Matchday 18: Valletta 1 Hibernians 4
Hibernians regained their four-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings after dispatching rivals Valletta with a 4-1 victory.
The Paolites have now extended their unbeaten run to 18 games as they reach the 40-point mark as leaders of the domestic championship.
Despite Floriana reducing the gap to just one point having played in the earlier game, Hibernians looked under no pressure as they handled their business against Valletta in the best possible way, with a first-half blitz that sealed the deal for them.
Newcomer Hugo Vieira took two minutes to break the deadlock before Jurgen Degabriele grabbed a goal of the season contender that edged Hibernians on the brink of an important win.
Hibs made sure of the win with the second-half goals from Degabriele and Wilfried Domoraud, sandwiching a Kevin Tulimieri’s consolation goal for Valletta.
Degabriele’s brace propelled the Malta international at the top of the league’s scoring charts with 11 goals.
Valletta, on their part, tried to react and find a lifeline but they lacked inspiration, and maybe luck as well given a Mario Fontanella’s crossbar in the second half, as they succumbed to their ninth defeat of this campaign.
The coaching change had no effect so far results-wise as Danilo Doncic has now lost in his first two outings at the helm.
The Citizens remain seventh with 21 points and with four games left, their chances of a Championship Pool berth are starting to fade.
Hibernians had an ideal start to this game when they drew first blood after just two minutes. Thaylor beat Luis Murillo before whipping in a cross which Valletta’s goalkeeper Alessandro Guarnone blocked temporarily but Hugo Vieira was alert inside the area to slot home.
Mario Fontanella could have found a leveller when the Italian forward connected with a Rowen Muscat low cross but his effort flashed wide.
On the other side, Guarnone had to produce a fantastic save to deny Jake Grech from the edge of the area.
However, the Italian goalkeeper could not stop Jurgen Degabriele from doubling Hibs’ lead with a delightful curling ball that went straight into the far post.
Valletta were looking to pull one back with the likes of Fontanella and Shaun Dimech, but their efforts were in vain as the Paolites maintained their two-goal lead at half-time.
At the restart, Valletta coach Danilo Doncic roped in Lucas Campos as he looked to add more firepower.
Ivan Curjuric tried his luck from the edge of the area only for his effort to sail over the bar. Moments later, Fontanella struck the crossbar from close-range as Lady Luck seemed to do no favours to Valletta in this game.
The next goal in this game was going to be very important and it was Hibernians who grabbed it through Degabriele who collected an Alvaro Muniz’s throughball before slotting past Guarnone.
Valletta pulled one back with substitute Kevin Tulimieri who capitalised on a Curjuric cross.
But their hopes of a comeback were immediately dashed when Wilfried Domoraud struck from close-range to restore their three-goal lead.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA: A. Guarnone, J. Borg, T. Caruana, L. Murillo, H. Dilaver (76 K. Tulimieri), S. Dimech(46 L. Campos), C. Gauci, E. Pena Beltre, I. Curjuric, R. Muscat (77 A. Zammit), M. Fontanella.
HIBERNIANS: M. Calleja Cremona, F. Apap, L. Almeida, J. Grech (68 A. Muniz), J. Degabriele (88 A. Attard, D. Vella, Thaylor (81 Z. Grech), A. Agius (81 M. Ellul), G. Artiles, A. Diakite, H. Vieira (68 W. Domoraud).
Referee: I. Barbara
Scorers: 2′ Vieira, 26′ 71′ Degabriele, 79′ W. Domoraud, 78′ K. Tulimieri.
Yellow Cards: A. Diakite (H), R. Muscat (V)
Man of the Match: J. Degabriele