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Duric nets hat-trick as holders Balzan ease into last 16

Balzan cruised past Pieta' Hotspurs to progress in the FA Trophy. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

BALZAN                      5

Duric 3, 10, 54

Mijic 31

Kaljevic 46


Pedrinho 84

BALZAN V. Vranes; A. Loof (58 J. Grech), M. Duric (57 M. Johnson), P. Fenech, U. Ljubomirac (46 B. Kaljevic), M. Zlatkovic, N. Frendo (77 N. Magri), G. Camilleri, M. Mijic (46 K. Daniels), A. Bradshaw, A. Andrejic.

PIETA’ HOTSPURS M. Chetcuti; N. Cope, S. Mizzi (62 L. Gatt), J. Ghio, P. Lapira (67 Pedrinho), D. Grima (67 L. Scicluna), Y. Morita, K. Briffa, Z. Leonardi (62 M. Portelli), I. Cutajar, L. Galea.

Referee Stefan Pace.

Missed penalty Paul Lapira (Pieta’ Hotspurs) 55.

FA Trophy holders Balzan broke little sweat to cruise past Challenge League side Pieta’ Hotspurs 5-1 and clinch a last 16 berth. The Reds opened a two-goal lead early inside the first 10 minutes with a brace from Serbian Milan Duric. Balzan’s third came halfway into the first half through Milos Mijic. Balzan’s two other goals came early in the second half as they will shift their focus on their championship commitments.

They will now face one of either Ħamrun Spartans and Naxxar Lions in the round of 16 clash, with the latter sides on Thursday morning.

It was much needed for Balzan after their recent slump in the BOV Premier League which saw them slip into eighth with just 20 points.

On the other hand, the Hotspurs are currently third in the BOV Challenge League – Group B with 24 points as they trail leaders Żebbuġ Rangers by three.

Milan Duric capitalised on a well-engineered move to put Balzan ahead with a low drive from inside the penalty area as the Reds opened the game all guns blazing.

Paul Zammit’s side continued to pile up pressure on their opponents and they made it count when Duric pounced on a loose ball during the Hotspurs’ build-up and darted his way into the box before firing past Miguel Chetcuti.

Aleksa Andrejic came close to finding a third but his header went wide before goalkeeper Chetcuti came to the rescue with a block on Uros Ljubomirac from the edge of the area.

Neil Frendo also squandered a chance to find a third after miscueing a volley.

Nonetheless, Balzan managed to score a third through Milos Mijic who beat Chetcuti from close-range to all but seal the qualification for the Reds.

Pieta’ tried to surprise Balzan with a break but Paul Lapira’s shooting effort was immediately halted by the Balzan backline.

At the restart, Balzan inserted talisman Bojan Kaljevic who took only one minute to list his name on the scoresheet after slotting in past Chetcuti from the penalty area.

Serbian midfielder Duric completed his treble of goals with a long-range shot that went past goalkeeper Chetcuti.

On the 55th minute, Pieta’ were awarded a penalty when Lapira’s shoot was handed by Augustine Loof inside the box. The same Pieta’ player took charge of the penalty spot but goalkeeper Vukasin Vranes denied him to preserve Balzan’s clean sheet.

In the closing stages of the game, there was still time for a Pieta’ goal, and what a goal. A well-struck freekick by Pedrinho stunned Vranes as the Blues managed to cancel the zero on the scoreboard before the final whistle.

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