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Hibernians stay top after Birkirkara draw

Hibernians goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone punches the ball away against Birkrirkara. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

BIRKIRKARA              1

Montebello 43 pen.

HIBERNIANS               1

Almeida 47

BIRKIRKARA

D. Fernandes-6; E. Ruiz-6 (64 C. Bonnani); E. Pepe-6.5; L. Montebello-6.5; P. Mbong-6 (78 Y. Yankam); K. Zammit-6; F. Falcone-6 (78 K. Bevis); C. Attard-6; O. Carniello-6.5; L. Aguirre-6; Jeferson-6.

HIBERNIANS

I.Kone-7; F. Apap-6.5; L. Almeida-6.5; Raphael-6; J. Grech-6.5 (90 A. Attard); J. Degabriele-6.5 (73 D. Vella); B. Kristensen-6.5; Thaylor-6.5 (87 T. Tabone Desira); A. Agius-6; G. Artiles-6; W. Domoraud-7.

Referee Ishmael Barbara.

Yellow cards Carniello, Zammit, Artiles, Raphael, Apap, Tabone Desira.

BOV Player of the Match Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians).

The top-of-the-table clash between Hibernians and Birkirkara did not produce a winner as both teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 stalemate.

This result leaves Hibernians as leaders of the championship with 18 points after 8 games three ahead of second-placed Birkirkara.

It was a thrilling encounter with Hibernians dictating proceedings for the majority of the game, also creating a handful of chances but failing to make their pressure count.

Birkirkara, on their part, opened the score against the run of play late in the first half but failed to hold on their lead as they conceded the leveller immediately at the start of the second half.

Both sides gave life to a pulsating opening stages of this highly-anticipated encounter. The teams tried to take the game to each other, with Wilfried Domoraud of Hibernians registering the first chance of the game when from inside the penalty area, he fired wide.

Moments later, Birkirkara replied through Luke Montebello but the Malta international could not threaten Ibrahim Kone from a tight angle.

As time went by, Hibernians started to dictate more the proceedings and created two open play chances but they failed to capitalise.

First, Jurgen Degabriele received a through ball from Jake Grech inside the area just to see his close-range effort blocked by Daniel Fernandes.

Afterwards, it was Grech’s turn to try his luck but his shot was diverted into corner.

Although Hibernians were looking more dangerous, the tide of the game started to shift slowly towards Birkirkara when they came close twice to open the score from bizarre situations.

In fact, the Paolites risked finding themselves behind when Gabriel Artiles almost deflected a Cain Attard’s cross into his own net before Andrei Agius had a clearance header hitting the woodwork.

It was an anticipation for what was to come before the half-time whistle as Birkirkara managed to forge ahead.

A Federico Falcone’s cross was blocked by Agius’ hands according to the match official, with forward Montebello duly converting the resultant penalty for his fourth goal of the season.

Birkirkara’s joy was shortlived as at the restart Hibernians levelled terms. Two minutes inside the second half Leandro Almeida capitalised from a corner-kick situation to head home.

This equaliser sparked the game into life once again with Degabriele having a shot on goal on the 57th minute but Birkirkara’s Fernandes was alert to avert the danger.

Midway into the second half, the teams started to introduce new faces on the field in an attempt break the deadlock but neither side could find the right solution to forge ahead.

Ten minutes from time, Domoraud had a chance to slot the ball into empty net but his flurry of quick chances were twice blocked by Enrico Pepe in front of goal before the Birkirkara backline cleared the danger.

No further goalscoring situations followed as both teams had to settle with a point each.

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