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Floriana hit back to halt Hibs’ positive run

Floriana striker Kristijan Keqi tries to move past Andrei Agius, of Hibernians. Photo: Jonathan Borg


Keqi 58


Vella 20


A. Cassar-6, D. Venancio-5 (56 B. Paiber-), N. Leone-6.5, K. Keqi-6.5, J. Arias Ulises-6, J. Pisani-5.5, M. Garcia-5, F. Cheveresan-7, M. Dias-6, J. Busuttil-5.5 (75 S. Arab), R. Camenzuli-5.


M. Calleja Cremona-6.5, F. Apap-6.5, L. Almeida-6 (83 Z. Grech), A. Attard-6, J. Grech-5 (73 Wilkson), J. Degabriele-5.5 (73 Raphael), D. Vella-7, G. Izquier-6.5, A. Agius-6, I. Iriberri-6, T. Fonseca-6 (62 H. Shola Shodiya)

Referee: Malcolm Spiteri.

Yellow cards: Iriberri, Fonseca, Garcia.

BOV player of the match: Dunstan Vella (Hibernians).

Regarded as the plum fixture of the weekend, the Floriana-Hibs match was a tale of two halves with the Paolites the more enterprising side in the first period only for the Greens to rise to the challenge after the break.

The sharing of the spoils did not satisfy any of the two teams as Hibs failed to leapfrog Ħamrun Spartans at the top of the standings while Floriana remained embroiled in the deep end of the table.

The final result, however, was of natural consequences despite some close shaves in front of both goals. Both sides were seeking maximum points but considering the late run of bad results, all the heat had been on Floriana.

For most of the first half, Hibernians looked the better side but drawing inspiration from Kristian Keqi’s equaliser, Floriana surged forward with renewed verve and almost won it at the death.

Floriana coach John Buttiġieġ  showed his dissatisfaction at his team’s lame showing against Gżira United by making no fewer than four changes.

Second-choice goalkeeper Andrea Cassar was given the chance to shine as Jan Busuttil, Jurgen Pisani and Marcel Dias returned to the starting formation XI at the expense of Brandon Paiber, Alex Cini and Moustapha Beye.

Stefano Sanderra’s decision to include newcomer Tiago Fonseca to fill the void of Bjorn Kristensen necessitated some positional switches as the Italian mentor deployed his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation. The Brazilian striker was at the apex of the Paolites’ formation and Dunstan Vella occupying the holding midfielder’s role.

Floriana seemed to have been let off the hook after eight minutes when Fonseca’s effort from long-range fell straight at Cassar.

The Greens, though, failed to heed the warning as Cassar could do little to stop Vella scoring in the 20th minute.

Jake Grech broke on the right before he laid the ball off to Fonseca. He collected the ball with his back to goal just outside the box and set Vella up by rolling it back with the sole of his boot. Vella evaded Diego Venancio before striking a magnificent 20-metre shot into the top corner.

Floriana’s reaction arrived late in the first half. Dias swung over a swerving cross from the right and Kristian Keqi sent a header looping over Matthew Calleja Cremona only to see his effort bouncing off the crossbar.

On 55 minutes, some lovely triangulation down the right flank by Jurgen Degabriele and Fonseca worked an opening in the box for Jake Grech who powered through before hitting a shot wide off Cassar’s far post.

But Floriana pushed forward wirth real purpose in the early stages of the second half and were soon rewarded with an equaliser.

Busuttill flicked a long ball into the path of Flavio Cheveresan who set up Keqi to let fly a stinging drive that flew into the top corner of the net.

Hibs were now struggling to contain the Greens. Past the hour mark, Keqi found space on the right but his angled drive finished wide.

An unsatisfactory opening to the second half saw the introduction of newcomer Raphael and Wilkson at the expense of Degabriele and Grech.

But it was Floriana who could have stolen the points at death when Calleja Cremona made a superb save to deny substitute Siraj Arab.

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