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Hibernians cruise past ten-man Żebbuġ Rangers to get back on track

Jake Grech (left) netted a brace as Hibernians beat Żebbuġ Rangers 2-0. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

ŻEBBUĠ RANGERS           0

HIBERNIANS            2

Grech 39 pen., 58

ŻEBBUĠ RANGERS J. Azzopardi-6.5, H. Marcelino-6 (74 A. Maldonado), S. Bugeja-5.5, L. Almeida-5.5, T. Bartolo, W. Santos (30. R. Vella-6), A. Mizzi-6 (74 J. Sciberras), S. Jankovic-6.5 (65 J. Macedo), C. Lokoli Ngoy-7, E. Sanchez-6, K. Bondin-5.5 (65 S. Miloskovic).

HIBERNIANS J. Haber-6, F. Apap-6 (74 J. Zerafa), G. Llerena-6.5, Thaylor-6, J. Grech-7.5 (84 E. Herrera), J. Degabriele-7.5, B. Kristensen-6 (66 D. Vella), J. Florencio-7 (74 Z. Grech), A. Agius-6.5, G. Artiles-6, A. Diakite-5.

Referee Andrea Sciriha.

Yellow cards Artiles, Bugeja.

Red card Travis Bartolo (ŻR) 38.

BOV Player of the match Jake Grech (Hibernians).

Hibernians rose to fourth place in the Premier League standings when they beat Żebbuġ Rangers 2-0 at the Centenary Stadium last night.

A match which was moved from home soil to Ta’ Qali made no difference as the Paolites took home three precious points even if against a Żebbuġ side that was restricted to playing for almost 50 minutes with a player less following the dismissal of Travis Bartolo.

Hibernians were hoping to turn the page after three straight losses – a streak that cost former coach Andrea Pisanu his job at the club.

For his debut game at the club, new mentor Silvio Vella made wholesale changes from the team that started against Balzan.

Ferdinando Apap, Thaylor, Bjorn Kristensen, Joao Vitor Florencio, Andrei Agius, and Gabriel Artiles were all given the nod this time as Vella went for a different look.

As for Żebbuġ, coming from a draw against Marsaxlokk, coach Brian Spiteri made just one change which saw Leandro Almeida replacing Gaetano Gesualdi.

Life was going to be tough for Żebbuġ from the start as the Paolites were on top of possession throughout the opening stages, the Yellows barely having a touch of the ball.

When they did get a touch however, Żebbuġ produced a threatening opportunity, forcing Justin Haber into a diving save to stop Stefan Jankovic’s angled shot towards the bottom corner 14 minutes into the game.

Still, it was Hibs in control and the Rangers suffered an early setback on the half-hour, when Wilker Santos had to be taken off injured, forcing Spiteri into his first change of the evening in defence.

To make matters worse, Żebbuġ had to continue the match with a man down seven minutes in, after Travis Bartolo was given a red card for a last-man challenge on Florencio inside the area which referee Andrea Sciriha deemed illegal. From the spot, Jake Grech sent Azzopardi the other way as Hibs took the lead.

Despite being with a back-three and susceptible to further damage by the Paolites, Żebbuġ took initiative when they pushed forward after the restart, Jankovic putting Haber to work a minute in.

Hibs replied with the usual Degabriele in the 50th minute when he fired an angled shot from right inside the area but Azzopardi pounced to punch the ball away.

They did eventually get their second goal right before the hour mark when a ball was played to Degabriele who only took a touch to push the ball to Grech and the latter fired in low to increase the margin and get his brace.

With the game all but over for Żebbuġ, Hibs held onto their two-goal margin and took the win at the sound of the final whistle.

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