A goal late in the first half enabled Balzan to beat Naxxar Lions 1-0 to re-open wide the battle for a place in the Championship Pool.
Although they were coming from a heavy 1-7 defeat to Birkirkara in their last outing, Naxxar’s morale was high as they were looking forward towards obtaining a win which could have handed them a historic place in the Championship Pool after winning promotion from Division 1 last season. On the other hand, for Balzan, this was the third consecutive win which maintains alive hopes of securing the sixth place.
With two games to go for the end of the first phase, just two points separate Balzan from Naxxar with the Lions lying in sixth place on 27 points, two ahead of Balzan. Naxxar take on rivals Mosta next week before playing Hibernians in their final game from the second round while Balzan will be facing Tarxien Rainbows and Valletta.
The two teams shared the exchanges throughout the first half with the two goalkeepers hardly being tested.
However two minutes from half-time, Balzan managed to take the lead thanks to Lydon Micallef who slotted the ball home from close range after receiving a pass from the left.
During the second half, Balzan held the initiative for most of the time , controlling their opponents well and hardly allowing them to shoot at goal.
One minute from time, Naxxar almost notched the equaliser when substitute Milan Vignjevic hit the crossbar with a shot from inside the area.
NAXXAR Julian Azzopardi, Victor Bellia, Angus Buhagiar, Ryan Gilmour Cassar (74′ Daren Falzon), Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro, Andrew Decesare (81′ Andre Rocha da Silva), Mattia Del Negro, Thiago Lopes de Souza, David Alejandro Reano, Terence Scerri, Filip Stojanovic (46′ Milan Vignjevic).
Subs not used: Luke Pecorella, Duane Bonnici, John Debono, Jurgen Debono.
Coach: Winston Muscat
BALZAN Manuel Bartolo, Andrew Scicluna (50′ Kurt Magro), Justin Grioli, Steve Bezzina, Lucas Ramon dos Santos, Fabio Vignaroli, Dylan Grima (84′ Luke Sciberras), Pedro Henrique dos Santos Calcado, Edison David Bilbao Zarate, Lydon Micallef, Jose Luis Armario Negrin (74′ Ryan Darmanin).
Subs not used: Michael Falzon, Godwin Mckay, Firas Aboulezz, Mark Spiteri.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
Referee: Marco Borg
Assistant Referees: Ingmar Spiteri, Alan Camilleri
Additional Assistant Referees: Alan Mario Sant, Adrian Azzopardi
Fourth Official: William Debattista
Yellow Cards: A. Scicluna, P. Calcado, V. Bellia D. Reano, K. Magro, T. Scerri
Scorers: 43′ Lydon Micallef
BOV Player of the Match: Edison Bilbao Zarate