Narrow win keeps Balzan hopes alive

Balzan registered a narrow 2-1 win over Slovan Bratislava in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday to maintain alive hopes of qualifying for the next stage of the competition.

The second leg will be played on Bratislava on August 2nd with the winner of this two-legged tie facing Rapid Wien of Austria in the third qualifying round.

Balzan coach Marko Micovic opted for a more cautious approach compared to the clashes with Kesla as he left just one striker Bojan Kaljevic up front replacing Alfred Effiong with Lecao who was included as a substitute last week.

The two teams shared the exchanges in the opening minutes but the two goalkeepers were hardly tested. However on the 16th minute, Bojan Kaljevic received a cross from the left and controlled before hitting past the Slovan Bratislava goalkeeper.

Slovan’s reaction consisted of an Andraz Sporar header, following a cross by Artem Suhotskiy, which was parried by Steve Sultana eight minutes later.

One minute from the end of the first half, Balzan went close once again when Milos Lepovic sent Kadu through and the latter exchanged the ball with Bojan Kaljevic before trying his luck with a rising shot which was turned into a corner by the goalkeeper.

In added time, on the other side of the pitch, David Holman served Rabiu Ibrahim inside the area but the latter’s low shot was blocked by Sultana.

Nineteen minutes in the second half, in an attack for Balzan, Lecao’s effort was blocked, Kadu took the rebound but his lob ended high with the open goal at his mercy.

Balzan were not to be denied on the 67th minute when Kadu released Uros Ljubomirac on the right and the latter beat Sulla with a fine diagonal shot.

However Slovan Bratislava pulled one back on the 74th minute thanks to substitute Vukan Savicevic’s long distance shot, probably following a deflection by a defender, which beat the Balzan custodian.

On the 90th, Andraz Sporar headed wide from an ideal position following an inviting cross by Mitch Apau from the right.

BALZAN Steve Sultana, Nenad Slivic, Lecao (76′ Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte), Steve Bezzina, Michael Johnson, Uros Ljubomirac, Ivan Bozovic, Elkin Serrano, Cadu (81′ Dale Camilleri), Bojan Kaljevic (63′ Alfred Effiong), Milos Lepovic.

SLOVAN Michal Sulla, Mitch Apau, Mohammed Rharsalla, Andraz Sporar, Rabiu Ibrahim (71′ Dejan Drazic), Nono, Artem Sukhotskiy, David Holman (46′ Vukan Savicevic), Vasil Bozhikov, Aleksandar Cavric (71′ Boris Cmiljanic), Kenan Bajric.

Referee: Jens Maae (DEN)
Assistant Referees: Heine Sorensen, Lara Hummelgaard (DEN)
Fourth Official: Morten Krogh (DEN)
Attendance: 558