Hibernians - 0 Birkirkara - 2

Birkirkara produced a brilliant performance to see off champions Hibernians in the final of the FA Trophy.

Goals from Argentine defender Mauricio Mazzetti and Brazilian forward Rafael Ledesma earned Birkirkara a deserved 2-0 win and wrecked Hibernians' dream of a league and cup double.

The Paolites had been in a class of their own in the championship but they were far off their best this evening, struggling to settle into their usual rhythm as the spirited Birkirkara players showed a greater desire and hunger to lift the cup for the fifth time in the club's history.

Sadly, a well-contested final was overshadowed by some ugly scenes after the final whistle as Birkirkara supporters clashed with those of Hibernians after invading the pitch.

Birkirkara midfielder Paul Fenech was restored to the starting XI after his decisive cameo in the 1-0 win over Valletta in the semi-finals.

Paul Zammit, the Birkirkara coach, started with Brazilian Rafael Ledesma up front in a 4-1-4-1 approach.

There were no changes in the Hibernians team from the 2-0 victory over Qormi.

Coach Branko Nisevic stuck with 3-5-2, Jorginho leading the line and captain Andrew Cohen operating behind.

Six minutes into the game, Hibernians survived a scare as Ryan Camenzuli's cross from the left landed into the six-yard box and Henry Bonello, under pressure from Ryan Scicluna, fumbled the ball before the defenders cleared.

Hibs also fashioned a half-chance at the other end as Jorginho raced past two Birkirkara defenders to reach a long ball but goalkeeper Justin Haber was quick off his line to subdue the danger.

There was a contentious episode on 13 minutes as Hibs midfielder Jackson Lima appeared to lash out at Edward Herrera as the latter picked himself up to take a throw-in. Amid the ensuing melee, Birkirkara's Nikola Vukanac clashed with Clayton Failla, prompting Arciola to book the two players, but surprisingly, Lima was not even cautioned.

An inviting opening for Birkirkara went astray when Herrera, again profiting from the open space on the right, stumbled on the ball as he sped into the box, allowing Failla to clear.

Birkirkara struck on 28 minutes. Ledesma's teasing cross, from a left-wing free-kick, soared past a posse of players and Mazzetti, left unmarked, controlled the ball before hitting past Bonello from point blank. The Stripes faithful were in ecstasy.

When Mazzetti's body charge felled Jorginho on the edge of the area, danger loomed for Birkirkara as Hibs were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position. Nothing came of it as Rui De Gracia Gomes's tame attempt to chip the ball over the wall was headed away.

Birkirkara remained the brighter side after he change of ends.

Seven minutes into the second half, Ledesma curled his free-kick past Hibs' defensive wall but his effort was high.

A whiff of anticipation swept through the Hibs fans when Lima won a free-kick just outside the box after being fouled by Scicluna but Failla's low shot was too weak to trouble Haber.

Brazilian striker Liliu came on for Camenzuli on 64 minutes. The afternoon got better for the Stripes as, with 21 minutes remaining, they doubled their lead.

The usually reliable Hibs defence was again caught out as Zerafa's low cross from the left rolled into the six-yard box and past the dithering De Gracia Gomes whose hesitation was punished by Ledesma who rifled the ball home from close in.

Hibernians were on the ro[es. They almost conceded again after Herrera's cross, this time from the right, flashed against the post.

Nisevic moved to strengthen his forward line, throwing on Serbian striker Marko Rajic for De Gracia Gomes.

Twelve minutes from time, Cohen's cross was met by Rodolfo Soares but the Brazilian's header was wide.

Birkirkara easily controlled Hibs' tame efforts to get back into the game.

As referee Arciola, sounded the final whistle, hundreds of the Birkirkara fans invaded the pitch. This led to some scuffles as scores of Birkirkara supporters ran across the pitch to taunt the Hibs fans, some of whom responded by jumping over the fence to confront their rivals.

Police officers, who were outnumbered, tried to control the situation but calm was only restored after players from both teams and officials intervened.

 

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us