Balzan had to struggle much more than expected to overcome the challenge offered by newly-promoted Zebbug Rangers, beating them 4-2.
The Rangers took an early lead and although Balzan scored twice to turn the score in their favour, Zebbug levelled matters but the more experience Balzan side scored another two goals to secure victory.
Balzan had goalkeeper Christian Cassar, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza and foreigners Osa Ice-Cream Guobadia, Elkin Serrano and Oscar Guerrero making their debut. Jacob Borg, Javi Diaz, Carlo Monti and Matias Muchardi, were, on the other hand, making their first appearance for Zebbug.
Zebbug managed to take the lead on the 5th minute when Mauricio Rodrigues Britto received a through pass on the right, anticipated goalkeeper Christian Cassar who rushed out of the area in an attempt to intercept with the ball ending at the back of the net.
On the 16th, a rising shot by Lydon Micallef was turned into a corner by goalkeeper Jeffrey Farrugia.
Balzan equalised on the 23rd when off a cross by Osa Ice-Cream Guobadia from the right, Gianmarco Piccioni controlled before slotting the ball past Jeffrey Farrugia.
Thomas Paris went close to restoring the lead for Zebbug with a shot from outside the area which was however deflected into a corner.
Five minutes in the second half, Balzan forged ahead when off a cross from the left by Oscar Guerrero, Lydon Micallef slammed the ball home past the Zebbug goalkeeper.
However their joy was short-lived as hardly a minute later, Mauricio Rodrigues Britto restored equilibrium, beating Christian Cassar from close range after being served by Javi Diaz.
Balzan made it 3-2 on 65 minutes when Guerrero released Mifsud Triganza on the left and off the latter’s pass, Gianmarco Piccioni hit past Jeffrey Farrugia.
Five minutes from time, Balzan sealed the issue with a fourth goal when a Gianmarco Piccioni effort hit the woodwork and off the rebound, Oscar Guerrero placed the ball at the back of the net.
BALZAN Christian Cassar, Justin Grioli, Steve Bezzina, Elkin Orlando Serrano Valero, Edison Bilbao Zarate, Osa Ice-Cream Guobadia, Luke Sciberras, Lydon Micallef (70′ Michael Borg), Oscar Dario Guerrero Alvarado, Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza (82′ Ryan Darmanin), Gianmarco Piccioni (90′ Juan Corbolan).
Subs not used: Steve Sultana, Shaun Bugeja, Sean Cipriott, Gianfranco Micallef.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
ZEBBUG Jeffrey Farrugia, Yessous Camilleri, Javi Diaz (84′ Anderson Mendes Ribeiro), Ratko Mandic, Matthew Gauci (84′ Lee James Agius), Jacob Borg, Thomas Paris (62′ Miguel Ciantar), Clifford Gauci, Matias Muchardi, Carlo Manti, Maurcio Osmar Rodrigues Britto.
Subs not used: Luke Pace, Lee Galea, Melvin Farrugia, Matthew Bartolo.
Coach: Jesmond Zammit
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: Ingmar Spiteri, Luke Portelli
Additional Assistant Referees: Marco Borg, Fyodor Zammit
Fourth Official: Peter Abela
Yellow Cards: C. Gauci, J. Grioli, O. Guobadia, J. Diaz, E. Zarate
Scorers: 5′ Mauricio Rodrigues Britto (Z); 23′ Gianmarco Piccioni (B); 50′ Lydon Micallef (B); 51′ Mauricio Rodrigues Britto (Z); 65′ Gianmarco Piccioni (B); 85′ Oscar Guerrero (B)
BOV Player of the Match: Edison Bilbao Zarate
Attendance at the Victor Tedesco Stadium: 776
At the National Stadium, Hibernians registered a comfortable 3-0 win over Floriana.
Hibernians had goalkeeper Henry Bonello and Brazilian striker Jorge Pereira da Silva making their debut after joining the club from Sliema and Qormi respectively. However Jonathan Pearson was ruled out through suspension.
Floriana, on the other hand, had Emerson Marcelino, Vito Plut, Matteo Piciollo and Steve Bonnici all making their first appearance
Hibernians forged ahead on 25 minutes thanks to a low effort by Jorge Pereira da Silva which beat goalkeeper Sean Mintoff.
Six minutes in the second half, a header by Tarabai just missed the target as he caught the Floriana goalkeeper out of his place. Six minutes later, Henry Bonello managed to deflect into a corner a Matteo Piciollo effort, deflected by a defender.
The Paolites doubled the score on the half-hour. It was a direct freekick by Clayton Failla which did the job for Branko Nisevic’s side.
Hibs scored the third goal on 66 minutes when off a Clayton Failla freekick, Tarabai served Johann Bezzina who hit low past Sean Mintoff.
Substitute Jackson di Lima Siqueira almost added another four minutes from time but his attempt hit the upright.
HIBS Henry Bonello (64′ Mario Muscat), Keith Tanti, Rodolfo Soares, Rui de Gracia Gomes, Marcelo Dias (82′ Jackson di Lima Siqueira), Andrew Cohen, Bjorn Kristensen, Johann Bezzina (80′ Timothy Tabone Desira), Clayton Failla, Edison Luis dos Santos, Jorge Pereira da Silva.
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Dunstan Vella, Zach Scerri, Jurgen Degabriele.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
FLORIANA Sean Mintoff, Andre Scicluna, Emerson Marcelina (46′ Igor Coronado), Clyde Borg (77′ Giovanni Galea, Vito Plut, Matteo Piciollo, Joseph Borg, Steve Bonnici (71′ Darren Baldacchino), Brooke Farrugia, Gary Muir, Sasha Borg.
Subs not used: Andrew Zammit, Neil Spiteri, Manuel Briffa, Isaac Galea.
Coach: Giovanni Tedesco
Referee: Adrian Azzopardi
Assistant Referees: Chris Francalanza, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Chris Lautier
Yellow Cards: Marcelina, Scicluna, Cohen, Bonnici, Farrugia
Scorers: 25′ Jorge Pereira da Silva, 30′ Clayton Failla, 66′ Johann Bezzina
BOV Player of the Match: Clayton Failla
Attendance at the National Stadium: 960