ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 0
Hibernians: I. Kone-6.5, F. Apap-6.5, L. Almeida-7, Raphael (15 D. Vella-7), J. Grech-8 (83 C. Edafe), J. Degabriele-6.5, B. Kristensen-6 (75 A. Attard), Thaylor-5.5, A. Agius-7, G. Artiles-5, W. Domoraud-6.
Ħamrun Spartans: H. Bonello-6, D. Gojkovic-6, M. Guillaumier-6.5, J. Mbong, A. Oyama-5.5 (76 S. Lagzir), F. Sasere-5, K. Micallef-6, I. Ntow-6, C. Dielna-6 (85 D. Borg), E. Marcelina-6 (67 L. Gambin), F. El Bakhtaoui.
Referee: Slobodan Petrovic.
Yellow cards: Almeida, Kone, Gojkovic, Thaylor, Artiles, Sasere.
Red card: El Bakhtaoui (Ħ) 40.
BOV Player of the Match: Jake Grech (Hibernians).
Hibernians sent a statement of intent of their title ambitions when they saw off a ten-man Ħamrun Spartans side at the National Stadium.
A spectacular strike from Jake Grech was enough for the Paolites to claim three important points against the Malta champions that sent them five points clear at the top of the Premier League standings.
It was an impressive performance from the Paolites who controlled the match right from the outset and once Grech’s thunderbolt put them ahead, they rarely let the Spartans pose a threat to their goal in what was a very commanding performance.
On the other hand, the Spartans failed to deliver in a clash in which they had little margin of error, and the first-half dismissal of Faissal El Bakhtaoui left them with a mountain to climb.
For the Spartans, this was the fifth defeat of the season which leaves them nine points adrift the leader as their hopes of a successful title defence are fading fast.
It was Hibs who created the first chance of the match after eight minutes when from a Jake Grech free-kick, Andrei Agius saw his header finish just wide.
Hibs were forced to make their first change after 12 minutes when Raphael picked up a knock and was replaced by Dunstan Vella.
The Paolites continued to show the better play and on 20 minutes, they took the lead with a brilliant strike from Jake Grech. The Malta midfielder picked up the ball from 30 metres out and unleashed a powerful drive that flew into the to corner of the net.
The goal hit the Spartans hard, and they struggled to produce any form of reaction as for all their possession, they rarely threatened Ibrahim Kone’s goal.
Ħamrun’s first shot at goal arrived on 35 minutes when Claude Dielna’s attempt from a free-kick flew over.
The Spartans hopes suffered a huge blow five minutes from the break when El Bakhtaoui was shown a straight red card after hitting Vella.
Hibernians should have added a second goal on the stroke of half-time when in a quick break, Thaylor picked the unmarked Gabriel Artiles inside the area but the Spaniard incredibly fired over with only Bonello to beat.
After the break, Ħamrun tried to step up their game enjoying long spells of possession but they were struggling to find any gaps in the organised Hibernians defence.
Hibs continue to threaten with their quick transitions and on 58 minutes, Grech sped clear on the right and served Degabriele inside the area but the nippy forward fired wide.
Mark Buttigieg tried to add more flair to his team’s engine room when he roped in Luke Gambin for Emerson Marcelina.
Ten minutes from time, Gambin found Franklin Sasere inside the area but the Nigerian could not conclude.
Ħamrun almost grabbed a late equaliser in stoppage time when Soufiane Lagzir’s volley came off the bar as Hibs held on for the win.