Balzan maintained their perfect seasonal record in futsal by beating former champions Hibernians 9-8 on penalties in the second leg of the FXDD Premier Division Championship Play-Off final.
The team led by Gabriel Dobre were left celebrating a hat-trick of honours following a tense penalty shoot-out at the Corradino Pavillion as goalkeeper Nicholas Farrugia saved the decisive penalty by Paolites captain Xavier Saliba, to spark scenes of jubilation amongst Balzan players and supporters alike.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg
The penalty kicks followed forty minutes of evenly-matched action with both sides having chances to win the day. After losing the first leg, the pressure was on Hibernians as they needed a win. On the other hand, Balzan had the psychological advantage of having the first result in their favour so they tried to control the proceedings.
The match, played in front of one of the biggest crowd this season at the Corradino Pavillion, was a vibrant one with both teams producing a good level of futsal.
Balzan took one minute and a half to surge ahead when Emil Raducu‘s first timer surprised Hibs keeper Cassar. On 16 minutes, Balzan doubled the score. Raducu again played a prominent role as he advanced on the right before hitting a cross that eluded the Hibs defence and Glenn Bonello tapped the loose ball into the net.
Hibs reduced the score 40 seconds before the break when from an exact corner taken by Celino Alves, Mark Zammit hit immediately to put past Farrugia to make it 2-1.
After the break, Brazilian star player Celino Alves stunned the Balzan rearguard as he scored two quickfire goals to turn the tables for Hibernians.
Glenn Bonello highlighted his opportunistic skills when he found the ball in his feet and hit the target from close range to make it 3-3.
The match once again had to go to the penalty shoot-out to determine the final winner.
Balzan scored all their penalties through Raducu, Dan, Dobre, Milijic and Scicluna. Hibernians scored four through Alves, Kobaidze, Lopez and Cohen but Xavier Saliba’s shot was saved by Balzan goalie Nicholas Farrugia.
At the end of the contest, FMA future president Mark Borg, alongside an FXDD representative, presented the trophy to Balzan captain Carlo Scicluna.
BALZAN Nicholas Farrugia, Gabriel Dobre, Andrea Dan, Glenn Bonello, Carlos Scicluna, Matthew Xerxen, Giancarlo Sammut, Christian Wismayer, Nicola Del Re, Rennie Tanti, Emil Raducu, Reuben Grech.
HIBS Christian Cassar, Melvin Borg, Jesmond Micallef, Xavier Saliba, Levan Kobaidze, Cedric Sciberras, Brian Baldacchino, Mark Zammit, Celino Alves, Jose Carlos Meizoso Lopez, Andrew Cohen, Darren Agius.
Referee 1: Franco Cachia
Referee 2: Jude Amin Utulu
Referee 3: Pierre Bonnici
Time Keeper: Stephanie Axiak