Day 16: Valletta 3 Hibs 2
Valletta went three points clear at the top of the Premier League standings after they had the better of champions Hibernians 3-2 at the National Stadium.
Hibs had the better start as on 12 minutes Jorge fed Jorginho whose shot was deviated just wide.
Valletta responded on 17 minutes when in a swift break,fed Federico Falcone and the Argentine striker’s lob was pushed over by Briffa.
Hibs were forced to make their first change two minutes later when Dias failed to recover on an ankle injury and was replaced by Joseph Mbong.
Valletta suffered the same fate as Pani also picked up an injury and was replaced by Jean Borg.
On 29 minutes, Falcone again came close when he hit a shot from the distance that finished just over.
Five minutes from the break Rudy Briffa dived full stretch to push away Jhonnattann’s swerving shot from a free-kick.
At the other end, Vella needed two attempts to block Jorge’s grounder.
In time added on Ryan Camilleri picked Nafti inside the area but the Tunisian hit an angled drive that failed to find the target.
Valletta quickly seized the initiative on the restart and on 46 minutes Romeo Romau sped past Clayton Failla and sent a dipping cross towards Jhonnattann whose volley was pushed over by Briffa.
Valletta were on top and on the hour they took the lead when Jhonnattann ran towards the Hibs defence and he first tried to release Falcone but his pass was cut by a defender. The ball again fell to the Brazilian who hit a rasping drive that flew into the bottom corner of the net.
But City’s joy was shortlived as Hibs equalised three minutes.
Ryan Camilleri failed to cut Gilmar’s throughball towards Jorginho whose low shot rolled under the hands of the diving Vella.
There was more drama as Valletta regained their lead on 66 minutes. They were awarded a corner and Jhonnattann’s cross was met by Borg who headed past Briffa.
The goal galvanised Valletta and a minute later they almost hit a third when Jhonnattann glided into the area and sent a low cross towards Falcone but Failla just managed to clear the ball to a corner.
Hibs were now on the ropes and on 71 minutes they conceded again when Roderick Briffa picked Jhonnattann who sped past Pearson and quickly passed to Nafti who blasted the ball into the net.
Hibs were back into the match ten minutes from time when Jorge sped into the area from the right and his cross-shot was deflected past Vella.
Valletta striker Jhonnattann was voted as the BOV Player of the match.
Source – Times of Malta, Photo Credits: Times of Malta
VALLETTA – N. Vella, R. Camilleri, J. Gill Cruz, R. Briffa, U. Calistus, C. Pani (J. Borg), J. Caruana, A. Nafti (J.P. Mifusd Triganza), R. Romao, F. Falcone, J. Benites (N. Pulis).
HIBS – R. Briffa, R. Da Garcia Gomes, J. Lima (J. P. Farrugia), M. Dias (J. Borg), A. Cohen, B. Kristensen, C. Failla, J. Da Silva Pereira, G. Da Silva Ribeiro (J. Degabriele), J. Santos Silva.
Scorers: 59′ J. Benites, 66′ J. Borg, 71′ A. Nafti (V) 63′ J. da Silva Pereira, 80′ o.g. J. Caruana (H)
Yellow Cards: M. Dias, R. Briffa, A. Cohen (H), C. Pani, N. Vella, R. Camilleri, R. Briffa (V)
Man of Match: J. Benites (V)
Referee: F. Zammit