Balzan secure Europa Conference League spot after extra-time

Balzan took the remaining UEFA Europa Conference League spot as they defeated Hibernians 3-2 after extra-time in an entertaining decider for the fourth place in the BOV Premier League.

The decider was necessary after Birkirkara won the Izibet FA Trophy on Saturday, therefore freeing one of the European spots as they had already qualified thanks to the runner-up position in the BOV Premier League and therefore the other place had to be taken by the team finishing in fourth place. Three teams finished their BOV Premier League commitments in fourth place on level points. But since Mosta had an inferior record in the direct encounters, it was Balzan and Hibernians who had to play the deciding match.

Oliver Spiteri’s side therefore join Birkirkara and Gzira United in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.

Balzan held the initiative right from the start, having a Matheus Sousa low shot neutralised by Ibrahim Kone. A fine freekick by Angel Torres ended just over the bar and curling shots by Alex Satariano and Torres just missed the target.

However, one minute in added time, just before the end of the first half, Balzan managed to take the lead when off an Aleksa Andrejic corner from the left, Momcilo Raso headed the ball in the direction of Matheus Sousa whose close-range header gave goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone no chance.

Balzan maintained the upper hand in the second half but against the run of play, Hibernians levelled matters when off a cross by substitute Thaylor Aldama from the right, another substitute, Dunstan Vella flicked the ball home past goalkeeper Rudy Briffa.

Fifteen minutes from time, Balzan were awarded a penalty after Bojan Kaljevic was brought down inside the area by Ibrahim Kone. However the Montenegrin striker’s effort from the penalty spot was neutralised by the Guinean goalkeeper.

Balzan went close once again with a Satariano effort from inside the area which ended just over the bar and then with an Angel Torres attempt blocked by the Hibs goalkeeper but three minutes from time, Jurgen Degabriele missed a good opportunity hitting high from inside the area when served by Joao Vitor de Oliveira.

Two minutes from time, Balzan regained the lead thanks to Angel Torres who concluded a great run on the left flank with a diagonal shot which beat Kone.

But their joy was short-lived as Hibernians equalised on the 90th when off a cross from the right, Ferdinando Apap headed the ball down for Jurgen Degabriele who managed to anticipate Briffa with the ball endign at the back of the net.

The game therefore went into extra-time and it took substitute Bogdan Mladenovic one minute to put Balzan 3-2 ahead with an angled shot from the left.

Eleven minutes in the first half of extra-time, the Paolites were reduced to ten men as Kurt Shaw was sent off for denying an abvious goal scoring opprotunity as he floored Angel Torres who was heading into the area.

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