ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 2
Ederson 46, Montebello 82
GŻIRA UNITED 1
F. Marchetti, S. Borg (78 K. Scicluna), J. Mbong (60 L. Montebello), R. Prsa, Y. Nenov (M. Sani), U. Duranovic, Ederson, JC. Corbalan, E. Marcelina, R. Camenzuli, Jonny.
D. Zarkov, C. Filho, Thaylor, Z. Scerri, M. Dias (87 M. Alouzi), L. Macula (87 H. Kabar), R. Zuniga, Ewertton (87 R. Esssaka), B. Borg (67 A. Borg), T. Espindola, J. Mendoza (67 A. Sane).
Referee: Alex Johnson.
Yellow card: Ederson, Thaylor, Nenov, Espindola
Ħamrun Spartans returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Gżira United to close the gap with Floriana at the summit of the table.
Second-half goals by Ederson and Luke Montebello inspired the Spartans to a hard-fought win over the Maroons as they survived some nervy moments when Carlos Conceicao reduced the arrears at the end.
Luciano Zauri, the Ħamrun coach, was forced to make two changes to his starting formation as Ognjen Bjeličić and Elionay Freitas da Silva who were serving a suspension as Luke Montebello was not included in the first XI.
Zauri kept faith to his 3-4-3 formation with Ryan Camenzuli partnering Steven Borg and Marcelina Emerson in central defence, drafting in Juan Carlos Corbalan at the left wingback. Roko Prsa was the central cog as Ederson filled in the right flank.
The Spartans, who had come into this match in good form, clearly wanted to prove a point.
Ħamrun need to stir off challenge from an improving Floriana this season, but once again they has set the standards their rivals must meet, with a 4-0 thrashing of Birkirkara in the Super Cup, despite a stumble defeat in the league against Birkirkara threatened to derile their bid for a third title in four years.
Shorn of Gabriel Mentz and Luis Carlos Riascos, both suspended, coach Darren Abdilla went for more muscle in defence with Carlos Conceicao Filho and Farid Zuniga alongside Marcelo Dias in a three-man defence and he added flair in midfield with the introduction of Ewertton after humbling by Marsaxlokk.
After a sluggish start, Ħamrun gradually imposed themselves on the contest and finally threatened midway through the half with Yulan Nenov hitting a free-kick over the bar.
It was not vintage Gżira but they managed to steady their ship, but they never serioulsy threatened the Spartans apart from a diagional shot from Ewertton, which finished just wide just before half-time.
The Maroons never allowed Ħamrun to get into their trademwark passing rhythm, playing with more energy and drive than the Spartans in the first half.
Ħamrun looked to have settled more after the break and they finally got the goal they had merited for their territorial dominance. Ederson went forward to get on the end of Nenov’s free-kick to head the ball home.
On the hour mark, Luke Montebello was brought in for a limping Joseph Mbong.
The Maroons looked out of sorts and replaced Jackson Mendoza with Adama Sane. They did muster a response, when on 78 minutes, Sane squared the ball for Zachary Scerri who hit a low shot straight at Federico Marchetti.
Ten minutes from time, the Ħamrun captain Steve Borg suffered the recurrence of a hamstring injury as he was replaced by 17-year-old Kean Scicluna who made his league debut.
Eight minutes from time, Montebello showed what value he brings to the Spartans team, with Gzira chasing an equaliser, he stunned his opponents, embarking on a weaving solo run on the left flank before beating Darijan Zarkov.
At death, Gżira hit back when Carlos Conceicao showed great determination to power in an excellent header from Thiago Espindola’s corner.
However, that came too little too late as the Spartans held on for the win.
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