BIRKIRKARA G. Nava-7, E. Pepe-6, D. Pires-6.5 (83 D. Ribeiro), A. Alves-6.5, Y. Yankham-6, K. Zammit-4 (46 O. Iorio), C. Attard-5.5, N. Micallef-4.5 (58 P. Mbong), E. Cabrera-6 (58 F. Falcone), A. Coppola-6, K. Tulimieri-7.5 (90 A. Camilleri).
FLORIANA G. Kitanov-7, A. Magri Overend-6, C. Rutjens-5.5, O. El Hasni-6.5, A. Ciolacu-5, M. Garcia-5, C. Zammit Lonardelli-5, L. Trillo-5, E. Callegari-5.5 (77 M. Veselji), J. Busuttil-7 (68 J. Scicluna), E. Hershkovich-7.5 (59 K. Reid).
Referee Matthew De Gabriele.
Yellow cards Zammit, Yankham, Hershkovic, Micallef, Busuttil.
BOV Player of the match Jan Busuttil (Floriana).
Birkirkara kept their top spot in the BOV Premier League when they edged Floriana 1-0 at the National Stadium on Saturday.
The Stripes are now sole leaders of the league on nine points, followed By Gudja United in second who beat former joint leaders Balzan 1-0, a game that was played simultaneously.
Birkirkara coach Giovanni Tedesco made just one change to his squad from their win over Zebbug Rangers as Paul Mbong started on the bench, replaced by Neil Micallef. Floriana coach Gianluca Atzori named Andrei Ciolacu, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli, and Eden Hershkovich to the starting eleven instead of Ulises Arias, Kemar Reid, and Matteja Vaselji after being held by Sirens last week.
Both sides took their time to study their opponent with the first real chance coming to Floriana after a misplaced hit by Enrico Pepe just missed his own goalpost.
Birkirkara were close to scoring from what would have been a Giorgi Kitanov own goal after 16 minutes when a cross-shot from Cain Attard was mistimed by Kitanov who nearly put the ball into his own net from the attempted save.
Birkirkara had Giacomo Nava to thank after he stopped Hershkovic in a direct encounter on 31 minutes after a lapse in concentration by the Birkirkara defence, the Israelite rushing in between two players to hit first-time, but the Italian goalkeeper was alert to block the shot.
Christian Rutjens was as close as ever to opening the score when from a freekick by Jan Busuttil in the 40th minute, he could not head the ball past Nava after getting himself unmarked inside the area. At the other end, an interception by El Hasni was vital to stop Birkirkara from scoring after Alex Alves played a pass into the area instead of shooting in front of goal.
Hershkovich was again trouble for Birkirkara after the break matching a throughball in the 51st minute but his shot went well over.
Alves replied for Birkirkara three minutes later after an attempt to intercept by Mattias Garcia led the ball straight to the Brazilian but with only the goalkeeper to beat, his shot was blocked by Kitanov into a corner.
On 58 minutes, Lorenzo Trillo could have scored for Floriana with a volleyed effort inside the area from a freekick but Nava dived to block away.
Birkirkara brought on Mbong and Federico Falcone for Enzo Cabrera and Micallef while Floriana replaced Hershkovich with Reid around the hour mark.
Reid tried his luck immediately with a long-distance shot on 61 minutes, but his effort went just wide of the post.
Floriana put more fire into their attack, bringing on James Scicluna for Busuttil.
But it was Birkirkara who opened the score after 75 minutes. Mbong put in a low cross into the area from the left flank that was missed by the defence but met by Kevin Tulimieri who rounded his marker and fired home.
From then on, Atzori went full-on in attack, bringing on Mattia Veselji instead of defender Emiliano Callegari in the 77th minute.
Despite this, Birkirkara could have doubled their lead late on in the 81st minute when Mbong hit a low shot from the left but his effort hit the post and Kitanov claimed the ball to his relief.
Birkirkara affected their fourth and fifth substitution in the final minutes, bringing on Dennis Ribeiro for Diego Pires and Adam Camilleri for Tulimieri. However, they were both just a measure to put further pressure on Floriana as time went by and eventually the Stripes took all three points.
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