Nafti saves blushes for ten-man Balzan
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.
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