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Birkirara cruise past Lija

Birkirkara's Paul Mbong (left) fends off a Lija Athletic challenge. Photo: Stephen Gatt

B’KARA          4          Falcone 23; Borg 31 o.g; Montebello 53, Attard 86

LIJA                 1          Brandan 64

B’KARA: A. Guarnone-6, E. Pepe-6, Y. Yankam-6, L. Montebello-7 (89’ C. Prado), P. Mbong-6.5 (89’ G. Farrugia), K. Zammit-6, F. Falcone-6, C. Attard-6, C. Bonanni-6, O. Carniello-5.5, A. Da Paixao-6.5 (77’ I. Ntow).

LIJA: L. Bonnici-5.5, P. Gusso-5.5, L. Muscat-5.5, I. Borg-5.5, H. Wood-5.5 (62’ N. Micallef), F. Brandan-6, W. Serrano-5.5, M. Jimenez-5.5 (89’ B. Antignolo), C. Giordimaina-6, G. Virano-6 (89’ D. Scerri), C. Flores-5.5.

Referee: Ishmael Barbara

Yellow Cards: Virano, Attard, Gusso, Zammit, Bonanni

BOV Player of the Match: Luke Montebello

With two goals in each half, Birkirkara defeated Lija Athletic 4-1 to confirm their recent fine form as they extend their unbeaten run to eleven matches.

Birkirkara move back in fourth place on level points with Sliema Wanderers, three behind third-placed Gżira United.

Right from the start, Birkirkara were clearly a better side in a match which however provided few shots at goal apart from the actual goals. Lija, on the other hand, were unable to repeat the same performance as their last game against Floriana.

Lija lost Erjon Beu on the eleventh hour and were forced to replace him with Harry Wood. They also could not count on Juan Cruz Gill who was serving a one-match ban and was replaced by Pedro Gusso. In the absence of coach Joseph Galea, who was also suspended, assistant coach Matthew Genuis led the team from the sideline.

The Stripes, on the other hand, had two changes from the team which defeated Mosta last week, as Cain Attard and Federico Falcone were preferred to Roderick Briffa and Caio Prado.

Birkirkara took the lead with the first serious goal-scoring opportunity on 23 minutes. Luke Montebello rounded a defender before serving Federico Falcone with a cross from the right and the latter hit low past goalkeeper Luke Bonnici.  

Eight minutes later, the Stripes doubled the score. Alex da Paixao Alves concluded a good run on the left with an assist for Luke Montebello but Ismael Borg anticipated the Birkirkara striker, hitting the ball past Bonnici for an unfortunate own goal.

Birkirkara scored the third goal eight minutes in the second half. Paul Mbong delivered a cross from the left and Luke Montebello beat the Lija custodian with an angled shot.

Luke Montebello went close to increasing the lead on 62 minutes with a fine curved shot from outside the area but the ball scraped past the post.

Two minutes later, Lija reduced the gap. Fernando Brandan pounced on a long through pass by Leon Muscat, anticipating Oscar Carniello and beating Enrico Pepe on the run before hitting home in style past goalkeeper Alessandro Guarnone.

Substitute Neil Micallef tried his luck with a powerful shot from outside the area on 84 minutes but Guarnone neutralised his attempt.

However, a few seconds later, Birkirkara made it 4-1. Luke Montebello advanced on the left, from a rather dubious offside position, and served Cain Attard whose conclusion hit the crossbar with the ball bouncing beyond the goal line.

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