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Birkirkara hand Hibernians first defeat to reignite title race

Birkirkara midfielder Diego Venancio moves past Dunstan Vella. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

HIBERNIANS     2           

Apap 48, Oliveira 79

BIRKIRKARA      3           

Montebello 24, 83

Attard 43


M. Calleja Cremona-6, F. Apap-6.5, L. Almeida-6, J. Grech-6 (77 E. Beu), J. Degabriele-6.5, D. Vella-6 (88 J. Zerafa), Thaylor-5.5 (67 W. Domoraud), A. Agius-6, G. Izquier-6 (88 R. Dos Anjos), A. Diakite-5.5 (67 A. Muniz), H. Da Costa Oliveira-6.5.


A. Sylla-6, E. Pepe-6, L. Montebello-7,  C. Bonanni-6, C. Attard-6, B. Ngissah-6 (73’ R. Scicluna), O. Carniello-6, L. Aguirre-6.5, K. Bevis-6 (77’ P. Mbong), J. Macedo-6.5 (89’ E. Ruiz), D. Venancio-6.5.

Referee: Fyodor Zammit.

Yellow cards: Venancio, Agius, Bonanni, Almeida, Vella, Izquier.

BOV Player of the Match: Luke Montebello (Birkirkara).

Leaders Hibernians succumbed to their first defeat of the season as Birkirkara survived a fine comeback by the Paolites to strike late and register a 3-2 win.

The Stripes managed to take a deserved two-goal lead during the first half but on the restart, Hibs reduced the gap and eventually levelled matters.

However, Birkirkara, inspired by an excellent Luke Montebello, notched the winner to take home the three points which put them back on track after the draw with Sirens.

Hibernians lose their unbeaten record after 11 wins and seven draws from the first 18 matches. They are currently four points ahead of Floriana and six ahead of the Stripes but the Greens will face Gżira United on Sunday.

Birkirkara coach Andre Paus made four changes from their last outing as he welcomed back Enrico Pepe and named Cain Attard, Bismark Ngissah and Jeferson Macedo in the starting line-up.

On the other hand, Hibs were unchanged.

Birkirkara had the first attempt at goal after five minutes when Ngissah Bismark headed just wide off an inviting cross by Montebello.

On 24 minutes, the Stripes forged ahead. Cain Attard delivered a cross from the right and Montebello beat Calleja Cremona with an angled first-time effort.

Hibs went close on 31 minutes with Enrico Pepe risking an own goal in an attempt to head the ball into safety following a Jake Grech effort.

Two minutes from the end of the first half, Birkirkara doubled the score thanks to a low Cain Attard effort from outside the area which ended in the bottom left corner.

On the restart, Hibernians were determined to get back in the game and it took them just three minutes to reduce the gap.

Jurgen Degabriele delivered a freekick from the right and Ferdinando Apap rose high to head home from close range.

Birkirkara hit back with a Diego Venancio free-kick which was neutralised by Calleja Cremona on 54 minutes.

On 72 minutes, in a swift counter-attack for the Stripes, Montebello had a shot from the edge of the area saved at point-blank by Calleja Cremona.

The Paolites levelled matters on 79 minutes. Gabriel Izquier delivered a cross from the left and Apap anticipated Sylla, heading towards Hugo Vieira who placed the ball at the back of the net.

However, Birkirkara had other thoughts as four minutes later, they regained the lead. Jeferson Macedo served Montebello and the Malta international striker controlled the ball before beating the Hibs custodian to stun the Paolites.

In added time, the Stripes could have added another but Cain Attard hit just wide following a solo run on the right.

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