flowing football.
Ħamrun bossed possession early on but it was Sirens who came close first after seven minutes when Wilfried Domoraud fed Tamsir Jammeh whose thumping drive flashed just wide.
Eight minutes later, Ħamrun goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo had to be alert to keep out Raphael’s cross-shot.
Sirens endured a scare on 19 minutes when goalkeeper David Cassar failed to hold the ball following a Joseph Mbong cross but luckily for him Emiliano Callegari cleared before a Ħamrun player could intervene.
The match fell into a lull and the next scoring opportunity came on 33 minutes when Bartolo did well to push to a corner Wellington’s shot.
Five minutes from the break, Espindola’s delivery from a corner surprised Bartolo but the ball came off the bar before the Spartans cleared.
The Ħamrun no.1 again distinguished himself when he palmed away Jammeh’s shot.
Three minutes into the second half, Wellington profited from some hesitant defender from Karl Micallef to storm inside the area but fired over.
Ħamrun were continuing to struggle to make an impact into the match and coach Mark Buttigieg opted to bring in Soufiane Lagzir for Micallef in a bid to add more speed and flair.
Ħamrun finally had a shot on target on 65 minutes when Guillaumier tried his luck from the distance but David Cassar was alert to block.
The Sirens no.1 did even better on 71 minutes when he pushed over Marcelina’s piledriver.
Ħamrun managed to find the breakthrough on 89 minutes.
From a Jorge Ailton Soares corner-kick, Cassar misjudged the cross and Djordjevic was on hand to hand home.
A minute later, Lagzir almost made it 2-0 but the Moroccan forward saw his shot tipped over by Cassar.