After suffering three consecutive defeats, Balzan bounced back as they turned defeat into victory to beat Qormi 2-1. A win which puts Ivan Zammit’s side in seventh place on 21 points, one ahead of Floriana and two ahead of Qormi.
Qormi had a fine start, taking an early lead and creating several goal-scoring opportunities. However they paid dearly for the missed chances as Balzan levelled matters mid-way through the second half and secured the three points with a goal in the dying minutes.
Balzan had Spanish goalkeeper Daniel Miguelez Martinez making his debut but they lacked Rennie Forace and Matthew Mendy. Qormi, on the other hand, were in full strength apart from Vincenzo Pisani and Sebastian Aurelio Siritto who are no longer with the club.
Qormi took the lead after just six minutes thanks to an Abubakar Bello-Osagie effort whose conclusion was probably slightly deflected by a defender before ending at the back of the net.
Bello-Osagie could have doubled the score on 14 minutes when he advanced into the area, when served by Joseph Chetcuti, but hit just wide. Balzan replied with a Pedro Calcado freekick which was parried by Matthew Farrugia on 16 minutes. Bello-Osagie missed another good opportunity when he concluded a solo effort with a shot from close-range which was turned into a corner by Martinez.
Edison Bilbao Zarate was unlucky to hit the upright with a powerful drive from outside the area on 59 minutes for Qormi.
Balzan however levelled matters on 63 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Joseph Chetcuti floored Dylan Grima inside the area. From the penalty spot, Elton Alexandre da Silva made no mistake.
A Kris Thackray header was cleared off the goal line by Stefan Giglio on the 70th. Four minutes later, Zarate served Joseph Chetcuti who tried to lob the ball over Martinez but the ball was deflected and cleared into safety by a defender. A minute later, Abubakar Bello-Osagie concluded a good move with a shot which was blocked by a defender.
After having a goal disallowed for an offside, Balzan notched the winner on the 90th minute thanks to a direct freekick by Pedro dos Santos Calcado which gave goalkeeper Matthew Farrugia no chance.
Abubakar Bello-Osagie was voted BOV Player of the Match.
BALZAN Daniel Miguelez Martinez, Aaron Agius, Dylan Grima (67’ Jacob Dominico Borg), Yessous Camilleri, Jonathan Francica (55’ Bjorn Bondin), Stefan Giglio, Renato Garcia Conceicao, Jamie Pace, Christian Caruana (84’ Malcolm Licari), Pedro dos Santos Calcado, Elton Alexandre da Silva.
Subs not used: Fredrick Tabone, Clint Micallef, Martin Deyanov, Michael Borg.
Coach: Joe Borg
Team Manager: Ivan Zammit
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Kris Thackray, Joseph Chetcuti, Abubakar Bello-Osagie, Luke Sciberras, Matthew Gauci, Edison Bilbao Zarate, Jonathan Bondin, ALessio Cassar, Stephen Wellman, Leighton Grech (83’ Matthew Bartolo).
Subs not used: Steve Sultana, Roderick Sammut, Carmelo Farrugia, Dormond Micallef, Gabriel Buttigieg, Dylan Pirotta.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Asst. Coach: Joe Brincat
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Thomas Debono, Mitchell Scerri
Fourth Official: Fyodor Zammit
Yellow Cards: Elton, Thackray, Giglio, Pedrinho, Chetcuti, Cassar
Scorers: 6’ Abubakar Bello-Osagie (Q); 63’ Elton Alexandre da Silva pen (B); 90′ Pedro dos Santos Calcado (B)
Meanwhile Sliema Wanderers joined Valletta and Birkirkara in second place as they defeated Rabat Ajax 1-0.
Sliema therefore returned to winning ways after being held in a draw by Melita in the previous outing. Rabat, on the other hand, have now gone seventeen matches without a win.
The Magpies were once again a depleted side as they lacked Manuel Moral Fuster, Yan Cauchi and Clifford Gauci apart from Adam Smeir, Ryan Micallef and Chris Schembri. Henry Bonello and Alex Muscat were missing for the Blues who released Branislav Timotic and Omar El Ghaouti earlier this week.
Rabat had the first attempt at goal with a Justin Felice header off a corner by Diego Carrillo. Sliema replied with a shot by Mark Scerri was parried by goalkeeper Jonathan Azzopardi on 24 minutes. Two minutes later, Luigi Ruggiero went close to putting the Wanderers ahead with a diagonal shot from the left ending just wide. Ivan Woods, served by Ruggiero, had a shot from close range deflected into a corner.
Twelve minutes in the second half, Diego Carrillo went close for Rabat with an angled shot from the right which was parried by Glenn Zammit and Joseph Caruana’s effort off the rebound was blocked. On the other side of the pitch, in a swift counter-attack for Sliema, Luigi Ruggiero’s rising shot was turned into a corner by Jonathan Azzopardi on the hour.
Mark Scerri tested Jonathan Azzopardi with a shot from outside the area on 68 minutes. A minute later, Woods served Luca Martinelli who anticipated the Rabat goalkeeper but his shot from the right ended just over the bar.
Sliema managed to break the deadlock on 76 minutes thanks to Luca Martinelli whose powerful shot from the right beat goalkeeper Jonathan Azzopardi.
Luca Martinelli was voted BOV Player of the Match.
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Luca Martinelli, Paltemio Barbetti, Mark Scerri, Luigi Ruggiero, Andrew Decesare (51’ Miguel Ciantar), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Ivan Woods, Alain Faccini (75’ Ariel Laudisi), Beppe Muscat (83’ Josef Mifsud), Stefano Bianciardi.
Subs not used: Jovin Ebejer, John Mintoff, Ryan Dalli, Matias Muchardi.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Asst. Coach: Jo Jo Bajada
RABAT Jonathan Azzopardi, Ivan Carapic, Joseph Caruana, Justin Felice, Jose Luis Armario Negrin, Dylan Falzon, Wayne Borg, Patrick Borg, Clive Brincat, Diego Carrillo Pendas, David Azzopardi.
Subs not used: Sean Mintoff, Gaetano Gesualdi, Kurt Muscat, Neil Farrugia, Luke Cauchi, Shaun Gauci, Chris Vella.
Coach: Silvio Vella
Asst. Coach: Joseph Galea
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Alex Grech
Fourth Official: Mario Apap
Yellow Cards: Barbetti, P. Borg, Ruggiero
Scorers: 76’ Luca Martinelli