FA Trophy – Valletta 0 Balzan 1
Alfred Effiong came off the bench toscore a dramatic injury-time winner as Balzan dumped Valletta out of
the FA Trophy, yesterday.
The goal capped an exciting cuptie which saw Valletta enjoying numerical advantage for almost 50 minutes following the first-half dismissal of Bruno.
But despite the handicap Balzan still managed to weather the pressure and waited patiently to hit the killer blow right at the death when Effiong struck the winner that kept his team in the run for an historic
league and cup double.
Balzan coach Oliver Spiteri handed a start to Lydon Micallef as Abdelkarim Nafti was not in the squad while Effiong, who returned from suspension, had to settle for a place on the bench. Dylan Grima was preferred to Ryan Fenech as Justin Grioli is out injured.
Lithuanian striker Tomas Radzinevicius was restored to Valletta’s starting formation at the expense of
Luke Montebello, scorer of the winner against Gżira United. He was dropped to the bench.
Jonathan Caruana failed to recover from the knock picked up in City’s last match and he was replaced by Juan Cruz Gill.
The match was evenly balanced for much of the opening 20 minutes as both sides opted for a prudent approach.
It was Balzan who threatened first when Alan Da Silva Souza’s delivery from a corner was met by Elkin Serrano but his header was blocked by keeper Dziugas Bartkus.
Valletta responded soon after when Romeo Romao hit a firm drive that flew just over.
Tempers flared on 26 minutes when Bruno and Rowen Muscat clashed following a challenge by the City midfielder. Referee Mario Apap brandished the red card to the Balzan defender for retaliation while Muscat was booked.
Here, Spiteri withdrew Micallef and roped in Clive Brincat, a decision that was not taken lightly by the young striker who headed straight into the tunnel.
Valletta failed to make their extra man count. Instead, it was Balzan who almost struck a minute from the break when Bojan Kaljevic played in Matteo Piciollo but the Italian forward was anticipated by Bartkus.
On the restart, Valletta started to dominate proceedings and tried to test the Balzan defence with a series of crosses towards the towering Radzinevicius but with scant success.
On 58 minutes Romao picked Jean Borg and his rising shot was deviated just over the bar.
From the corner, taken by Pani, Cruz Gill anticipated his marker but his thumping header was saved by Ivan Janjusevic.
Eighteen minutes from time, Steve Borg delivered a dipping cross into the path of Jean Borg who just missed the upright with his effort.
On 74 minutes, Zammit introduced Montebello for the ineffective Radzinevicius as City tried to step up the pressure on the Balzan defence.
However, numerical parity was restored 15 minutes from time when Muscat was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Piciollo.
Romao threatened for Valletta when he hit a thumping drive that Janjusevic managed to turn to a corner.
From the flag-kick, taken by Aguire, Cruz Gill connected to the ball but his header was blocked by the goalkeeper.
Three minutes from time, Effiong came in for Piciollo and the move turned out to be a masterstroke. In fact, in stoppage time, Paul Fenech picked the Malta striker inside the box and he hit a firm drive
that gave Bartkus no chance.
Source – timesofmalta.com
VALLETTA – D. Barktus, R. Camilleri, S. Borg, R. Romao, L. Aguirre, R. Muscat, C. Pani, J. Borg, J. Gill Cruz, T. Radzinevicius (L. Montebello), V. Alhinho (L. Cremona).
BALZAN – I. Janjusevic, S. Arab, B. Kaljevic, E. Serano Valero, Anderson, A. Da Silva Sousa, D. Grima, L. Micallef (C. Brincat), P. Fenech, M. Picollo (A. Effiong), Bruno.
Scorers: A. Effiong (B)
Red Cards: L. Bruno (B), R. Muscat (V)