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Saturday, December 27, 2014


Due to rather inclement weather conditions across Malta at the beginning of February, two matches scheduled to take place in the Maltese BOV Premier League on 1/2/14 - Sliema Wanderers against Floriana, and Hibernians versus Qormi - were called off in the Maltese BOV Premier League on 1/2/14. The games were played on 3/2/14 at the Hibernians Ground in Coradino, and Hibernians and Qormi were the first teams to take the field.
Goals, goals, goals were the order of the day in the clash between Hibernians and Qormi, taking part in front of a fairly sparse crowd at the Hibernians Ground, and the game's first corner went to Qormi after just 24 seconds, though this was cleared. The visitors, second from bottom, kept up their early pressure and were rewarded with a goal just a minute or so later, after Christian Terribile was put through by Leighton Grech; Terribile, in turn, put the ball through Hibs' goalkeeper Daniel Balzan's legs from 10 yards. There was a hint of offside about the goal, but there were no protests from the home team's players.

Lucas Cantoro was almost put clear in the third minute, but Balzan cleared the danger. Hibernians tried to fashion a quick reply, but their first attempt on goal in the 5th minute was an unsuccessful one. Jackson De Lima Siqueira's ball out to the left hand side found Matthew Bartolo, and the latter's curled effort was hard but a little wayward.

Hibs cancelled out Qormi's early lead with an early enough goal of their own after 9 minutes. Obinna Obiefule barged his way into the penalty, jinked his was around Gorgio Gianola and toe-poked the ball to the left of Qormi 'keeper Mathew Farrugia.

A minute later, the Lilywhites were in front after Qormi lost the ball in midfield and the ball came to Edison Luis Dos Santos on the right, who cut into the penalty-area and fired the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from 12 yards out.

PRELIMINARIES: Hibernians and Qormi players indulbe in the now mandatory pre-match handshake routine

Bartolo almost made it three, getting on the end of a powerful cross in the twelfth minute, but the ball skewered wide of Farugia's goal. Obiefule did get the third three minutes further on after good work from De Lima Siqueira who had bombed through from midfield. A perfectly-weighted pass from the Hibs' number 7 found Obiefule on the left, and he neatly put the ball past Farrugia's left.

Bartolo and Brandon Muscat both tried their luck in the 20th minute, Farrugia saving the former's effort well, only for the ball to rebound to Muscat who blazed his effort high and wide. Hibernians were very much on top at this juncture, and Qormi's cause was not help by a couple of suspect offside decisions being awarded against them. Still, they pressed on, and Grech's good ball to Cantoro on the right-hand side almost paid dividends, only for Balzan to foil Cantoro's low shot from 10 yards out.

Three minutes later, in the 28th minute to be exact, Obiefule's run - past two defenders - and shot from the left was parried by Balzan; however, Dos Santos skied the rebound from four yards out, and in front of an open goal, too.

Terribile headed over the bar on 37 minutes after a move of route one proportions involving goalkeeper Farrugia and Grech; Terribile appeared to have been pushed by Jonathan Pearson whilst contesting Grech's cross, but the referee was unmoved. Controversy was also to be found in the Qormi penalty-area; defender Gianola appeared to handle Obiefule's shot four minutes later, but the referee gave nothing on this occasion either. A minute later, yet another penalty appeal was waved away after Qormi's Alfred Effiong was seemingly pulled down in the box by two Hibs defenders.

As the first half neared injury-time, Cantoro's free-kick from some 22 yards out cannoned off the crossbar, though Balzan actually got his fingertips to the ball, thereby producing a good save in the process. A scramble caused by the ensuing corner came to nothing, and the three minutes of injury-time ticked by without further incident.

Qormi were first on the attack a minute into the second half, but Duncan Pisani's shot from the edge of the penalty-area was parried by Balzan, who succeeded in gathering the loose ball at the second attempt.

Hibs' two-goal cushion became three in the 48th minute, with a delightful goal from De Lima Siqueira making it 4:1 for the hosts. A one-two with Bartolo saw De Lima Siqueira confronted with a Qormi defender, but this proved no problem for him; he simply flicked the ball over the defender and half-volleyed the ball into the net from eight yards out. De Lima Siqueira almost turned provider moments later, passing the ball to Obiefule, but his shot from around 12 yards out was saved by Farrugia.

 HANDBAGS: An altercation between Qormi and Hibernians players is quickly brought under control by match referee Marco Borg

There was an off-the-ball incident in which Dos Santos appeared to have been elbowed by Cantoro, but the referee elected to keep the game moving; this led to a Qormi counter-attack at the end of which Grech shot just wide. Cantoro himself had a chance to peg the score back when he was left unmarked in the Hibs' box, but his header from a Grech cross went over Balzan's crossbar.

The deficit was reduced to two goals courtesy of a goal in the 59th minute from Alfred Effiong. A patient build-up, emanating from inside the Qormi half and involving Simone Quintieri and Grech amongst others, saw a Pisani cross being chested down in a congested penalty-area by none other than Effiong, who beat Balzan with a scuffed effort from six yards out. Pisani himself himself had a chance to cut the difference to one goal, but shot wide from a corner.

