Montebello 40; Falcone 58
ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
D. Fernandes-6, E. Pepe-6, Y. Yankam-6.5 (70 L. Aguirre), L. Montebello-7 (86 K. Bevis), P. Mbong-6.5 (57 C. Bonanni), K. Zammit-6, F. Falcone-6 (86 E. Ruiz), C. Attard-6, O. Carniello-6, J. Macedo-6 (69 R. Scicluna), D. Venancio-6.5.
H. Bonello-5.5, D. Gojkovic-5.5, J. Mbong-6.5. A. Soares-6, F. Sasere-5.5, J. Corbalan-5.5, P. Djordjevic-6 (80 A. Oyama), K. Micallef-6 (74 C. Mercieca), C. Dielna-6.5, E. Marcelina-6 (86 S. Lagzir), F. El Bakhtaoui-6.
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Yellow cards: Pepe, Micallef, Scicluna, Gojkovic.
Red card: Bonanni (B) 90.
BOV Player of the Match: Luke Montebello (Birkirkara).
Birkirkara came back from a goal down to beat Ħamrun Spartans 2-1 and register their second win from as many matches.
Although during the first half, they did not create as many chances as their opponents, the Stripes were a better side overall and deserved to take home the three points.
For Ħamrun, this second consecutive defeat was another reality check as once again they failed to impress and they need to improve in order to defend the title won last season.
Both sides had one change from their last outing as Paul Mbong was preferred to Claudio Bonanni for Birkirkara and Faissal El Bakhtaoui was handed his first start, replacing Soufiane Lagzir.
Ħamrun went in search of an early goal and after just two minutes, Joseph Mbong had a close range effort blocked by a defender and one minute later, an El Bakhtaoui effort was neutralised by goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes.
Appeals for a penalty after Federico Falcone seemed to have been pushed inside the area for Birkirkara were turned down by referee Trustin Farrugia Cann on 15 minutes.
Three minutes later, Joseph Mbong concluded a good run with a shot from the edge of the area which was parried by Fernandes and on 19 minutes, a powerful drive by Faissal El Bakthaoui, served by Marcelina, was tipped onto the crossbar by the Birkirkara custodian with Enrico Pepe clearing the ball into safety.
Ħamrun maintained the pressure and Emerson Marcelina headed just wide off an Ailton Soares freekick from the right on 24 minutes.
In a swift counter-attack for Birkirkara, Luke Montebello advanced on the left but his run was halted by goalkeeper Henry Bonello.
The Spartans forged ahead on 32 minutes. With a perfect pass from midfield, Joseph Mbong served Ailton Soares on the left and the latter anticipated Fernandes with a low shot which ended at the back of the net.
Birkirkara, however, equalised five minutes from the end of the first half. Yannick Yankam delivered a cross from the left and Luke Montebello headed the ball home past Bonello.
On the restart, the Stripes showed the better ideas and Yankam had a close-range effort blocked by Bonello on 48 minutes.
Ten minutes later, Birkirkara went 2-1 ahead. A powerful freekick by Diego Venancio from the right was partially saved by Bonello and Falcone slotted the ball past the Ħamrun goalkeeper.
This goal was a cold shower for Mark Buttigieg’s side although on 76 minutes, they went close to equalising with a Predrag Djordjevic header which was tipped into a corner by Fernandes and in added time, Franklin Sasere hit just wide from close-range.
Two minutes in stoppage time, Birkirkara were reduced to ten men when substitute Claudio Bonanni was sent off for a rough tackle on an opponent.