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BOV Premier League

Spartans outwit leaders Hibs to boost Euro bid and keep title race alive

Ħamrun Spartans striker Franklin Sasere shields the ball from Andrei Agius. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS   2

Gojkovic 35; El Bakhtaoui 67 pen.

HIBERNIANS   1

Artiles 37

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS

H. Bonello-7, D. Gojkovic-7 (83 L. Gambin), J. Mbong-7, A. Oyama-6.5, S. Borg-6.5, F. Sasere-6, M. Fedele-6 (61 J. Soares-6), J. Corbalan-6, P. Djordjevic (61 I. Ntow-6), E. Marcelina-8, F. El Bakhtaoui-7.

HIBERNIANS

I. Kone-6, F. Apap-6, L. Almeida-6, J. Grech-6, J. Degabriele-6, D. Vella-6 (90 A. Muniz), Z. Grech-6 (71 H. Oliveira), Thaylor-6.5, A. Agius-6, G. Artiles-6 (89 W. Domoraud), A. Diakite-5.5 (71 Raphael).

Referee Malcolm Spiteri.

Yellow cards Djordjevic, Thaylor, Apap, Marcelina, Gojkovic, Soares, Vella, Artiles

BOV Player of the match Faissal El Bakhtaoui (Ħamrun Spartans).

Ħamrun Spartans clinched their biggest win of the season when they beat leaders Hibernians by the odd goal in three in a hard-fought encounter.

It was arguably the Spartans’ best performance of the season as the Reds matched the Premier League leaders in all areas of the pitch, scoring a goal in each half to secure three vital points that boosts their hopes of a top-three finish and a place in European football.

On the other hand, Hibernians will be gutted with the defeat as they produced a stirring fightback when falling behind and had enough chances to pick up at least point but were denied by a solid Ħamrun defence.

With this result, Hibs remained top of the standings, two clear of Floriana ahead of next week’s top-of-the-table clash.

Hibernians started well the match and after eight minutes they came close to taking the lead when Dunstan Vella picked Jurgen Degabriele inside the area and the prolific forward volleyed the ball just wide.

Ħamrun responded two minutes later when Mbong connected to Oyama’s cross and his dipping header almost set up Djordjevic who was anticipated by Andrei Agius.

The Spartans had the ball in the Hibernians net on 19 minutes when Sasere latched onto Oyama’s cross and stabbed the ball home, but the ‘goal’ was annulled for an offside position of the Nigerian striker.

There was little separating either side halfway through the first half as both teams were looking to gain an edge in midfield but chances remained few and far between.

It was Ħamrun who broke the stalemate on 35 minutes. From a corner action, El Bakhtaoui sent a low cross towards Oyama who hit it first-time with the ball falling into the path of Gojkovic who fired home.

But the Spartans’ joy was shortlived as Hibernians drew level two minutes later. Jake Grech’s cross was deflected into the path of Artiles who volleyed home.

Ħamrun tried to respond and two minutes from the break, Kone did well to keep hold of El Bakhtaoui’s shot.

Eight minutes into the second half, Thaylor should have put Hibs ahead when the Brazilian winger latched onto Degabriele’s cross but headed over from a few metres out.

Ħamrun were unlucky on the hour mark when El Bakhtaoui picked Sasere who saw his header hit the bar before finishing over.

But the Spartans regained their lead on 67 minutes when substitute Jorge Soares picked El Bakhtaoui who was floored by Diakite inside the area with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.

El Bakhtaoui picked himself up to convert the penalty with an audacious chip.

Hibs fought back strongly and two minutes later Bonello produced a fine save to deny Ferdinando Apap.

The Paolites threw caution to the wind and on 75 minutes were unlucky to see Agius’ shot hitting the upright.

In stoppage time, Mbong should have put the game beyond Hibernians’ reach but was denied by the onrushing Kone.

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