Fontanella 10 pen; Juninho 83;
Floriana did what no other side had managed to do so far as they consigned Balzan to their first defeat of the season.
With Balzan still unbeaten and flying high in the table, their chances of reclaiming top spot from Valletta looked bright but Oliver Spiteri’s troops were a pale shadow of the team that had soared to the Premier League summit as they were taken aback by the quality of Floriana’s passing.
The mood of the two teams could not have been more contrasting ahead of their meeting as Balzan were on a high after claiming their fifth successive win, against St Andrew’s, while Floriana left the pitch at the end of their 3-1 defeat to Valletta fuming over a series of questionable refereeing decisions.
Nevertheless, Floriana’s positive display in the derby encouraged coach Luis Oliveira to pick the same starting XI with Matteo Piciollo and Mario Fontanella granted freedom to interchange in attack and Nicolas Chiesa pulling the strings behind them.
Spiteri maintained his rotation policy as Clive Brincat was preferred to Maxim Focsa and Terence Agius replaced Lydon Micallef.
With left-back Steve Bezzina making his return from injury, Spiteri decided to switch back to a four-man defence.
Piciollo gave the Balzan defence no time to settle. In the ninth minute, the Italian striker outfoxed Bezzina and sprinted towards goal only to be tripped by Elkin Serrano Valero in the area, prompting referee Alan Mario Sant to order a penalty in favour of Floriana.
Having missed from the spot against Valletta, Piciollo passed the baton to Fontanella who kept his composure to fire the ball past Christian Cassar, the Balzan goalkeeper.
Floriana dictated the pace in the early stages but Balzan’s first raid almost yielded an equaliser on 15 minutes.
Alfred Effiong’s surging run into the box was halted by Andrea Scozzese who pushed the Malta striker down to the ground.
Sant whistled for a penalty, this time for Balzan, but striker Aleksandar Vujacic’s shot was beaten away by Matthew Calleja Cremona, the Floriana goalkeeper.
The Greens let out a sigh of relief.
Piciollo and Emanuel Briffa were trying to open the Balzan defence with their incursions on the flanks but it was not before five minutes from half-time that either side created a chance.
Briffa was the creator with a cross that looked too wide for Chiesa who, despite his lack of height, managed to glance in a flying header that was stopped by Cassar.
The second half was only seven minutes old when Steve Pisani ran menacingly at the Balzan defenders on the right before squaring to Piciollo who mustered a shot that finished just over.
Balzan’s difficulties to cope with Floriana’s movement prompted Spiteri to effect a double substitution, Micallef and Luke Sciberras coming on for Agius and Dylan Grima respectively.
Soon after, Vujacic missed a great chance to equalise. Receiving a pass from Micallef, the Montenegrin striker ran unchallenged into the box but his effort was stopped by Calleja Cremona.
Floriana quickly transferred the ball forward to Pisani who advanced on the outnumbered Balzan defence before serving Chiesa whose shot was blocked by Brincat.
But, 10 minutes from time, Balzan’s hopes received a blow when Valero was expelled for a second booking.
Floriana went for broke in a bid to put the result beyond their opponents’ reach.
Fontanella should have seen to that but he headed Chiesa’s cross just wide.
Man of the match Chiesa capped his afternoon seven minutes from time.
The Floriana captain seized possession near the halfway line and launched a spectacular long-range pass for substitute Juninho Cabral who outsprinted the onrushing Cassar before slotting the ball into the net to wrap up his side’s win.
M. Calleja Cremona-6.5, A. Monticelli-7, E. Pepe-6, S. Pisani-7, C. Borg-6, J. Pisani-6, A. Scozzese-6, M. Piciollo-6.5 (66 Juninho-6), E. Briffa-6, N. Chiesa-7.5, M. Fontanella-7 (86 S. Bonnici).
C. Cassar-6, D. Grima-5 (57 L. Sciberras-5), E. Bilbao Zarate-5, T. Agius-5 (57 L. Micallef-5), G. Mensha-4.5 (75 R. Darmanin), A. Vujacic-4, A. Effiong-5, E. Serrano Valero, S. Bezzina-5, C.Brincat-6, J. Grioli-5.5.
Referee: Alan Mario Sant.
Yellow cards: Valero; Monticelli; Chiesa; Pisani; Zarate; Scozzese.
Missed penalty: Vujacic (Balzan) 16.
Red card: Valero (Balzan) 80.
BOV player of the match: Nicolas Chiesa (Floriana).
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