Day 5: Valletta 0 Hibernians 1
Hibernians reclaimed top spot after Jorge’s early strike gave them a narrow 1-0 win over rivals Valletta.
For much of the first half, Hibs looked well on course for a comfortable victory as they were better than Valletta but the Whites staged a strong reaction after the change of ends.
Valletta threw everything forward, creating a string of chances but Hibs managed to keep their goal intact to extend their unbeaten start to five games.
Hibernians enjoyed an edge over Valletta in the first half.
Captain Andrew Cohen tried his luck with a rising drive from the distance that was parried away by Henry Bonello, who was facing his former team.
This came on 12 minutes. Hibs took the lead three minutes later.
Marcelo Dias was the provider as the Brazilian right-back powered forward on the right before picking out Jorge who rifled a first-time shot past Bonello.
Midway into the first half, Jorginho sped into the box but his shot was deflected away by Jonathan Caruana.
Valletta were finding it hard to create openings as Hibs were very solid at the back.
With Valletta down to 10 men as Caruana was being attended to by medics, Hibs threatened to increase their lead.
Dias found Clayton Failla inside the box but the Malta wing-back miscued his effort.
Roderick Briffa eventually replaced Caruana who was unable to continue.
Llywelyn Cremona, now operating on the right wing, had a shot saved by Rudy Briffa, the young Hibs goalkeeper.
At the other end, Bonello pushed away Bjorn Kristensen’s drive.
Hibs should have extended their advantage five minutes from half-time as Jorge’s cross from the right flew towards Soares at the far post but his header hit the upright with the ball coming off Bonello before going out.
The Valletta goalkeeper blocked Jorginho’s grounder as the champions ended the first half on the attack.
Valletta survived a scare five minutes into the second half as Cohen’s free-kick triggered a goalmouth melee but Soares hit wide.
Reprieved, the Citizens would have levelled but for a fine save from Briffa who jumped into the air to tip Briffa’s dipper over the bar.
Valletta now pushed forward with greater intent as they chased an equaliser.
In a rare counter-attack, Cohen passed to the unmarked Jorginho who blasted high.
Jorge was closer, his volley, from Failla’s service, flying past the near post.
With 20 minutes left, the Paolites had another great chance as Jorge and Jorginho combined to open up the Valletta defence. As Jorge supplied a low ball into the six-yard box, Bonello rushed out to close down Jorginho but missed the ball only for Cremona to clear.
Valletta were unlucky when, six minutes from time, Nafti’s right-wing cross dropped kindly to Priso at the far post but the Cameroonian incredibly miscued his effort in front of a gaping goal. The danger was not over for Hibs as Falcone swooped but the Argentine’s effort was blocked.
Dias, the Hibs wing-back, was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – H- Bonello, J. Caruana (R. Briffa), C. Pani, J. Cruz Gill, I. Azzopardi, N. Priso, A. Bruce (A. Nafti), L. Cremona (J. P. Mifsud Triganza), R. Camilleri, F. Falcone, R. Romao.
HIBS – R. Briffa, R. Da Gracia Gomes, J. Lima, R. Soares, M. Dias, A. Cohen (G. Da Silva Ribeiro) , B. Kristensen, C. Failla, A. Agius, J. Da Silva Pereira, J. Santos Silva (J. Pearson).
Scorers: 15′ J. Santos Silva
Yellow Cards: A. Bruce, C. Pani (V), M. Dias, J. Santos Silva (H)
Man of Match: M. Dias (H)
Referee: Alan Mario Sant