The game had provided plenty of goals and various talking points; the yellow card was much in evidence during the second half as well. Roderick Bajada had already been booked for Qormi during the first half; Terribile also found his way into the ref's notebook just before Qormi's second goal, and Hibs' Zoran Levnaic joined him after a foul on Effiong. Effiong was also booked for appearing to lash out in retaliation after a foul by Timothy Tabone Desira, which was followed by a head-to-head with De Lima Siqueira, who was also booked for his troubles. Qiuntieri then received a yellow card for a foul on Muscat.

The two teams eventually got back to playing football, and Dos Santos put the ball over the bar after some human pinball in the Qormi penalty-area following a corner. After a show of speed from Dos Santos on the right in the 79th minute, he unleashed a cross-shot which only just evaded Obiefule, but was cleared for a corner by Effiong. Obiefule then put an effort just over a minute later after a one-two with substitute Jurgen Degabriele, and then fellow sub Jonathan Bezzina almost put the result beyond Qormi's reach with his first touch of the game on 85 minutes, but his shot to the right of Farrugia was palmed away by the keeper'and eventually cleared.

In between times, Qormi had the ball in the Hibs' net, but offside had already been flagged. Jonathan Grech did eventually score a deserved third for the team in yellow in the 86th minute; he was on the end of a clever ball from Effiong, and stroked the ball past Balzan from 12 yards out, although there was a suspicion of offside about the goal, which stood despite appeals from the Hibernians defence.

NO PRESSURE: The Hibernians defence prepare to launch another attack on the Qormi goal

Effiong himself was almost in on goal two minutes later, but he was foiled by a good tackle from the last Hibs defender. Degabriele had a chance to wrap things up with a minute to go, but his shot after turning a Qormi defenderflew just over Farrugia's bar.

No matter, the game was finally put to bed by De Lima Siqueira in the second minute of second-half injury-time. He was the intended target of a long through-ball, which instead reached Farrugia, who had come out to the edge of his area to beat the Hibs man to the ball. However, his attempted clearance was charged down by De Lima Siqueira, who simply ran on with the ball and tapped into the empty net before being immediately substituted by Zachary Scerri as the clock ran down.

It was a pity that the game ended in such a manner for Farrugia, who, despite conceding five goals, had played well, as had Balzan in the Hibernians' goal. De Lima Siqueira, Obiefule and Dos Santos were the stars of the show for Hibernians, whilst Grech and Cantoro impressed for Qormi, with honourable mentions for Degabriele's cameo for the Lilywhites and Effiong for a determined performance for the losing team.

HIBERNIANS: 1 Daniel BALZAN, 2 Timothy TABONE DESIRA, 5 Ryan CAMILLERI, 6 Jonathan PEARSON, 7 Jackson DE LIMA SIQUEIRA, 3 Scott CHIRCOP (14 Jurgen DEGABRIELLE), 18 Brandon MUSCAT, 16 Zoran LEVNAIC, 17 Matthew BARTOLO (19 Johann BEZZINA), 21 Edison Luis DOS SANTOS (10 Zachary SCERRI), 20 Obinna OBIEFULE

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 4 Neil FALZON, 12 Jurgen BORG, 15, Dunstan VELLA, 23 Aaron HILL

QORMI: 1 Mathew FARRUGIA, 4 Alfred EFFIONG, 8 Roderick BAJADA, 27 Christian TERRIBILE (6 Leonardo GABRIELI), 16 Giorgio GIANOLA, 31 Lucas CANTORO, 10 Simone QUINTIERI (99 Dylan PIROTTA), 19 Emerson VELLA, 21 Duncan PISANI, 5 Roderick SAMMUT, 7 Leighton GRECH

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 9 George PORTELLI, 12 Steve SULTANA, 14 Terence ABELA, 15 Karl SCIORTINO, 29 Stefano ZAMPA
THEN AND NOW: Hibernians went on to finish in third place in the regular championship season, nine points behind leaders Valletta. They were to finish the play-off season in the same position, and qualified for the first round of the 2014-15 Europa League as a result. Their campaign was a short one, losing 9:2 on aggregate to Slovak side Spartak Trnava.

Qormi ended the regular season in tenth place, ahead of Tarxien Rainbows on goal difference. They moved up a place to finish ninth at the end of the play-offs.

So far this season, Hibs have astounded everybody involved in Maltese football, winning 15 of their first 16 league games so far this season, building up an imposing 15-point gap on nearest challengers Valletta and Birkirkara (who else?). Qormi are currently ninth, finding themselves a point in front of Tarxien Rainbows. Pietà Hotspurs follow in 11th place, with Zebbug Rangers currently occupying bottom spot with 9 points.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to the MFA's matchday staff, and in particular to the security guard, who was also on duty the day before the the National Stadium in Ta'Qali and who doubles up as Hibs' groundsman! The Times of Malta proved a handy reference point.

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