Matchday 22: Valletta 0 Balzan 0
Valletta and Balzan drew blanks in an opaque display on Friday at the Centenary Stadium. They were both looking for a massive lift following last week’s victories over Gzira and Floriana respectively.
It was the Reds who had the better chances. The result extended Balzan’s unbeaten run to 10 matches as they continued to improve under coach Oliver Spiteri.
But Valletta’s defence is proving to be the bedrock of their success of late, as they delivered a second clean sheet in three matches.
In reality, however, the result did little to help Valletta’s bid to challenge for a European berth or Balzan’s attempts to force their way into the top three.
The Reds were without suspended their top-scorer Angel Torres. But Oliver Spiteri’s side responded by dominating possession in the first half with Bogdan Mladenovic finding plenty of time and space in the final third.
Eslit Sala, who replaced Ulrich Ngong in Valletta’s only change from the side that saw off Gzira United last week, curled a shot out inside the first 10 minutes.
On 14 minutes, Brandon Paiber was denied by a superb reaction save from Jonathan Debono. Yet, Balzan looked the more likely to score when a minute later, Mladenovic cut inside onto his right foot and unleashed a low drive that crashed against the post.
Paiber threatened again at the other end when his freekick took a deflection off the wall on its way out.
The momentum was all with Balzan as the second half started – and they did everything but score as Valletta were pinned back. It took a vital block from Cain Formosa to deny Matheus de Sousa Nogureira when he raced clear on the right flank on 53 minutes.
On 75 minutes, Marcus Grima tried to surprise Formosa who was out of position as he mustered a strong drive that the back-tracking goalkeeper saved into a corner.
On the other side, substitute William Jebor gave the illusion of goal when Enmy Bena Peltre squared the ball for the Liberian striker, who flashed a shot against the side-netting.
Source: Times of Malta, Photo credits Times of Malta
VALLETTA: Cain Formosa, Enzo Ruiz, Andrea Zammit (Nilton Soares), Shaun Dimech, Enmy Manuel Pena Beltre, Federico Falcone (Wiliiam Jebor), Bradley Steed Kamdem Fewo, Brandon Paiber (Triston Caruana), Rowen Muscat, Eslit Sala, Kilian Bevis (Jean Marie Ulrich Nnomo).
BALZAN: Jonathan Debono, Ivan Bozovic, Samir Arab, Marcus Grima, Bogdan Mladenovic (Delvin Chanel Ndinga), Paul Fenech, Nikola Zerjal, Momcilo Raso, Matheus Nogureira Albuguerque de Sousa, Aleksa Andrejic (Benjamin Hili), Bojan Kaljevic (Alexander Satariano)
Referee: F. Zammit
Yellow Cards: E. Ruiz (V)
Man of the Match: Paul Fenech (B).