GŻIRA UNITED 1
Grech 14, 49
J. Haber, G. Mentz-5 (46 L. Tabone), S. Borg, S. Pisani, Z. Scerri-5 (77 E. Mbong), D. Xuereb-5 (60 D. Xuereb), M. Davis, R. Correa-5 (77 C. Gauci), Maxuell, T. Espindola, J. Mendoza.
I. Kone, F. Apap, L. Almeida, Raphael, A. Attard, J. Grech, E. Beu-6 (65 J. Degabriele), Thaylor-7 (85 Z. Grech), A. Agius, G. Izquier, W. Domoraud.
Yellow cards Mentz, Raphael.
BOV Player of the match Jake Grech (Hibernians).
Hibernians put firmly behind them their heart-breaking elimination from European football when they kickstarted their league campaign with an impressive victory over fellow title rivals Gżira United at the National Stadium.
After last week’s disappointment of crashing out of the UEFA Conference League in controversial circumstances at the hands of FC Riga, the Paolites were hellbent to open their league title quest in positive mood against Gżira United.
And Hibernians surely underlined their credentials with a very impressive display which saw them outgun Gżira United throughout the 90 minutes.
Jake Grech was the catalyst behind Hibernians victory as the Malta midfielder scored a goal in each half before setting up Ferdinando Apap for his team’s third goal as Gżira United had very little response to their opponents play.
Gżira, on their part, struggled on the day to create any serious problems to the Paolites as despite holding the ball for much of the match they rarely breached the solid Hibernians defence.
On the other hand, a more cause of concern for the Maroons was their defensive set-up which saw the team guilty of some lax marking, particularly in Apap’s third goal and no doubt coach Darren Abdilla will expect much better for his charges in next week’s match against Sta Lucia FC
Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra was serving a one-match and the team was under his assistant Ryan Pulis.
The Paolites left Dunstan Vella and Jurgen Degabriele on the bench as they were not in a perfect physical condition. In their place, Erjon Beu was handed his first start since joining the Paolites while Ayrton Attard started in midfield.
On the other hand, Gżira United had no selection problems with Darren Abdilla fielding his strongest formation.
It was Hibs who took the lead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances when Gabriel Izquirre’s free-kick was blocked by the Maroons wall the ball fell to Jake Grech who saw his shot deflected by Gabriel Mentz past goalkeeper Justin Haber.
But the Maroons fought back strongly and managed to restore equilibrium ten minutes. The goal came from another set-piece when Steve Pisani sent a fine cross towards Maxuell Maia who was left unmarked to head past Ibrahim Kone.
Scoring chances remained few and far between and on 34 minutes Thaylor raced past his marker and sent a dipping cross towards the far post but Izquier failed to make good contact with the ball in front of a gaping goal.
Five minutes from the break, Thaylor again picked Wilfried Domoraud in space inside the area but the Frenchman took too much time to control the ball and Haber rushed out to avert the danger.
On the restart, Abdilla withdrew Mentz and roped in Luke Tabone in a bid to inject fresh legs to his defensive fort.
But it was Hibs who struck in their first foray after the interval when Izquier sent a fine throughball towards Grech who sped clear of the Gżira defence and slipped the ball past the onrushing Haber.
Ricardo Correa was lucky to stay on the pitch on 53 minutes when after blocking Izquier’s run, the Uruguayan was caught by TV replays stamping on the grounded Spanish winger but none of the officials saw the incident.
As expected it was Gżira United who were trying to make the game but for all their possession they rarely threatene Kone’s goal.
Instead it was Hibernians who applied the killer blow with 16 minutes to go.
Grech turned provider this time as the Malta midfielder sent a cross towards the far post where Ferdinando Apap headed firmly past Haber.
Gżira finally threatened three minutes from time when Maxuell connected to a corner but his header flew over.