Hibs vs Floriana - Gol Jackson Lima
Pulis 19, Cohen 57 (pen), Lima 67;
Early days these may be in football terms but Hibernians struck a psychological blow on the eve of the new season when they won the Euro Cup curtain-raiser in an emphatic way.
The Paolities were already guaranteed of top spot before the match but they finished off their commitments with a 3-1 victory over Floriana to pick up their final three points, conceding just one goal and scoring nine.
After the match, MFA president Carmelo Bartolo presented the trophies to Hibs skipper Mario Muscat.
Despite being a formality, Michael Woods, the Hibs coach, sent out a strong formation as the prospect of landing the first accolade of the new season with full points was too tempting.
The Hibs mentor effected just two changes from the Valletta game, Edward Herrera replacing Clayton Failla as Jackson Lima was preferred to Triston Caruana in a 4-1-3-1 formation with Jean Paul Farrugia, the top scorer of the competition with four goals, partnered Marcelo Dias up front.
On his part, Floriana player-coach Ivan Woods again used this match to assess three other foreign players on trial with the Greens.
Former Balzan Youths defender Bledjon Guga was deployed alongside Tyrone Farrugia in central defence while 26-year-old Albanian midfielder Emir Starti was detailed to protect the back four as his compatriot Erus Frasheri was the front-runner in Floriana’s 4-1-4-1 formation.
As expected Hibernians were the brighter side in the opening period, Farrugia locating the target with a rising effort but Jurgen Borg tipped the ball over inside the first five minutes.
On the quarter-of-an hour mark, Andrew Cohen’s through ball played Marcelo Dias into acres of space, only to find Borg, the Floriana goalkeeper, on the alert to intercept the ball before reaching the unmarked Farrugia on the other side.
Hiberians got the goal their dominance deserved four minutes later, a corner kick by Lima took a deflection and went straight to Adrian Pulis for the tap-in at the back post.
As the two teams were heading for the dressing rooms at half-time, Michael Woods ordered his team back on the pitch as they formed a circle around their coach to listen to the half-time talk in the open air.
Ndekre Elie Moises, who is having a trial with Hibs, came on for Pulis as Woods tweaked this formation with the Ivorian deployed as a lone striker in a 4-1-4-1 set-up.
But Floriana started a bit brighter in the second period as Strati curled an exquisite free-kick over the wall and inside the post to equalise in the 50th minute.
However, Hibernians are not a side to stay crestfallen for long and if their reaction to Floriana’s equaliser was an examination of the Paolities’ credentials, it was one they passed with ease as they responded by scoring twice in ten minutes.
In the 57th minute, Farrugia won a penalty as he was felled by the onrushing Jurgen Borg. From the ensuing penalty, Cohen made no mistake by sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Ten minutes later, Floriana skipper Manolito Micallef was sent off as referee Alan Mario Sant saw him commit a foul as the last man on his opponent Dias.
Lima’s free-kick flew right through the defensive wall and into the net behind the hapless Borg.
Seven minutes from time, Farrugia was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet as his shot glanced off the bar.
M. Muscat, R. Camilleri, A. Pulis (46 N. Ellie Moises), J. Vandelannoite, B. Kristensen (33 T. Caruana), E. Herrera, J. Lima, A. Cohen, M.Dias (70 M. Tabone), J. Farrugia, R. Soares.
Jur. Borg, D. Pisani, T. Farrugia, M. Micallef, B. Guga, E. Frasheri (87 M. Spiteri), B. Farrugia, Jos. Borg (46 R. Brightwell), S. Borg, C. Borg (84 J. Brincat), E.Strati.