ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 2
Ailton Soares 7, 90
A. Guarnone-6, E. Pepe-6, Y. Yankam-6, L. Montebello-6, P. Mbong-6.5, K. Zammit-5 (38 I. Ntow-6), F. Verde-6, C. Attard-6, C. Bonanni-5 (71 R. Altidor), Caio-5, A. Alves-5.5 (61 R. Briffa-6).
E. Bartolo-7, D. Gojkovic-7, M. Guillaumier-6, A. Oyama-6 (77 K. Micallef), J. Mbong-7.5, J. Ailton Soares-8 (90 X. Portelli), F. Sasere-6, E. Serrano Valero-6.5, J. Corbalan-7, P. Djordjevic-6, E. Marcelina-6.5 (89 I. Adeshina).
Referee Ishmael Barbara.
Yellow cards Zammit, J. Mbong, Montebello, Attard, Guillaumier, Marcelina.
BOV Player of the match Jorge Ailton Soares (Ħamrun Spartans).
Ħamrun Spartans took another important step towards first league title after almost 30 years when they battled past the in-form Birkirkara at the National Stadium.
It was a hard-fought victory for the Reds who after taking an early lead through their attacking talisman Jorge Ailton Soares, showed great tactical organisation to keep control of the match and fend off Birkirkara’s fightback, particularly in the second half.
Any hopes for Birkirkara to level the match was ended in stoppage time when a poor back pass from Reginald Altidor paved the way for Ailton Soares to grab his second to keep his team two points clear of Hibernians.
Ħamrun Spartans were off to a flier as after seven minutes of play the struck the first blow.
Joseph Mbong sped forward and found Jorge Ailton Soares on the edge of the area and the Cape Verde forward hit a low drive that rolled past the diving Alessandro Guarnone.
Two minutes later, Mbong fed Franklin Sasere who volleyed the ball over.
Birkirkara tried to hit back but despite the fact that were were seeing more of the ball they struggled to break down a solid Ħamrun defence.
On 27 minutes, Guarnone came to the Stripes’ rescue when he charged out of his goal to block the goal-bound Corbalan who was put clear by Guillaumier.
Seven minutes later, the Birkirkara no.1 did well to palm away Oyama’s inswinger.
With the Stripes increasingly struggling to contain the Spartans’ forays on the flanks, Birkirkara coach Andre Paus opted to replace Kurt Zammit with Isaac Ntow.
The Nigerian added more impetus to the Stripes play but still they failed to threaten until the half-time interval.
Two minutes on the restart, Birkirkara should have levelled when Caio was put clear but his square pass towards Alex Alves was too long and the Spartans managed to clear.
Ħamrun came close to double their lead on 52 minutes when Mbong sped through the Birkirkara and released Ailton Soares who was denied by the onrushing Guarnone.
On 63 minutes, Ailton Soares almost notched his second when he saw his low drive cleared off the line by Ntow.
Caio came close to an equaliser when he latched onto a long pass and tried to flick the ball past Bartolo but the Ħamrun no. 1 somewhat managed to deflect the ball to a corner.
Seven minutes from time, Bartolo did well to keep out Attard’s cross-shot.
But it was the Spartans who sealed the points when Alidor’s miskicked his backpass towards Guarnone and Ailton Soares duly intercepted the ball before racing clear and slotting past Guarnone.