Balzan came back from two goals down to earn a point in a draw with Sliema Wanderers at the Hibernians Stadium. A draw which leaves Oliver Spiteri’s side in third place, two points behind second-placed Hibernians.
For the Wanderers, this draw arrives after back-to-back defeats to Valletta and Birkirkara but they now move one point ahead of Pembroke, although they are still eighth.
Samir Arab was missing for Balzan as he is still serving a suspension but Dylan Grima was back. The Wanderers, on the other hand, lacked Marko Potezica.
Sliema took the lead four minutes from the end of the first half when a Peter Xuereb effort was blocked by a defender, Njongo Priso’s shot was partially saved by goalkeeper Christian Cassar and Jean Paul Farrugia placed the ball at the back of the net off the rebound.
Balzan equalised two minutes in the second half thanks to Alan da Silva Souza whose shot was deflected by a defender in a desperate attempt to clear the ball into safety.
However the Blues were quick to regain the lead through Jean Paul Farrugia who received a through pass and beat the Balzan goalkeeper with a fine shot.
Sliema extended the lead on the 61st thanks to a fine direct freekick by Denni Rocha dos Santos which gave goalkeeper Glenn Zammit no chance.
Two minutes later, Balzan reduced the gap through substitute Aleksandar Vujacic who headed the ball home past the Sliema custodian.
Balzan restored equilibrium twelve minutes from time after Lydon Micallef dribbled a defender and hitting low with the ball being deflected by Peter Xuereb past Zammit.
Two minutes later, Njongo Priso was sent off for Sliema but the Blues still managed to take home the point.
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Alex Muscat, Mark Scerri, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Peter Xuereb, Johann Bezzina, Stefano Bianciardi (46′ Luke Dimech), Gary Muir, Njongo Priso, Denni Rocha dos Santos, Jean Paul Farrugia.
Subs not used: Entonjo Elezaj, Justin Vella, Haruna Shola Shodiya, Michele Sansone, Omar Elouni, Sebastian Perdomo Esquivel.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
BALZAN Christian Cassar, Justin Grioli, Paul Fenech, Steve Bezzina, Alfred Effiong, Clive Brincat (19′ Maxim Focsa), Alan da Silva Souza, Pedro dos Santos Calcado (62′ Aleksandar Vujacic), Lydon Micallef, Elkin Serrano Valero, Dylan Grima (74′ Luke Sciberras).
Subs not used: Ivan Janjusevic, Sean Cipriott, Paul Lapira, Ryan Fenech.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Jurgen Spiteri, Peter Abela
Additional Assistant Referees: Sandro Spiteri, Emanuel Grech
Fourth Official: Mitchell Scerri
Yellow Cards: Xuereb, Gatt Baldacchino, Muscat, Priso, Focsa, Denni
Red Cards: 80′ Njongo Priso
Scorers: 42′ Jean Paul Farrugia, 47′ Alan da Silva Souza, 54′ Jean Paul Farrugia, 61′ Denni Rocha dos Santos, 63′ Aleksandar Vujacic, 78′ own goal Peter Xuereb
BOV Player of the Match: Jean Paul Farrugia
Attendance at the Hibernians Stadium: 806
Meanwhile at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, Floriana scored twice in the final eight minutes to beat Qormi 3-1.
The Greens move on level points with Birkirkara, who however have a game in hand. Qormi, on the other hand, suffer the thirteenth consecutive defeat.
Floriana coach Luis Oliveira had to make a number of changes due to the absence of the suspended Steve Pisani, Marcelina Emerson and Matteo Picciolo apart from handing goalkeeper Matthew Grech a place in the starting line-up. Kurt Magro was missing for Qormi but Japanese striker Go Nagaoka, formerly of Tarxien Rainbows and Mosta, was making his debut.
The Greens had a perfect start taking the lead after just 29 seconds when off a cross by Mauricio Villa, Mario Fontanella headed home past goalkeeper Jean Matthias Vella.
Qormi, however, equalised four minutes in the second half when they were awarded a penalty after Djamel Leeflang was brought down inside the area by goalkeeper Matthew Grech following a swift counter-attack; from the penalty spot, the Dutch striker made no mistake.
Floriana however regained the lead on the 82nd minute when off a cross from the right by Clyde Borg, Filippo Andrea Scozzese headed home past the Qormi custodian.
Five minutes later, the Greens sealed the issue with a third goal thanks to Mauricio Villa who slammed the ball home from close range following a cross by Chiesa and an assist by Juninho Cabral.
Photos: Copyright © Malta Sports Photography[gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”pic_id” animation_effect=”bounce” album_title=”false” album_id=”37″]
FLORIANA Matthew Grech, Antonio Monticelli (72′ Conor Borg), Enrico Pepe (38′ Andre Scicluna), Mauricio Villa, Juninho Cabral, Andrea Scozzese, Steve Bonnici, Firas Aboulezz (66′ Clyde Borg), Manuel Briffa, Nicolas Chiesa, Mario Fontanella.
Subs not used: Matthew Calleja Cremona, Luke Micallef, Luca Gatt, Daniel Agius.
Coach: Luis Oliveira
QORMI Jean Matthias Vella, Ryan Micallef, Joshua Barbara (86′ Pietro Viggiani), Djamel Leeflang, Alessio Cassar, Ousmane Sidibe, Noah Olawole Ojuola, Terence Vella, Clifford Gauci, Emerson Vella, Go Nagaoka (73′ Yannick Yankam).
Subs not used: Andreas Vella, Clint Barbara, Immy Micallef, Juan Carlos Vieira Peixoto.
Coach: Johann Scicluna
Referee: Stefan Pace
Assistant Referees: Chris Francalanza, Sammy Attard
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: M. Grech, Chiesa, E. Vella, J. Barbara, A. Scozzese, R. Micallef
Scorers: 1′ Mario Fontanella, 49′ Djamel Leeflang pen, 82′ Andrea Scozzese, 87′ Mauricio Villa
BOV Player of the Match: Noah Olawole Ojuola
Attendance at the Victor Tedesco Stadium: 488