Nafti saves blushes for ten-man Balzan

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

The fi­nal whis­tle of this tightly con­tested match brought skir­mishes be­tween both sets of play­ers and it took some min­utes for or­der to be re­stored and the play­ers go­ing into the dress­ing room.

It was a dra­matic fi­nale. Not for the first time this sea­son, Tarx­ien sur­ren­dered their lead in the very last min­utes.

Their bar­ren run of four win­less matches looked like it was fi­nally over. Un­til the 90th minute they were lead­ing ten-man Balzan 2-1 and looked head­ing for a sur­prise win yes­ter­day. But a late di­rect free­kick by Nafti in added time lev­elled mat­ters and en­abled Balzan to avoid de­feat.

Tarx­ien had taken an early lead and dou­bled that with an­other goal at the start of the sec­ond half.

Alex Nils­son capped a pos­i­tive in­di­vid­ual show­ing with a brace of his own but he could have not achieved that without the as­sists of Daniel Ponce and Ser­gio Pren­des around him.

Balzan could af­ford to leave the likes of Ivan Jan­ju­se­vic and Clive Brin­cat on the bench and use Ly­don Mi­callef, Nafti and Ter­ence Agius only as sub­sti­tutes.

Tarx­ien pressed high from the out­set and did not al­low their op­po­nents any com­fort on the ball. And it was no sur­prise that they were the first to score after only 11 min­utes on the clock. Alex Nils­son picked Caru­ana’s pass, ad­vanced from the left and scored with a low drive.

Balzan took time to re­spond and al­though they tried to hold on to pos­ses­sion, they never re­ally threat­ened dur­ing a mun­dane first half.

Tarx­ien did grow into the match briefly after the in­ter­val. After six min­utes they dou­bled their lead. Ponce started the ball rolling from mid­field, played it for­ward to Alex Nils­son who ran in­side the Balzan area and again beat keeper Chris­tian Cas­sar.

Balzan’s dis­mal re­sponse to fall­ing be­hind was to con­cede even more of the ball. They put in Ab­de­lakrim Nafti for Pi­ci­ollo and bridged the gap on 55 min­utes. Tarx­ien’s keeper rushed off his line to palm a high ball in­side the penalty area but it fell staright to Alan Souza who steered it in be­tween a host of legs.

Ly­don Mi­callef im­me­di­ately went in for Kal­je­vic as Balzan probed for the equaliser.

Show­ing more ur­gency they started to dic­tate play as Tarx­ien re­treated fur­ther at the back. Ef­fiong had a shot go­ing nar­rowly wide.

Balazan’s hopes were dented when their cen­tral de­fender Elkin Ser­rano was sent off for a sec­ond cau­tion.

Paul Fenech al­most got the equalis­erat the start of added time when his shot from the edge of the area went nar­rowly over.

But Balzan were not fin­ished yet. Deep into five min­utes of added time they even clinched a dra­matic equaliser, win­ning a free kick just out­side the Tarx­ien area and Ab­delka­rim Nafti drilled an ar­row­like shot past keeper An­drea Cas­sar to save his side.

Stand­ings

Balzan Birkirkara Val­letta Hiber­ni­ans Flo­ri­ana Sliema Ham­run St. An­drews Tarx­ien Gzira Mosta Pem­broke P 10 9 10 9 10 9 10 10 10 10

9 10 W 7 6 5 5 5 5 4 3 2 2 2 1 D 2 1 3 2 2 0 2 1 4 3 1 1 L F A Pts 1 21 12 23 2 25 7 19 2 15 10 18 2 11 8 17 3 11 8 17 4 12 10 15 4 18 17 14 6 10 16 10 4 10 15 10 5 11 19 9 6 9 17 7 8 10 24 4

Samir Arab of Balzan (left) is chal­lenged by Daniel Clau­dio Frances of Tarx­ien Rain­bows (right) Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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