ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
ĦAMRUN SPARTANS H. Bonello-6, S. Borg-6, M. Guillaumier-6.5 , E. Mashike Sukisa-5.5, J. Ailton-5 (62 V. de Freitas-6), R. Prsa-6, Ederson-7, O. Bjelicic-6 (77 M. Fedele), J. Corbalan-5 (46 Jonny-7), E. Marcelina-6, R.Camenzuli-5 (62 L. Montebello-6).
BALZAN J. Debono-6, I. Bozovic-6, S. Arab-6, P. Fenech-6, U. Ljubomirac-5.5, S. Jalu-5.5 (62 M. Zlatkovic), A. Satariano-6.5 (70 B, Hili), N. Braunovic-6.5, M. Raso-6, M. de Sousa-6 (70 B. Kaljevic).
Referee Alex Johnson.
Yellow cards Braunovic, Mashike, Torres, de Sousa, Hili
Red Card Benjamin Hili (Balzan) 90
BOV player of the match Jonny (Ħamrun Spartans)
Ħamrun Spartans extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points as they secured a hard-fought win against Balzan thanks to Jonny’s late strike at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.
The Brazilian substitute tapped in at the back post after Luke Montebello’s point-blank cross.
Balzan deserved a point for endeavour but never looked like scoring, concentrating more on sniffing out Ħamrun’s attacking power rather than posing a threat themselves up front.
Defending deep and in numbers, Oliver Spiteri’s side allowed Ħamrun plenty of possession up until 25 metres from their goal, at which point they nullified the Spartans’ threat and ensured a relatively quiet opening half for goalkeeper Jonathan Debono.
The best of Ħamrun’s early counterattacks saw Elvis Mashike run almost the entire length of the pitch on the left flank, but Duvan Torres showed great defensive intelligence to block the African striker.
Nikola Braunovic was alert after 11 minutes in blocking an Ederson Bruno shot on the line.
Balzan broke swiftly up the field as Paul Fenech played the ball with Alexander Satariano to find a gap upfront for Suleiman Jalo, his side’s lone man up front. The Dutch striker contrived to hit a long drive when it seemed that a breakthrough was certain. Henry Bonello pushed his effort around the post.
Ħamrun were seeing far more of the ball, but they grew increasingly frustrated by Balzan’s solid rearguard action and were quickly reduced to shooting from outside the area.
So it was no surprise when Branko Nisevic sent on Jonny for Juan Carlos Corbalan.
The second half started as quietly as the first, although Matthew Guillaumier diverted a cross from Roko Prsa onto the side netting before the Croatian midfielder had a ‘goal’ disallowed for offside.
Another quiet spell followed, which Ederson interrupted with a surging on the right before his crossshot flashed across the face of goal.
Ħamrun threw on Luke Montebello in an effort to force their way into the game. But Moncilo Raso was a towering presence in the centre of the Balzan defence and they continued to frustrate Ħamrun in the second half.
It appeared as though the game was drifting towards a stalemate when Balzan committed the error that cost them a point.
Montebello outsprinted Raso on the right flank to cross over from point-blank range at the far post, where Jonny hit a rising shot into the top corner.
At death, Benjamin Hili received his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
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