Ten-man Hibernians reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy sponsored by the Attian Group after beating Balzan on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the end of the ninety minutes and after extra-time.
The Paolites enjoyed a narrow lead by the end of the first half but after Tarabai was sent off, Balzan notched the equaliser deep into stoppage-time. No goals were scored in extra-time and in the penalty shoot-out, Hibs scored four and Balzan three with goalkeeper Henry Bonello saving two of the penalties.
Hibs lacked the suspended Andrei Agius and the injured Marcelo Dias and Luis Andre but Serbian striker Mark Rajic was making his debut. Jean Paul Farrugia, who returned with the club after a short spell with Spartak Trnava in Slovakia, was included as a substitute. Balzan, on the other hand, were in full strength.
Hibernians took the lead on the half-hour when Joseph Mbong took advantage of a defensive error and advanced on the right before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Steve Sultana.
Five minutes in the second half, Balzan almost equalised when Bojan Kaljevic’s effort, deflected by a defender, surprised Hibs goalkeeper Henry Bonello who however managed to block the ball on the goal line.
Hibs were reduced to ten men on the 76th minute after Tarabai received a second yellow card following an argument in midfield which followed harsh protests by the Balzan players over a foul by Bjorn Kristensen.
Referee George Vadachkoria gave six minutes of added time and just before the end of the sixth minute of stoppage time, Balzan levelled matters when off a cross by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza from the right, Steve Bezzina headed the ball in the direction of substitute Ryan Darmanin who slammed the ball home past Bonello.
The game went into extra-time but with no goals being scored, the penalty shoot-out had to decide which team would reach the semi-finals.
The penalty shoot-out:
Ryan Darmanin – penalty saved by goalkeeper, Bjorn Kristensen hit high;
Elkin Serrano scored, Andrew Cohen scored;
Edison Bilbao Zarate – penalty saved by goalkeeper, Rui da Gracia Gomes scored;
Clive Brincat scored, Jean Paul Farrugia scored;
Gianmarco Piccioni scored, Clayton Failla scored
BALZAN Steve Sultana, Justin Grioli, Dylan Grima (81′ Lydon Micallef), Luke Sciberras, Edison Bilbao Zarate, Steve Bezzina, Bojan Kaljevic (87′ Ryan Darmanin), Oscar Dario Guerrero (78′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Clive Brincat, Gianmarco Piccioni, Elkin Serrano Valero.
Subs not used: Christian Cassar, Samir Arab, Terence Agius, Osa Ice-Cream Guobadia.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
HIBS Henry Bonello, Rui da Gracia Gomes, Jonathan Pearson, Jackson di Lima Siqueira, Rodolfo Soares, Andrew Cohen, Bjorn Kristensen, Clayton Failla, Marko Rajic (83′ Jean Paul Farrugia), Edison Luis dos Santos, Joseph Essien Mbong (73′ Johann Bezzina).
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Neil Falzon, Keith Tanti, Jurgen Degabriele, Dunstan Vella.
Coach: Branko Nisevic
Referee: George Vadachkoria (GEO)
Assistant Referees: Levan Varamishvili, Besik Chichinadze (GEO)
Fourth Official: Giorgi Kruashvili (GEO)
Yellow Cards: Tarabai, B. Kristensen, L. Sciberras, O. Guerrero, J. Grioli, R. Darmanin, D. Grima, S. Bezzina, C. Brincat, J. Bezzina
Red Cards: 76′ Edison Luis dos Santos
Scorers: 30′ Joseph Mbong, 90+6′ Ryan Darmanin