Hamrun Spartans 2
Birkirkara’s title hopes suffered another setback yesterday as they lost 2-0 to Hamrun Spartans to slip further behind their rivals.
Still smarting from their shock exit in the FA Trophy, Birkirkara looked a pale shadow of their usual selves as Hamrun Spartans came through a difficult start to outsmart their fading opponents with two goals from Massimiliano Giusti, his second coming only two minutes after Stripes defender Nikola Vukanac was dismissed.
For all their possession in the early stages, Birkirkara failed to find a breakthrough in the first 20 minutes.
It was Hamrun who came close to taking the lead against the run of play but Jake Grech’s shot, from angle, was touched away by Miroslav Kopric, the Birkirkara goalkeeper.
Eight minutes from half-time, Birkirkara had a great chance to break the deadlock as they were awarded a penalty after Philip Chircop was adjudged to have pushed Matteo Desira Buttigieg in the box. Vito Plut’s shot hit the crossbar.
Temile should have put Birkirkara ahead early in the second half when, amid a goalmouth melee, the ball rolled towards the Nigerian who hit wide from an inviting position.
This miss proved costly as, in their next attack, the Spartans went ahead. They hit on the counter with Grech releasing Giusti who sped into the box and blaste3d his shot into the net.
The game stopped for a few minutes as Matthew Farrugia, the Spartans’ reserve goalkeeper, needed time to get ready to enter the fray after David Cassar picked up an injury.
Birkirkara’s woes increased midway into the second half when Nikola Vukanac was sent off for a late challenge on the advancing Patrick Teixeira.
It took Hamrun less than two minutes to profit from their extra man on the pitch.
Birkirkara were clearly in a state of confusion as Grech’s through-pass found Giusti completely unmarked and the Italian forward sent his shot past Kopric.
Things almost got worse for the Stripes when, in another counter-attack, the Spartans created a two-vs-two situation. Grech flicked the ball towards Giusti but the Italian ran himself into a wide position and his back-heeled passed found no takers.
Birkirkara needed a goal to get back into the contention. They almost got it when the Plut sped into the box but overhit his pass towards substitute Steve Bonnici.
With three minutes remaining, Ryan Scicluna advanced on the left and laid the ball back for Guillaumier but the Malta U-21 midfielder’s shot was deflected away for a corner.
HAMRUN SPARTANS: David Cassar (63′ Matthew Farrugia), Luis Miguel Vergara Rodrigues, Philip Chircop, Luke Sciberras, Jorge Mesqueu Neto, Massimiliano Giusti (78′ Saturday Nanapere), Luke Grech, Leandro Wallace Motta dos Santos (90′ Trevor Cilia), Jake Grech, Sergio Raphael dos Anjos Raphael, Patrick Jean Teixeira Maia.
Subs not used: Daniel Debono, Mark Borg, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, Darren Falzon.
Assistant Coach: Jonathan Holland
B’KARA: Miroslav Kopric, Christian Bubalovic, Gareth Sciberras, Matthew Guillaumier, Mislav Andjelkovic, Matteo Desira Buttigieg (78′ Steve Bonnici), Vito Plut, Nikola Vukanac, Frank Temile, Shaun Bajada (70′ Ryan Scicluna), Cain Attard (46′ James Brincat).
Subs not used: Ini Etim Akpan, Neil Micallef, Zack Cassar, Predrag Jovic.
Coach: Drazen Besek
Referee: Sandro Spiteri
Assistant Referees: Mitchell Scerri, Peter Abela
Fourth Official: Clayton Pisani
Yellow Cards: Attard, Giusti
BOV Player of the Match: Massimiliano Giusti[www.timesofmalta.com]
Images courtesy of Chrissie’s Photography