Ħamrun Spartans 1
The sharing of spoils was the natural outcome of a duel which never really lifted off in terms of enterprising fare and goalmouth action as Balzan and Ħamrun had to settle for a point apiece after sharing two goals – a result which has maintained a status quo as far as the teams’ aspirations to book a European football berth for next season.
The outcome was a fair reflection of the toils both outfits went through. Both the Reds and the Spartans had their moments.
The onus was more on Ħamrun to pick up the three points. As that would have meant they would have put pressure on Hibernians in fifth place.
In Orestis Nikolopoulos’s absence, Ħamrun coach Manuele Blasi had a couple of options at his disposal but instead of going for a straight replacement, he switched to a back three with Tristan Caruana often dropping back as a makeshift central defender, shadowing Balzan striker Andrija Majdevac.
But Majdevac scored for Balzan anyway, with the first meaningful attack of the match. The Serbian striker showed some deft footwork to throw Tristan Caruana off balance before drilling a low curling shot into the net.
That goal cast doubt on the wisdom of Blasi’s selection but the Spartans begane to work their way back into the game. On 17 minutes, Wilfried Domoraud escaped down the left channel and floated the ball into the path of Jorge Ailton who lifted the ball past the on-rushing Kristijan Naumovski but Aleksandar Kosoric sprinted towards goal to clear off the line.
Ħamrun’s growing momentum was rewarded eventually with a goal three minutes before half-time. Ailton made a better attempt when he equalised for the Spartans with another cut lob. Ivan Bozovic tried again to cover the ball for Naumovski and hit the ball on the line, but Alan Mario Sant adjudged that this time, his shot had crossed the line and awarded it.
After being caught cold by Majdevac early in the first half, Ħarmun should have been on red alert for the Serbian striker but he was denied by saving challenge from Emmanuel Bartolo which stopped him after latching onto Paul Fenech’s pass.
Ricardo Correa fashioned two opportunities soon after the break. First, he shot over the bar, then his effort was bundled out of play by Bartolo.
After 75 minutes, Alfred Effiong picked out Majdevac with a floated ball but the Serbian hit the ball over the bar.
While Majdevac was the focal point for Balzan’s attacks, Ħamrun looked to Ailton. The striker from Cape Verde tricked his way past three players with some clever footwork, only to be blocked in time by Uros Ljubomirac.
K. Naumovski-5, A. Loof-5, A. Kosoric-6, S. Pisani-5.5 (85 D. Camilleri), M. Johnson-6, P. Fenech-6.5, A. Effiong-6.5, U. Ljubomirac-5, I. Bozovic-5, R. Correa-6, A. Majdevac-7.
E.Bartolo-5, A. Capitelli-6, T.Caruana-4, Ailton-7, W. Domoraud-6, C. Failla-6, S. Lagzir (26 D. Borg-5), M. Criaco-4, K. Micallef-5.5, M. Cinquini-6.
Referee: Alan Mario Sant
Yellow cards: Cinquini, Loof, Pisani, Failla, Correa
BOV Player of the match: Andrija Majdevac (Ħamrun Spartans)