Day 21 Valletta 1 Balzan Y. 1 Published on: 03-02-2013
Valletta missed the chance to open a four-point lead over Hibs at the top after being held to a 1-1 draw by Balzan this evening.
After Hibs had suffered a surprise defeat to Floriana on Friday, Valletta were widely expected to take advantage but Balzan had other ideas as they produced a battling display to gain a point despite finishing the match with 10 men.
Valletta coach Mark Miller handed a debut to Nigerian forward Abubakar Bello-Osagie, signed on loan from Qormi. Balzan also had a debutant in their ranks, Ivorian striker Elie Moises who soon signalled his intention to make an impact as, inside the opening minute, he ran through on goal but his shot was blocked by Yenz Cini.
Balzan created the better chances in the opening stages Jacob Borg hitting wide at the far post after receiving from Dylan Grima.
The Citizens had to wait until the 13th minute to create a chance when Daniel Bogdanovic passed to Michael Mifsud who swept past his marker but his weak shot was easily saved by Daniel Miguelez Martinez.
Bello-Osagie was first to Jason Lee Vandelannoite's right-wing cross as Valletta began to enjoy more possession. Martinez then kept the champions at bay with successive saves from Ryan Fenech and Demba Toure.
Bogdanovic was denied by Martinez after being teed up by William Barbosa before Bello-Osagie produced surging run that took him past several red shirts. The Nigerian released Mifsud but the latter hit wide from an angled position.
It was Balzan who nosed ahead two minutes into the second half. Moises did everything as the Ivorian striker sped clear after retrieving possession in midfield before striking a low shot past Cini.
The pressure was now on Valletta to level matters. They went close when Mifsud's cross was headed by Toure but the latter's effort was stopped by Martinez.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Dimech headed over from Barbosa's free-kick but in their next attack, Valletta equalised. Bello-Osagie fired a rising shot into the top corner after receiving from Barbosa.
It was all Valletta now, Mifsud threatened to put them ahead with a first-time volley that sailed just wide of the far post.
Balzan then suffered a blow when, 20 minutes from time, Renato Conceicao was shown a straight red card for raising his arm at Mifsud. Ivan Zammit, the Balzan coach, was also sent off for excessive protests.
Despite their numerical superiority, Valletta struggled to create any clearcut chances as Balzan held firm.
Bello-Osagie was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA - Y. Cini, J. Caruana, J. Vandelannoite, D. Toure (J. J. Ogunuppe), I. Azzopardi, D. Bogdanovic (D. Falzon), L. Dimech, R. Fenech, W. Barbosa (J. Gabriel Da Silva), M. Mifsud, A. Bello Osagie.
BALZAN Y. - M. Martinez, A. Agius, R. Conceicao, J. Pace, D. Grima (C. Caruana), B. Bondin, S. Giglio, D. Borg, F. Aboulezz, A. Elie Moise, E. Da Silva (R. Darmanin).
Date: 3-02-13 Time: 16:00 Venue: Hibs Ground
Scorers: 47' A. Elie Moise, 59' A. Bello Osagie.
Yellow Cards: B. Bondin, A. Bello Osagie, J. Caruana.
Red Cards: R. Conceicao
Man of Match: A. Bello Osagie (V)
Referee: Andre Arciola