Ten-man Valletta came back from one goal down to beat Balzan 2-1 and reach the final of the FA Trophy, powered by Boost Diesel, where they will be facing Birkirkara on Saturday.
Danilo Doncic’s boys held the initiative throughout the first half but the dismissal of Steve Borg forced them to change plans. They conceded a goal but scored two quick goals to turn the score in their favour and stay on track for the double.
For Balzan, this was yet another disappointing result after last week’s defeat to Hibernians handed the title to Valletta. Once again, they end the season empty-handed as they continue to chase their first major honour.
Valletta held the initiative in the early stages and on the 15th minute, Miguel Angel Alba tested Sean Mintoff with a freekick. A Kyrian Nwoko effort was turned into a corner by the Balzan custodian on the 17th minute and a minute later, the Citizens threatened once again when off a cross from the left by Piciollo, the ball was deflected by Mintoff, Saleh served Pena Beltre but his attempt was cleared into safety by Johnson.
The champions maintained the pressure and on the 28th minute, Raed Ibrahim Saleh headed just wide off a freekick from the right by Alba. On the 34th minute, an Alba effort was blocked by a defender and off the rebound, Matteo Piciollo entered the penalty area before trying his luck with a shot from the left which hit the upright.
Valletta were reduced to ten men four minutes in the second half after Steve Borg received a second yellow card for a foul on Cadu. Balzan gained confidence and Kaljevic sent Effiong through on the left and the latter avoided Gill’s marking and tried his luck with a shot ending just wide on the 62nd. A minute later, a Milos Lepovic effort was deflected into a corner when served by Alex da Paixao Alves.
Balzan took the lead on the 67th minute when a shot from the left by Alfred Effiong was not held by Bonello and Alex da Paixao Alves tapped the ball home from close range.
However eleven minutes from time Balzan were awarded a penalty after substitute Ryan Fenech pushed Raed Ibrahim Saleh. From the penalty spot, Denni Rocha dos Santos made no mistake.
The Citizens turned the score in their favour on the 82nd minute when Saleh advanced on the right and served Matteo Piciollo who entered the penalty area and beat Sean Mintoff with a great rising shot.
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VALLETTA Henry Bonello, Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Santiago Malano, Matteo Piciollo, Kyrian Nwoko (84′ Jean Borg), Enmy Pena Beltre, Joseph Zerafa, Raed Ibrahim Saleh, Rowen Muscat (53′ Juan Cruz Gill), Miguel Angel Alba (73′ Denni Rocha dos Santos).
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Shaun Dimech, Russell Fenech, Nicholas Pulis.
Coach: Danilo Doncic
BALZAN Sean Mintoff, Steve Bezzina, Alfred Effiong, Ivan Bozovic (70′ Justin Grioli), Elkin Serrano Valero, Bojan Kaljevic, Milos Lepovic (86′ Siraj Arab Eddin), Paul Fenech, Michael Johnson, Carlos Eduardo de Fiori Mendes (77′ Ryan Fenech), Alex da Paixao Alves.
Subs not used: Dorian Bugeja, Clive Brincat, Jacob Borg, Harry Ascroft.
Coach: Marko Micovic
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Luke Portelli
Additional Assistant Referees: Stefan Pace, Ishmael Barbara
Fourth Official: Glenn Tonna
Yellow Cards: Borg, Serrano, Bozovic, Effiong, Piciollo, Cadu, Zerafa, Arab, Kaljevic, Bonello, Johnson
Red Cards: 49′ Steve Borg