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Hibs, Floriana fire blanks in top-of-the-table clash

Floriana's Ulises Arias (left) moves past Joseph Zerafa. Photo: Jonathan Bugeja


FLORIANA         0


I. Kone-6, F. Apap-6 (73 J. Zerafa), L. Almeida-6.5, Raphael-6 (70 A. Muniz), J. Grech-6.5, J. Degabriele-6 (83 Z. Grech), T. Aldama-6.5, A. Agius-7, G. Izquier-6, A. Diakite-6, H. Da Costa-6.5


G. Kitanov-6, A. Magri Overend-6, C. Rutjens-6.5, O. El Hasni-6 (79 R. Hovsepyan), K. Reid-6 (69 U. Arias), A. Ciolacu-6, M. Garcia-6, B. Paiber-6.5, E. Callegari-6.5, J. Busuttil-6 (84 M. Veselji), R. Camenzuli-6.5.

Referee: Slobodan Petrovic.

Yellow cards: Garcia, Almeida, Rutjens, dos Anjos, Thaylor, Degabriele, Paiber.

BOV Player of the Match: Andrei Agius (Hibernians).

Leaders Hibernians retained a two-point lead over Floriana in the BOV Premier League standings after the top-of-the-table clash ended in a goalless draw.

The two teams were eager to return to winning ways after the Paolites lost to Ħamrun Spartans in their previous outing and Floriana suffered back-to-back defeats to the Paolites and Gżira United.

In fact, during the first half, both sides tried hard to score but during the second half, shots at goal were few and far in between.

The two teams seemed more intentioned to avoid defeat and in fact, the two sets of defenders prevailed.

With three matches to go for each team, after a short break due to next weekend’s FA Trophy quarter-finals, the title could still go either way.

Floriana coach Gianluca Atzori opted for four changes from their last outing as Zachary Cassar, Rumyan Hovsepyan, Ulises Arias and Kristian Keqi made way for Christian Rutjens, Matias Garcia, Brandon Paiber and Kemar Reid.

Hibernians, on the other hand, had Raphael deputising for the suspended Dunstan Vella while Hugo Filipe Da Costa Oliveira was preferred to Zachary Grech.

The Paolites had the first attempt at goal on nine minutes as Thaylor Aldama’s cross shot from the right was turned into a corner in style by Floriana goalie Georgi Kitanov.

Floriana replied with a cross by Brandon Paiber from the right, four minutes later, from which Emiliano Callegari headed just wide.

On 26 minutes, Hibernians missed a golden opportunity when Jurgen Degabriele took advantage of a short clearance by Kitanov, who tried to anticipate Da Costa, and rounded Oualid El Hasni but his goal-bound effort was deflected into a corner by Callegari.

Floriana replied with a Paiber freekick which was blocked by Ibrahim Kone on 29 minutes. Shortly afterward, Da Costa Oliveira controlled the ball following a cross from the right and his curved shot from outside the area just missed the target.

On the restart, play was concentrated in midfield with the two goalkeepers hardly being tested.

On 58 minutes, a Paiber freekick was blocked by a defender and off the rebound, the Malta international midfielder’s effort was neutralised by Kone.

Late in the game, Andrei Agius hit home from close range when served by Almeida but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for an offside.  

The game was not over yet as in stoppage time, Floriana appealed for a penalty when substitute Mattia Veselji ended on the ground when challenged by Agius but referee Slobodan Petrovic waved play on.

Four minutes in added time, another substitute, Rumyan Hovsepyan, almost notched the winner for Floriana but his long-distance effort scraped past the post.

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