Gzira’s march on second position strengthens
Gzira United 2-0 Hibernians
28th January 2023, National Stadium, Ta’ Qali
Gzira United consolidated their grip on second place in the standings after a disciplined performance and 2-0 victory against European places challengers Hibs. Gzira also registered the double this season over Champions Hibernians.
This victory enabled Gzira to open a five-point gap over Hibs and one point ahead of third place Birkirkara and puts them in pole position to make a great stride in guaranteeing a place in European Competitions come next summer.
This match and victory, served to mark and celebrate, a milestone for Gzira United’s Coach Darren Abdilla, who was appearing in his 150th Premier League match, spanning his career.
Moreover, this clash for second place put on show the leading top scorers in the BOV Premier League this season. This battle for top placing in the scorers list, was also won in this match by Gzira’s Jefferson De Assis, after his brace of goals and Hibs Jurgen Degabriele’s penalty miss. De Assis superseded and replaced Degabriele at the top of the scoring charts, now with twelve goals to his credit, one more than the Hibs forward.
The match was played in gloomy and rainy weather. In the first half, action was mostly concentrated in midfield and both teams failing to instil some excitement for their respective set of supporters, with chances quite rare. Both teams initially seemed more intent to play it safely and to assure a point from this match. Play was to certain extent evenly balanced, with Gzira having the upper hand and attacks by both sides were disjointed. In fact, Gzira scored right before half time, with the only attempt on target of the first half.
In the second half, Hibs started off brightly with some endeavour in their attack, but the turning point of the match came in the 60th minute after Gzira’s goalkeeper Zarkov’s well saved penalty, which kept Gzira’s lead intact and in the match. From here onwards, Hibs slumped in their performance and Gzira took over match proceedings.
The Maroons were rewarded for their efforts with a second goal and till the end could have increased further the score line had they taken all the chances which fell their way. Gzira rounded off another positive weekend, with yet another consistent performance and well-earned victory.
The match started with Gzira’s Dias on two occasions attempting to threaten Hibs backline. In the 13th minute, Gzira threatened again with a Toni Kolega cross being turned to a corner. From the resultant corner taken by Steven Pisani, Maxuell Maia headed just wide from within the penalty area From the resultant corner taken by Steven Pisani, Marko Cosic headed just wide from within the penalty area.
Hibs only real chance in the first half came in the 18th minute when Degabriele passed to Mensah from the right and as the latter was about to conclude, Gzira defended the ball safely to a corner.
In the 30th minute a freekick by Gzira’s Pisani was tipped just over the Paolites crossbar by Luis Carlos Riascos and a bit later a corner by Pisani was headed just wide by Marko Cosic.
Gzira struck with the first goal and the first attempt on target of the match. In the 41st minute a through ball to the left by Zachary Scerri from the centre circle, was met by Jefferson De Assis, who after avoiding Hibs Kristensen, beat Hibs custodian Justin Haber to the right, with a low diagonal shot to rattle the goal net.
This was the last action of the first half with Gzira entering the dressing room deservedly in the lead.
The second half started with Hibs taking the initiative to attack, creating a number of attempts on Gzira’s goal, with the most menacing one in the 56th minute, when a pass by Mensah from the left, found Degabriele hitting wide from a central position within Gzira’s penalty area.
The turning point in the match came in the 60th minute. Riascos was adjudged to have fouled Hibs Mensah in the penalty area. From the resultant penalty kick, Hibs Degabriele’s low driven shot was excellently saved by Gzira’s goalkeeper Darijan Zarkov to his left, for a corner.
This proved to be the turning point of the match. With Hibs demoralised, Gzira were boosted up to take control of the match from then onwards.
In fact, Gzira doubled the score in the 66th minute. Hibs ex-Marcelo Dias started one of his now accustomed runs along Gzira’s right wing, dribbling past Hibs Izquier on the way and after entering the penalty area, squared low for Jefferson De Assis to hit home from close range, with Hibs keeper Justin Haber desperately trying to save the ball, after it had already crossed the goal line.
After this goal Gzira continued pressing in the closing stages to increase the score. and a bit later a corner by Pisani was headed just wide by Marko Cosic. In the 88th minute, a shot by Jackson Mendoza went just wide. In the 89th minute Nikolai Muscat’s shot was saved by Hibs back stopper. In additional time in the 91st minute, Lucas Ribeiro De Oliveira was judged offside, with a gaping Hibs goal to score in. With the last chance of the match, the Maroons could have increased their lead, when Nikolai Muscat from the left, entered the penalty area, only to see his shot blocked by Hibs goalkeeper, with Toni Kolega hitting high from the rebound.
The referee’s final whistle brought about a round of well-deserved applause by Gzira’s noisy supporters, for the exemplary performance of their team.
Gzira United’s attention now turns to next Saturday’s match against bottom team Pieta Hotspurs and look optimistic to continue significantly increasing their points tally.