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Grech brace seals win for Hibernians against Sta Lucija

Hibernians forward Jurgen Degabriele (right) holds the ball ahead of a challenge against Sta Lucija. Photo: Domenic Borg

SANTA LUCIA 2

Valpoort 5, Farias 88

HIBERNIANS 3

Grech 30, 58; Degabriele 64

SANTA LUCIA M. Calleja Cremona-6, Y. Soares-6, M. Johnson-6, A. Valpoort-6.5, D. Francarolli-6 (86 N. Pulis), D. Xuereb-6, J. Pisani-5, E. Camilleri-5 (65 A. Moreno), F. Farias-7, M. Alba-5 (60 A. Bah-5), Z. Jie-5 (60 R. Bairam-5).

HIBERNIANS J. Haber-6, F. Apap-5 (77 K. Shaw), Thaylor-5 (73 Z. Grech), J. Grech-7, J. Degabriele-6, D. Vella-5 (73 A. Agius), G. Artiles-5, O. Muritala-7.5, A. Diakite-6 (90 G. Llerena), R. Soares-5.

Referee: Fyodor Zammit

Yellow cards: Calleja Cremona, Muritala,

BOV player of the match: Jake Grech (Hibernians)

Jake Grech scored twice as Hibernians came from behind to beat Santa Lucia on Sunday at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

Andrea Pisanu’s side continued with their recent progress to clinch a third consecutive victory at the expense of a stubborn Santa Lucia side.

Pablo Cortez Sanchez’s side were rewarded for their early pressure after only five minutes.

Santa Lucia went ahead with virtually their first attack on five minutes when Davidy Valpoort needed two touches before clinically dispatching the ball past a helpless Justin Haber.

But slowly Hibernians hauled themselves back into the game as Owolabi Muritala used the space in front of him to surge forward and fired in a powerful shot but his effort was brilliantly scooped away from Matthew Calleja Cremona.

The Paolites pressed hard and the equaliser came on the half-hour when Dunstan Vella’s corner was deflected into the path of Jake Grech who cracked home a rising shot past Calleja Cremona.

It was a soft backward header from Vella that created the first danger of the second half, forcing Haber to recover his position and challenge Michael Johnson to clear the ball.

Santa Lucia suddenly found themselves back-peddling as Hibernians attacked down both flanks with Jurgen Degabriele effective down the right.

Shy the hour mark, the nippy striker tricked his way past a defender and crossed for Grech to tap in at the far post – his second goal of the evening.

The chance of an upset from Santa Lucia vanished in thin air on 63 minutes when Degabriele put the result beyond doubt as he finished off a sweet move with a cool finish from Muritala’s throughball.

Yet Hibernians’ defensive frailties were exposed once again on 70 minutes when Ferdinando Apap failed to clear the ball, Francisco Farias squared for substitute Andres Moreno who lifted his shot over the bar from a good position.

Hibernians’ party was completed 13 minutes from the end when Kurt Shaw made a welcome return to action after a lengthy lay-off, following surgery on his cruciate knee. The Malta defender replaced Apap.

Yet, Santa Lucia were rampant in the closing stages as they banked on the set pieces to put pressure on Hibernians.

On 80 minutes Diego Pacheco Francarolli hit the crossbar from a free-kick. Eight minutes later, Farias went one step further as he fully exploited his dead ball skills from free-kick to set up a nervy finale. However, Hibernians held on to clinch a third consecutive win.

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