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Ħamrun Spartans knock out FA Trophy holders Balzan

Hamrun needed penalties to get past Balzan in the IZIBET FA Trophy. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Kaljevic 114

El Bakhtaoui 105

(Ħamrun win 4-1 on penalties)

Ħamrun Spartans ended Balzan’s reign as FA Trophy holders as the Malta champions edged Balzan after a penalty shoot-out as the match had ended in a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.

It was far from a vintage performance from the Spartans who struggled to create clear-cut chances against a solid Balzan side.

The Spartans looked as though they had won it when El Bakhtaoui put them ahead at the end of the first half of extra-time. But Balzan hit back and Bojan Kaljevic’s goal sent the games to a penalty shoot-out.

But the Spartans prevailed in the shoot-out 4-1 after Milos Mijic and Kevin Daniels missed for Balzan.

The match was evenly balanced for much of the opening 30 minutes with the Spartans dominating proceedings but rarely creating any clear-cut chances. On the other hand, Balzan were happy to soak up the pressure and try and hit their opponents with quick transitions.

It was Ħamrun who had the only shot towards goal on 18 minutes but Faissal El Bakhtaoui’s effort finished just wide.

The next scoring chance arrived on 38 minutes when Predrag Djordjevic saw Jake Galea out of his goal but his attempted chip was well blocked by the Balzan custodian.

The best chance of the half fell to Franklin Sasere just before half-time when the Nigerian forward was picked by El Bakhtaoui but his header finished just over.

Balzan started brightly in the second half and on 47 minutes Henry Bonello dived full stretch to keep out Milan Duric’s shot.

On 56 minutes, El Bakhtaoui raced clear on the right but instead of finding a team-mate he elected to shoot but his effort finished over.

Ten minutes later, Balzan endured a scare when Michael Johnson’s back pass surprised Jake Galea but the Balzan custodian recovered to clear the ball away.

Ħamrun finally threatened nine minutes from time when in a quick break, Sasere served Djordjevic who saw his shot
deflected by a defender onto the crossbar as the match dragged into extra-time.

Two minutes into overtime, Galea had to be alert to push away El Bakhtaoui’s shot.

Ħamrun were unlucky not to take the lead on 104 minutes when Mbong latched onto Soares’ cross but his effort came off the bar.

But the Reds were not to be denied as in first half stoppage time, they were awarded a free-kick and El Bakhtaoui’s shot rolled into the net.

But Balzan refused to lie down and managed to equalise on 115 minutes when Kaljevic burst clear and beat Bonello with a firm drive to set up the penalty shoot-out finale.

BALZAN J. Galea, A. Loof (106 N. Frendo), M. Grima, M. Duric, P. Fenech (76 G. Camilleri), M. Johnson, U. Ljubomirac (91K. Daniels), M. Zlatkovic, S. Jalu (67 B. Kaljevic), M. Mijic, A. Andrejic (82 S. Cipriott).
ĦAMRUN SPARTANS H. Bonello, D. Gojkovic, J. Mbong, A. Oyama, S. Borg, F. Sasere, M. Fedele (67 J. Soares), J.C. Corbalan (106 K. Micallef), P. Djordjevic (91 L. Gambin), E. Marcelina, F. El Bakhtaoui.
Referee Andrea Sciriha.
Penalty sequence Oyama (Ħ) scores 1-0; Duric (B) scores 1-1; Sasere (Ħ) scores 2-1; Mijic (B) missed; Mbong (Ħ) scores 3-1; Daniels (B) saved 3-1; Borg (Ħ)

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