Ten-man Hiber­ni­ans show men­tal strength to move top of the lot

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Al­though hav­ing Jack­son Lima sent off soon af­ter the hour, Hiber­ni­ans showed they can cope with the heat of the bat­tle. Af­ter sur­ren­der­ing a one-goal lead in the first half, they scored twice when play­ing with ten men to beat stub­born Sliema Wan­der­ers and move at the top of the stand­ings for at least 24 hours.

Yes­ter­day’s show­ing was the per­fect risposte to any­one think­ing they may not be strong enough men­tally as they stretched their un­beaten run to eight matches.

Hiber­ni­ans had Jorginho back in the side but missed Clay­ton Failla who was not in­cluded in their squad and was re­placed by Timmy Tabone De­sira.

Fol­low­ing their de­feat against Val­letta, Sliema in­cluded Mi­los Galin in at­tack from the start as Tar­laziz was ex­iled to the bench.

Hiber­ni­ans con­trolled the open­ing min­utes and were one up by the quar­ter hour. Co­hen played a short free kick in­tel­li­gently low to free Jur­gen De­gabriele and beat keeper Zam­mit with an unerring shot.

If the Wan­der­ers needed a wake up call, and a gen­er­ally flat first quar­ter hour dis­play sug­gested that they did, Denni pro­vided it.

Three min­utes later he tested Val­letta keeper Hogg with a dip­ping free kick turned into a cor­ner.

To their credit, Sliema did not lose their com­po­sure and Denni was al­ways the player to pull them back into the game.

Past the half hour, Sliema were awarded a penalty when Muchardi was felled by Soares in­side the Hiber­ni­ans area and Denni Dos San­tos scored from the spot to level mat­ters.

The match be­came in­creas­ingly tense in the sec­ond pe­riod as both teams wanted to win.

Sliema keeper Zam­mit stretched him­self to hold out a Kris­tensen free kick. On the other end Xuereb’s shot was re­pelled by Val­letta keeper Hogg.

To­wards the hour, Hiber­ni­ans even hit the upright through a Bezzina erf­fort as Sliema were play­ing with ten men while the in­jured Scerri was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment on the touch­line.

At that junc­ture Hiber­ni­ans were again hold­ing the ini­tia­tive but stub­bon Sliema failed to buckle. The Wan­der­ers forced a cou­ple of cor­ners and threat­ened with a Galin firm header.

The match took a twist in Sliema’s favour on 67 min­utes. Hiber­nains had their in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder Jack­son Lima sent off for a sec­ond book­ing and im­me­di­ately Joseph Mbong re­placed Co­hen.

The match be­came a lit­tle frac­tious in the fi­nal quar­ter. There was a clash of heads bew­teen Dias and Far­ru­gia and play was in­ter­rupted for some min­utes.

Sliema’s mood was punc­tured on 76 min­utes though when Hiber­ni­ans re­gained the lead. Kris­tensen played a through pass to Jorginho who reached for the ball with his out­stretched foot slid­ing it past the help­less keeper Zam­mit.

Once again Sliema faced a test of nerve and re­sponded straight away with an­other wave of at­tack­ing. Far­ru­gia tested keeper Hogg with a low drive.

The at­mos­phere was eu­phoric for Hiber­ni­ans when they scored their third goal, with two min­utes re­main­ing, through their in­dus­tri­ous mid­fielder Jo­han Bezzina, knock­ing the ball in from close range.

The game had en­tirely changed com­plex­ion and Sliema knew that their time was up.


Hiber­ni­ans Balzan Val­letta Birkirkara Flo­ri­ana Sliema Ham­run St. An­drews Tarx­ien Gzira Mosta Pem­broke P 13 12 12 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 12 12 W 9 8 7 7 7 5 5 4 3 2 2 2 D 2 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 4 3 2 1 L F A Pts 2 21 11 29 1 23 13 27 2 20 11 24 3 30 11 24 3 18 11 24 6 16 17 17 6 21 24 17 7 13 21 14 6 13 20 13 8 11 23 9 8 10 22 8 8 14 26 7

Bjorn Kris­tensen of Hiber­ni­ans (left) is chal­lenged by John Mintoff of Sliema Wan­der­ers (right) Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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