BALZAN 1 TARXIEN RAINBOWS 0
Balzan were forced to break sweat to finally sink a gallant Tarxien Rainbows and it was only a goal in the extra time from Lydon Micallef which divided the teams.
That goal arrived after 106 minutes and came as a relief for the much-vaunted Balzan who never lived up to expectations. Tarxien, though should be given credit for a committed display, backed by sound tactics which never allowed room and time for their opponents.
Last Sunday’s defeat to Hibernians place pressure on Balzan. Knowing that his side’s only hope of silverware rests with the FA Trophy, Olivier Spiteri made only change with Luke Sciberras preferred to Alan da Silva Souza.
However, nothing was on display for Balzan in the opening 90 minutes to suggest that is a viable option as they were pinned at the back with Tarxien showing an extraordinary ability to vary their play and open out on the flanks.
Inside the first ten minutes, Ivan Janjusevic flung himself spectacularly to turn Joao Pedro’s ball to corner. The Brazilian was a veritable thorn in the heart of the Balzan’s defence. After 25 minutes, he released Alex Alves at the far post but the latter’s angled shot finished agonisingly wide as the Balzan goalkeeper left his charge to narrow the angle.
When Pedrinho took charge of a corner just after the break, Balzan created their first clear-cut chance of the match with Baker coming to his side’s rescue to deflect the ball into corner.
Tarxien kept up some initiative but Caruana could only hit straight at Janjusevic when in sight of goal.
Exchanges were brewing as the minutes ticked away. Effiong really should have killed the tie as he ran on to a pass unchallenged but his drive was off target.
The stalemate remained. Six minutes into extra-time, Andrea Cassar pulled off a superb save on Effiong’s high-riser, what looked like a certain goal. Tarxien transferred the ball up field quickly but Alves dragged his effort wide.
Then, after 106 minutes, Paul Fenech unleashed a fierce shot which Cassar managed to get a touch to the ball, only for Micallef to stab home the rebound.
Micallef marred his evening when he was sent off for wasting time to leave the pitch after being substitute.
At death, Effiong made the most of Tarxien’s flat-out approach, only to see his effort being handled on the goaline by Bruno Giglio de Oliveira. The defender was given his marching order. And mattered little when Alan failed to convert the penalty as Balzan were through to the semi-finals for the first time in their history.