SLIEMA WANDERERS 1
Effiong 68, Johnson 83, Majdevac 89
Balzan came back from a goal down to beat Sliema Wanderers 3-1 and join them and Ħamrun Spartans in fourth place.
After failing to impress in recent weeks, this win was the right tonic for the Balzan ahead of a crucial week which includes the BOV Super Cup final against Valletta on Thursday and the match against in-form Hibernians on Monday.
Following a goalless first half during which both sides had their fair share of scoring opportunities, the Wanderers drew first blood early upon the restart but mid-way through the second half, Balzan restored the equilibrium, scoring twice in the final seven minutes to take home the three points.
Balzan coach Marko Micovic made wholesale changes to the team after the FA Trophy third round win over Qrendi, retaining just three players - Michael Johnson, Ivan Bozovic and Kadu.
Sliema, on the other hand, welcomed back Kurt Shaw and Claudio Pani in the starting line-up as they replaced Ryan Fenech and Younes Marzouk.
Following a quiet start, Matias Muchardi tested Steve Sultana with a free kick which was turned into a corner on 11 minutes. Nine minutes later, a Jefferson de Assis low effort was neutralised by Sultana.
Balzan soon started to gain more confidence and towards the end of the first half created a number of chances thanks to which they could have taken the lead.
On 37 minutes, Alex Alves had a low shot parried by Jake Galea and six minutes later, another conclusion by the Brazilian winger was partially saved by the Sliema goalkeeper with the ball being cleared into safety by a defender.
A minute later, Galea blocked a fine Kadu effort, direct from a corner from the left while in added time, a powerful drive by Nenad Sljivic hit the crossbar.
Two minutes in the second half, the Wanderers forged ahead. It was Matias Muchardi who managed to slot the ball past Balzan goalkeeper Steve Sultana with a well-taken direct freekick from the left.
At first, referee Philip Farrugia was about to disallow the goal after assistant referee Dusan Petrovic signalled an infringement but eventually the referee pointed to the centre spot to the joy of the Sliema players and supporters.
Two minutes later, Sliema went close to doubling the score with a Frank Temile effort from outside the area which however, just missed the target
On 68 minutes, Balzan restored equilibrium. Kadu’s corner from the left was not cleared by the Sliema rear-guard and Alfred Effiong slammed the ball home from close range.
Seven minutes from time, Balzan made it 2-1. A corner from the right by Kadu created havoc inside the area with Michael Johnson heading the ball home from close range.
Balzan sealed the issue with a third goal on the 89th minute. In a swift counter attack, Kadu released Effiong on the left and off the latter’s assist, Andrija Majdevac’s low shot, deflected by Michele Sansone, ended at the back of the net.
Sliema's Mathias Muchardi was named BOV Player of the Match.
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