Birkirkara consolidated third spot with a comfortable win over Santa Lucia.
Vincenzo Potenza’s side came to defend, but the strategy unravelled from the moment Santa Lucia goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona gifted the Stripes their lead.
Alex Alves sealed Birkirkara’s victory to lift the Stripes four points clear of fourth-placed Hibernians.
The Stripes started in a 4-1-2-3 formation with Osvaldo Iorio pushed up the field to join Alves, playing either side of central striker Enzo Cabrera as Giovanni Tedesco opted to deploy Matteo Fedele alongside Yannick Yankam in midfield.
After a fractious start to the contest, in which Yankam was booked for hauling down Francisco Farias, Birkirkara had the better of a scrappy opening.
Iorio forced the only real save from Matthew Calleja Cremona with his low drive.
Birkirkara continued to look dangerous although they would not have expected to be handed the lead by their opponents.
Calleja Cremona, coming out of his box, looked to have cleared any danger but instead, he hit the ball in the direction of Cabrera, who showed great awareness for the simplest of tap-ins.
Just before half-time, Birkirkara almost made it 2-0 when Yankam rose unmarked in the area to head Iorio’s cross only to see the ball hit the post.
Santa Lucia created their first chance in the 53rd minute when Jurgen Pisani burst down the left and fired in a cross for Farias. The Brazilian made contact at full stretch only to balloon the ball over the bar.
A few minutes later, Farias made amends but saw goalkeeper Amara Sylla, deputising for suspended Giacomo Nava, parry his well-struck free-kick.
On 64 minutes, Yankam released Alves into the box and he fired a thunderous effort goalwards. As Calleja Cremona looked beaten, the Brazilian thought his effort was bound for an empty net until Nicholas Pulis raced back to hook off the line.
Midway through the second half, Santa Lucia had another chance with substitute Miguel Alba drawing a save from Sylla.
But any hopes Vincenzo Potenza’s team had of salvaging the match disappeared at 76 minutes when Alves slid the ball past the Santa Lucia keeper after being put through by Cabrera.
It was a match that lacked quality.
But on this showing, the Stripes have the ability to continue to fight for a European berth while Santa Lucia’s woes look set to continue.
Cabrera 25, Alves 76
SANTA LUCIA 0
A. Sylla-6, O. Iorio-6 (69 D. Pires), E. Pepe-6, A. Alves-6.5 (85 J. Valletta), Y. Yannick-7 (89 N. Micallef), K. Zammit-6.5, M. Fedele-5.5 (69 P. Mbong), C. Attard-6, E. Cabrera-7 (89 J.P. Farrugia), S. Zibo-6.5, A. Coppola-6.5
M. Calleja Cremona-4, Y. Soares-4, N. Pulis-5.5, R. Bairam-6 (69 J. Zerafa), K. Nwoko-6, L. Bah-4 (62 M. Alba-5), D. Xuereb-5 (62 J.Tanti), J. Pisani-5.5, F. Farias-6 (81 L. McKay), R. Soares-5.5, Y. Terzi-5 (69 J. Carbone).
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Yellow card: Yankam, Y. Soares, Pepe, Attard.
BOV player of the match: Alex Alves (Birkirkara).
Full article, here.