Un­beaten Balzan alone at the sum­mit

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Balzan re­main the only un­beaten side in the BoV Premier League af­ter win­ning this tight con­test against Hiber­ni­ans with two late goals to go top of the stand­ings af­ter the full mid-week pro­gramme of matches.

Af­ter a mun­dane first half, best to be for­got­ten by both sides, Hiber­ni­ans grew into the game and even looked like nick­ing it in the sec­ond half.

But Balzan failed to buckle even when un­der pres­sure and won the con­test thanks to a Kal­je­vic penalty and an Ef­fiong strike.

Balzan made two changes from their pre­vi­ous draw against Val­letta. Ly­don Mi­callef and Ter­ence Agius started in­stead of Dy­lan Grima and Mat­teo Pic­ci­ollo.

Hiber­ni­ans were an un­changed side af­ter a 2-1 win against Pem­broke, ex­cept for goal­keeper Rudi Briffa deputis­ing for reg­u­lar An­drew Hogg.

Balzan more than matched their op­po­nents through­out a flat first pe­riod and for much of the sec­ond.

To­wards the half hour, Kris­tensen had to re­ceive treat­ment on the side­lines fol­low­ing a nasty clash of heads. He con­tin­ued play­ing with a heav­ily ban­daged head but only for a few min­utes un­til he was stretchered off to the am­bu­lance and re­plced by Juan Varea.

Dur­ing four min­utes of added time, Balzan came close as they en­tered the Hiber­ni­ans area for the first time. But Kal­je­vic’s ef­fort on a Nafti pass, was blocked into a cor­ner.

The teams looked more fried up af­ter the restart and Hiber­ni­ans crafted the first good op­por­tu­nity. Telles ended a fine in­di­vid­ual run with a shot that re­bounded off the bar. Varea picked the loose ball but missed the tar­get.

Lima had an­other shot go­ing nar­rowly off tar­get be­fore the hour as Hiber­ni­ans seemed to take a stran­gle­hold in mid­field. They even in­tro­duced An­drew Co­hen for Mbong.

On 65 min­utes a Varea header to­wards the top cor­ner was tipped over the bar by the Balzan keeper Jan­ju­se­vic.

Balzan, who were be­ing pinned in­side their own half for too long, fi­nally put in Mat­teo Pi­ci­ollo for Mi­callef.

Pi­ci­ollo im­me­di­ately had a shot blocked by Soares and Fenech’s ef­fort on the re­bound was saved by the grounded keeper Briffa.

With six min­utes re­main­ing, Balzan were awarded a rather soft penalty af­ter Ef­fiong fell in­side the area when chal­lenged by Failla. Bo­jan Kal­je­vic con­verted from the spot.

Balzan even dou­bled their lead on the stroke of full time. Al­fred Ef­fiong beat the static Hiber­ni­ans de­fence, and as the falg stayed down, he found more than am­ple space to ad­vance and beat keeper Briffa to put Balzan at the sum­mit.

Stand­ings

Balzan Birkirkara Val­letta Hiber­ni­ans Flo­ri­ana Gzira U Ham­run S Tarx­ien R St. Andrews Sliema W Mosta Pem­broke A P 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 W 4 4 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 0 D 1 0 1 0 0 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 L 0 1 1 2 2 1 2 2 3 4 4 5

F A Pts 10 5 13 13 3 12 10 6 10 7 7 9 7 4 9 7 4 8 9 7 7 4 7 7 6 10 6 3 8 3 5 10 3 4 14 0

Paul Fenech (left) fol­low­ing Bjorn Kris­tensen (right) Photo: Michael Camil­leri

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