Birkirkara go sec­ond af­ter beat­ing lead­ers Balzan

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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

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