Birkirkara go second after beating leaders Balzan
Exhibiting good movement, some high tempo and high pressing, Birkirkara dismantled leaders Balzan with a comfortable victory that now takes them up into second place in the BoV Premeir League, only three points adrift.
The ease of their victory was summed up by the emphatic finishing of their striker Vito Plut, who scored twice, and an own goal by Balzan defender Steve Bezzina. Drasan Besek’s team have made a habit of dispatching teams when it really matters.
The Stripes were irrepressible, but Balzan never hinted at resistance.
The lack of concentration and confidence by the leaders was startling.
Balzan, a side propelled as much by self-confidence as technical quality and tactical organisation until yesterday, has fractured, with self-doubt creeping in after suffering their first defeat of the season.
There was slackness in so much of their display as they were outdone by three first half goals that left them with more work to do at the back.
Their keeper Ivan Janjusevic was overworked and increasingly exasperated by the manner that his backline wilted in front of him.
Birkirkara were trying to hold to possession but Balzan pressed them high in key areas in the initial stages. The roaming Dylan Grima was shadowing Dimitrov and often dispossessing Birkirkara in midfield.
Both pairs of strikers, Alfred Effiong and Bojan Kaljevic for Balzan and Vito Plut and Frank Temile for Birkirkara, with 14 goals between them, saw little of the ball but the Birkirkara duo surely had the better of their opponents with Vito Plut scoring a brace yesterday and Temile going close on other occasions.
On19 minutes, Vito Plut, beating the Balzan offside trap, ran down the right, cut through the middle of the Balzan area, had his first effort parried by the grounded keeper Janjusevic but scored with the second attempt from inside the eight-yard box.
Before that, Balzan could have gone in front instead. Nafti turned away from Andelkovic but shot wide. Then Effiong picked Kaljevic’s pass, ran clear through the middle but keeper Kopric footed out his effort, only just.
Balzan’s defensive organisation was disrupted again midway through the half. As Muscat sent a low cross from the byeline on the left, Steve Bezzina beat his own keeper as he tried to clear when facing the goal.
At that juncture, the Stripes looked firmly in command and could tighten at the back and play on the counter. Balzan needed to regroup. They even had defender Justin Grioli stretchered off towards the half hour but could not muster another gaols on target.
Worse still, Birkirkara were again celebrating before halftime. After going past Bezzina, Temile found himself inside the Balzan area, facing Janjusevic. The Balzan keeper twice foiled him with blocks on the ground until the Birkirkara forward crossed the ball at the far side for team mate Vito Plut to head into an unattended goal.
Balzan put in Alan Souza for Bezzina at halftime, as Grima retreated in the wide back position. Thus Dimitrov enjoyed more freedom in midfield and Birkirkara almost capitalised. Finding space inside the Balzan defence, Plut ran through on a Muscat pass but Janjusevic blocked on the ground.
The closest Balzan came to a riposte was a Nafti free kick shot over past the hour. Even Piciollo’s introduction did not lift Balzan’s spirits. In fact Birkirkara could have added further goals towards the end but substitute Ryan Scicluna shot narrowly wide after an individual move and Janjusevic saved his side from further derision, blocking the advancing Temile, with the Balzan rearguard wide open.
Balzan goalie Janjusevic saves during a Birkirkara attack Photo: Jonathan Borg