Day 33: Valletta 1 Hibs 3
Hibernians celebrated their title success with a typically vibrant performance this afternoon.
Brazilian striker Jorginho took centre-stage with an excellent hat-trick as Hibernians overpowered rivals Valletta to the tune of 3-1, the outgoing champions who have had to play second fiddle to the Paolites this season.
A boisterous atmosphere prevailed at the National Stadium as the Hibs fans turned up in large numbers to celebrate their 11th championship.
The Paolites had secured the title with three games to spare but they refused to ease up in their last game, much to the delight of their followers who invaded the pitch at the final whistle.
Hibernians finished the season with 56 points, winning 27 games and scoring 97 goals in the process.
Photo: Darrin Zammit LupiPhoto: Darrin Zammit Lupi
They have clearly been in a class of their own and that much was in evidence today against a low-key Valletta team.
Valletta’s hopes of beating their rivals for the first time this season suffered an early setback.
Just 90 seconds had passed when defender Jonathan Caruana sustained what looked like a serious knee injury after sliding in to block a menacing Jorginho drive.
Nigerian Hillary Paul Ikenna came on as a replacement.
There was a scare for Hibs moments later as a miscued backpass from Bjorn Kristensen sailed dangerously towards goal, forcing Bonello to track back before heading the ball away.
Lateef Elford-Alliyu was first to the loose ball but his effort was kept out by Bonello.
Hibs opened the scoring on 16 minutes thanks to Jorginho who raced on to Kristensen’s through-ball and held off Luke Dimech before firing past Pietro Marino.
A speculative lob from Valletta’s Hamza Barry almost surprised Bonello on 20 minutes but the Hibernians goalkeeper blocked with the aid of the crossbar.
Jorginho was causing endless problems to the City defenders with his pace. This was evident on 26 minutes when the Brazilian, latching on to a long clearance from Rodolfo Soares, raced past Ikennabut his progress was halted by the back-pedalling Dimech.
Close to the half-hour, Valletta threatened to level as Briffa’s pass dropped Barry but the Gambian’s effort was pushed away by Bonello.
A minute later, Hibs coach Branko Nisevic was also forced to make his first substitution as Soares was stretchered off. He was replaced by Keith Tanti.
The buoyant atmosphere in the stadium was further enriched 10 minutes from half-time as Hibs increased their lead.
Fastening on to Cohen’s excellent pass, Jorginho nipped behind the Valletta defenders and slotted past the on-rushing Marino for his 24th league goal.
Valletta’s afternoon took a turn for the worse two minutes into the second half when goalkeeper Marino was shown a straight red card for bringing down Jorginho in the box after the Brazilian had again run past Dimech as he raced on to a long pass.
Nicholas Vella, who had just come on for Nafti, was beaten by Jorginho’s low drive as the Brazilian completed his hat-trick to equal Luis Edison Tarabai’s tally of 25 goals at the top of the scorers’ list.
Three goals up and a man to the good, Hibs were in total control and their supporters in delirium. Jackson Lima was thwarted by Vella while Cohen was high from the distance.
Valletta briefly interrupted Hibs’ dominance when Barry sped into the box but De Gracia Gomes and Andrei Agius intervened to defuse the danger.
With 19 minutes left, Clayton Failla was unlucky not to put his name on the scoresheet as his thunderous free-kick, from long range, rattled the upright.
Valletta did manage to score a consolation goal eight minutes from the end thanks to Bajada whose excellent lob from the distance flew caught Bonello by surprise.
Hibs striker Jorginho was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA – P. Marino, J. Caruana (I. Hillary), R. Camilleri, A. Nafti (N. Vella), R. Briffa, R. Fenech, S. Bajada, I. Azzopardi, H. Barry, L. Dimech, L. Elford Alliyu (L. Cremona)
HIBS: H. Bonello, R. Soares (K. Tanti), A. Agius, R. Gomes, M. Dias (T. Tabone Desira), A. Cohen, J. Lima, C. Failla, B. Kristensen (J. Degabriele), J. Bezzina, J. Pereira.
Scorers: 16′, 35′, 48′ Jorge da Silva Pereira, 82′ S. Bajada (V)
Yellow Cards: L. Dimech (V)
Red Card: P. Marino (V)
Man of Match: Jorge da Silva Pereira (H)
Referee: Clayton Pisani