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Floriana beat Old Firm rivals Sliema to maintain title charge

Floriana's Willis Furtado escapes a Sliema challenge. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Floriana moved on pole in this season’s title race when they scored a goal in each half to overcome the challenge of Sliema Wanderers and go top of the Premier League standings.

Champions Ħamrun Spartans lost their grip on top spot after they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Marsaxlokk to slip two points behind the Greens with five matches to go.

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Willis Furtado was Floriana’s hero as the Cape Verde striker netted the all-important goals that lifted the Greens to the top of the Premier League standings, two clear of Ħamrun Spartans who faced Marsaxlokk in the second match of the day.

It was a deserved victory for the Greens who held the edge throughout, creating the better chances and only their profligacy in front of goal denied them to close the issue earlier.

There was little separating either side early on as the Blues and the Greens battled for supremacy in midfield.

Sliema created the first chance after 13 minutes but Joseph Minala fired over from the edge of the area.

At the other end, Furtado zig-zagged past three defenders but his deflected shot ended wide. Then it was Matheus who turned past his marker but was denied by Rashed Al Tumi.

The Sliema goalkeeper again had to be alert on 29 minutes to turn away Kemar Reid’s shot.

Just before the break, Matias Garcia came close but his thumping drive just missed the upright.

Floriana enjoyed a bright start to the second half and took the lead on 52 minutes. Carlo Zammit Lornardelli won a free-kick on the right and Furtado surprised Al Tumi with a shot at the near post to give his team the lead.

Sliema tried to fight back and on 59 minutes they came close to level matters when Vito Plut surged inside the area but his shot was pushed away by Georgi Kitanov.

On 67 minutes, Reid should have killed off the Wanderers as he was found unmarked by Furtado’s free-kick but he incredibly fired wide with only Al Tumi to beat.

Five minutes later Da Mata Gomes found himself in space inside the area but shot straight into the hands of Kitanov.

Floriana sealed the points with a second goal nine minutes from time when Al Tumi punched El Hasni inside the area and from the spot Furtado made no mistake.

Despite the victory, Floriana ended the match with ten men when Maksim Valadsko was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Ħamrun Spartans dropped precious points with defeat to Marsaxlokk.

The Spartans held most of the possession and after nine minutes Eder nodded the ball into the path of Jonny whose attempt was blocked to a corner by Marko Drobnjak.

But from then on the Southerners started to defend more diligently leaving little openings for the Spartans’ forwards.

Ħamrun had a great opportunity on 33 minutes when Drobnjak failed to hold Luke Montebello’s cross with the ball falling to Uros Duranovic who saw his shot deflected onto the upright.

After the break, the Spartans’ hopes suffered a blow when Yuri Messias sped clear and was upended by Joseph Mbong inside the area.

And from the spot, Messias made no mistake to put his team ahead.

Ħamrun tried to react but it was Marsaxlokk who almost struck again through Messias but this time goalkeeper Henry Bonello blocked.

On 73 minutes, Montebello was well picked by Seth Paintsil but completely missed the ball with only Drobnjak to beat.

The Spartans managed to pull level four minutes from time when Mbong’s cross was headed home by Roko Prsa.

When it looked as though Ħamrun had rescued a point, substitute Samuel Boakye headed home the winner for Marsaxlokk.

Hibernians edge past Sirens

Hibernians maintained their push for the top four spot when they beat lowly Sirens 2-1.

Ferdinando Apap put the Paolites ahead on 23 minutes and things got worse for Sirens when Gilberto Carrara was dismissed two minutes later.

But the St Paul’s Bay side still managed to equalise eight minutes with a Degran Jackson goal.

But the Paolites soon regained control and Giannis Bastianos scored what proved to be the winner on the stroke of half-time to push Sirens closer to relegation.

At the Tony Bezzina Stadium, Santa Lucia scored a crucial victory in their bid to avoid the drop when they beat Valletta 2-0 to put the latter closer to a shock relegation to the Challenge League.

Valletta, already a team in crisis, found themselves a goal down right before halftime when Tatsuro Nagamatsu put the Saints ahead in injury time.

This goal put Valletta in a chasing position for the final set of minutes but they could not find an equaliser to save themselves and were made to rue this when winter signing Aleksa Mrda sealed all the points before getting his marching orders. But by then the deed was done and Santa Lucia were up in ninth place of the standings at the end of the day.

Standings provided by Sofascore

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