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BOV Premier League

Hibernians held by Santa Lucia

HIBERNIANS 1

Almeida 32

SANTA LUCIA 1

Farias 7

HIBERNIANS: I. Kone-6, F. Apap (27 B. Kristensen-5), L. Almeida-6, Raphael-7, J. Grech-6 (77 A. Attard), J. Degabriele-5.5 (90 F. Mensah), D. Vella-6.5, Thaylor-5 (77 Z. Grech), A. Agius-6, G. Artiles-6, W. Domoraud-6.

SANTA LUCIA: J. Archibald-6, N. Pulis-6, J. Pisani-6, F. Farias-6 (40 V. Plut-), P. Silva-6.5, L. McKay-5.5 (58 J. Tanti-), A. Souza da Silva-7, K. Xuereb-7, V. Filho-7, J. Zerafa-5.5 (90 A. Vella), D. Xuereb-6.

Referee: Eman Grech

Yellow cards: Raphael, Pisani, Grech, Agius, Archibald, Attard

BOV Player of the match: Alan Souza da Silva (Santa Lucia).

Hibs’ perfect Premier League start came to a screeching halt when they drew 1-1 with neighbours Santa Lucia on Saturday, after winning their first four matches of the season.

The Paolites had to recover from the early shock of going down when Francisco Farias put the Saints ahead. Leonardo Almeida equalised before they failed to make their dominance count with Santa Lucia protecting their fourth point of the season.

The absence of Brazilian defender André Prates left Olivier Spiteri no option but to drop Patrick Silva backward to partner Jurgen Pisani in central defence as the Maltese trio of Kieren Xuereb, Liam McKay, and Nicholas Pulis were drafted into the starting formation.

The same players in the same formation will deliver the same goods against Santa Lucia, Stefano Sanderra must have thought as he put in the same starting XI for the second game in a row after the previous 3-2 win over Mosta.

Jurgen Degabriele had an opportunity to open the scoring inside the third minute. Dunstan Vella burst through the midfield before slipping the ball to Jurgen Degabriele but shot wide on the turn.

Santa Lucia had shown little attacking intent, but they took the lead after seven minutes when Victor Filho’s long cross was met by Francisco Farias, who rose to score with a fine header.

Alan Souza da Silva was enjoying plenty of space down the right, with Hibs’ exposed left-back Gabriel Artiles finding the Brazilian midfielder too much of a handful. On 24 minutes, he started a fine move down the flank and almost finished it when he lashed his shot just wide off the far post.

But Hibernians continued to press for the equaliser. Past the half-hour mark, they got their reward – levelling the game through an unlikely source. That source was Leandro Almeida, who pounced on a loose ball in the Saints’ box and fired past Julani Archibald from close range.

Santa Lucia suffered another blow shortly before half-time when Farias limped off, after appearing to sustain a muscle injury as he chased the ball.

Hibernians were running the show after the break and on the hour mark, Wilfried Domoraud served Jake Grech who cut in from the left and forced Archibald into a brilliant save, diving at full stretch to his left to save his effort in two attempts.

On 78 minutes, an errant Zach Grech backpass allowed Souza da Silva to beat Andrei Agius, the Brazilian squared for Vito Plut who hit the ball on the run but missed the target.

As Santa Lucia kept pushing forward, they predictably left spaces at the back and Hibs almost cashed in when Domoraud’s effort bounced off the crossbar and to the feet of Zach Grech but the young winger was blocked immediately.

Moments later,  Degabriele slashed a shocking finish wide as Santa Lucia held on for a point.

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