Kaljevic puts Balzan again at the top
With Hibernians winning on Saturday and going top of the standings, the spotlight and pressure turned on Balzan who could not afford to slip against Pembroke Athleta to regain the primacy yesterday.
Balzan quickly reaffirmed the order of things. They began to outfight their opponents all over the pitch and topped that off with some flashes of class from Souza nad Nafti and the lethal finishing of Bojan Kaljevic in particular, who notched a hattrick yetserday and took his tally to 13 goals this season.
Pembroke did sporadically threaten but no team can defend this generously and expect to get away with it.
Pembroke coach Artim Shakiri must have been flabbergasted with the way that his fragile defence imploded yet again. They have kept only one clean sheet in 13 league games so far this season.
And their predatory touch in front of goal has been so badly lacking up.
Both teams had key players missing with Pembroke’s suspended duo of Zoran Levnaic and Paltemio Barbetti. Pembroke coach also dropped Manewski and Mariano and handed starts to Sunday Eboh, Ugochukwo Akuto, Oleksander Maksymov and Adrian Borg.
Balzan also had centre back Bruno de Oliveira suspended. The returning Alfred Effiong and Lydon Micallef both started on the bench while Paul Fenech did not feature in their squad.
An early goal put Balzan in the driving seat when short of the quarter hour Bojan Kaljevic chested a high ball inside the Pembroke area on the left and beat keeper Calleja Cremona with a low strike at the far post.
Pembroke could have gone in front themselves six minutes earlier but Makymov’s shot from the right rebounded off the foot of the post.
Balzan increased their lead on 34 minutes when Souza played a short pass from the right to Samir Arab who scored with a curling shot from the edge of the area.
Soon after Souza ran in well for a Bezzina cross from the left but the Pembroke keeper was alert and saved into a corner.
Still the more dominant force, Balzan made them three on the stroke of halftime. Bojan Kaljevic again made the better of Calleja Cremona’s erratic sortie and drove the ball low beyond him.
The quality then dipped in the second half.
Pembroke had a goal disallowed Priso in the Mosta attack.
Keeping a semblance of selfcontrol was imperative and they started by exerting important authority in midfield,wher Malano was highly involved, pegging Mosta back and keeping confident possession.
On a Jhonnattann cross, Malano headed slightly over.
Past the hour, Valletta effected a double substitution, withdrawing Camilleri and Cremona and putting in Jean Borg and Romeu Romao.
Oseghale limped off for Mosta and was replaced by Martin Vlcek.
On 66 minutes a Caruana short back pass put some pressure on his goalkeeper who rushed off his line to smother the danger before Vlcek could capitalise.
Valletta held to their territorial dominance as the minutes ticked away but could not create enough chances to breach Mosta’s solid defence.
Alihno and Grant went close with last ditch efforts for Valletta and Mosta respectively but the match remained goalless and the stalemate prevailed at the end. soon after the restart when Akuto, who had tapped the ball in to finish off Siraj Arab’s effort, was ruled offside.
Balzan effected a double substitution on the hour, putting in Lydon Micallef and Alfred Effiong for Piciollo and Souza.
Pembroke soon spurned a good chance when Borg failed to put the ball in from a promising position off Micallef’s cross.
On the other end, Micallef presented Kaljevic with an open score but keeper Calleja Cremona somehow deflected into a corner.
Akuto missed the target when put through by Arab and the same player was denied by keeper Janjusevic some minutes later.
There was still time for Balzan to score their fourth and for Kaljevic to complete his hattrick. The Balzan striker won a penalty, which he himself tucked in, after being felled by keeper Calleja Cremona two minutes before the end.
Balzan Hibernians Valletta Birkirkara Floriana Sliema Hamrun St. Andrews Tarxien Gzira Mosta Pembroke 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 9 9 7 7 7 5 5 4 3 2 2 2 3 1 27 13 30 2 2 21 11 29 4 2 20 11 25 3 3 30 11 24 3 3 18 11 24 2 6 16 17 17 2 6 21 24 17 2 7 13 21 14 4 6 13 20 13 3 8 11 23 9 3 8 10 22 9 1 10 14 30 7
Star Man! Balzan striker Bojan Kaljevic celebrates scoring his hattrick in his side’s 4-0 thrashing of Pembroke Athleta. Photo: Domenic Aquilina