FLORIANA G. Kitanov-6, O. El Hasni-7, Z. Cassar-6, J Arias-6 (71 R. Hovsepyan), A. Ciolacu-6 (46 K. Keqi-), B. Paiber-7, E. Callegari-6, E. Rebenja-5.5 (71 M. Micallef) , J. Busuttil-6 (55 D. Agius), A Garzia-6, R Camenzuli-5.5 (60 C. Rutjens-)
BIRKIRKARA A. Sylla-6, E. Pepe-6, Y. Yankam-6, L. Montebello-5.5, C. Bonanni-6, P. Mbong-5 (66 J.Nsumoh-6), C. Attard-6 (84 J. Valletta), B. Ngissah-5, O. Carniello-6 (84 R. Scicluna), L. Aguirre-6.5, D. Venancio-5.
Referee Darryl Agius
Yellow card Rebejna, Ciolacu, Agius, Venancio, Garzia, Kitanov, Keqi,
BOV Player of the Match Oualid El Hasni (Floriana)
Floriana boosted their hopes of catching Hibernians at the top of the Premier League with a vital win over Birkirkara to cut the Paolites’ lead to four points.
They secured a ‘fortunate’ win thanks to Andrei Ciolacu’s early strike. The Romanian striker tapped in at the back post after a deflection by Enrico Pepe from Jan Busuttil’s square pass.
The Stripes deserved a point for endeavour but never looked like scoring as Floriana snuffed out their attacking threat.
Bismark Ngissah made his full debut, starting upfront for Birkirkara with Amara Sylla standing guard between the goalpost in the absence of Daniel Marcio Fernandes.
And predictably, given their respective league positions, Floriana made all the early running. Sylla was immediately called into action when he saved low to his left from Eugeniu Rebenja.
A more industrious approach from Andrei Ciolacu created space for Brandon Paiber whose subsequent shot grazed the post with Sylla beaten.
It was an intriguing battle in midfield, with Diego Venancio’s patient probing being constantly stifled by Paiber and Jan Busuttil’s constant harrying.
Yet for all Floriana’s endeavour, most of their opportunities were from long range as Paiber’s effort flew high over the bar.
Floriana stunned Birkirkara with a goal in the 17th minute after robbing Luke Montebello of possession. Busuttil’s inviting low ball into the Birkirkara area was emphatically dispatched by Andrei Ciolacu. Yet, the decision by referee Darryl Agius to award the goal looked questionable as TV replays showed that Montebello was fouled by Aleandro Garzia before giving away the possession.
Birkirkara thought they were hauled their way back into contention straight after the restart when Montebello headed home from Leandro Aguirre’s free-kick only for the assistant referee Paul Apap to rule out the goal for offside against the striker.
In the 50th minute, for the second time in the match, André Paus’s side fell foul of a dubious decision when the referee waved away shouts for a penalty as Oscar Carniello’s header appeared to hit Zachary Cassar on the arm.
It was the signal for Floriana boss Gianluca Atzori to make a switch, sending on Daniel Agius for Busuttil. Paus replied by bringing on the new recruit Johnson Nsumoh. The Nigerian winger made an instant impact, when he broke down the right flank before unleashing a low drive which finished agonisingly wide.
Oualid El Hasni then sent Nsumoh crashing to the ground to end his venture towards the Floriana’s box. From the ensuing freekick, Leandro Aguirre hit the side-netting.
Floriana held form as Birkirkara failed to capitalise on any of their chances.