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Watch: Prates the hero as Balzan survive scare to qualify after extra time in Conference League


Prates 94


Nwankwo 44, Pisek 63, Kovacevic 73

(Balzan win 5-4 on aggregate)


D. Golovic, I. Bozovic, S. Arab (71 A. Prates), T. Caruana (46 R. Michibuchi), P. Fenech (80 M. Aguek), A. Torres, P. Olawale (100 Evandro), J. Grech, N. Braunovic, M. Raso, A. Andrejic (61 N. Zerjal)


G. Tratnik, M. Mutavcic, A. Duric, T. Klemencic (105 G. Cerne), L. Topalovic (56 J. Pisek), F. Kovacevic, M. Krstovski, E. Julardzija, Z. Repas (85 B. Markus 115 S. Duranovic), A. Nwankwo, D. Sturm .

Referee: Visar Kastrati (Kosovo)

Yellow card: Nwankwo, Olawale, Mutavcic, Fenech, Braunovic, Prates, Klemencic,  Golovic, Sturm.

Red Card: Andre Prates (98)

Attendance 593.

Balzan came back from the death to clinch a second qualifying round berth thanks to an Andre Prates goal on 93 minutes, after a nail-biting tie that dragged into extra-time.

After losing last week’s first leg in Slovenia 4-1, NK Domzale managed to level the tie on aggregate as they were leading 3-0 against Balzan to take the match into overtime.

But when the Brazilian defender smacked a low shot into the corner of Gasper Tratnik’s goal, the Balzan bench erupted as they sensed that qualification was now back within their reach.

From then on, the Balzan players defended diligently to complete a 5-4 aggregate win and advance to the next round of the Europa Conference League where they will face the winner of the tie between Nemadna Grodno, of Belarus, and Liechtenstein’s side Vaduz.

Oliver Spiteri named an unchanged line-up from last week’s first leg with Jake Grech and Angel Torres playing either side of new striker Peter Olawale as they were defending a comfortable lead.

Balzan started brightly as Angel Torres was proving a handful for the Slovenian outfit. On one occasion, the Colombian striker outpaced a host of Domzale defenders to reach a long ball but Gasper Tratnik came out to block the striker’s attempt.

NK Domzale had struggled to make an impression in attack but in a rare foray, they gained a glimmer of hope when Danijel Sturm crossed the ball for Abraham Nwankwo who headed the ball behind Danilo Golovic to put NK Domzale 1-0 up and 4-2 down on aggregate.

NK Domzale’s breakthrough, a minute from half-time, was a reality check for Balzan who came into this match in high spirits after their impressive win in the first leg.

Jake Grech created space on the left after receiving from Samir Arab but his shot was deflected into a corner. From the ensuing corner, Torres sent the ball at the far post, but Nikola Braunovic shot straight at Tratnik.

At half-time, Spiteri made a first substitution, withdrawing Triston Caruana and bringing in Ryohei Michibuchi, a dynamic midfielder who can play in front of the back four.

The Maltese outfit continued to push forward. Tratnik took centre-stage again when he went down to fist away Olawale’s long-range shot on 55 minutes.

NK Domzale gained another boost past the hour mark as they won a freekick on the left flank. Substitute Jost Pisek left himself almost no margin of error in getting the ball between the goalkeeper and the far post with a free-kick that filtered through a sea of red shirts.

NK Domzakle began to believe in the impossible dream of clawing back their shock 4-1 loss from the first leg when Franko Kovacevic dragged his effort wide.

On 72 minutes, Kovacevic levelled the aggregate score with a simple tap-in after rounding off the onrushing goalkeeper.

Balzan mounted a brief period of sustained pressure.

In the 90th minute, following a goalmouth scramble, Ivan Bozovic’s drive was pushed over the bar by Tratnik.

Then with stoppage time almost over, Torres almost cashed in some jittery defending but hit a firm grounder on the side-netting as the game went into extra-time.

Four minutes inside the first period, substitute Nikola Zerjal has to be credited for his measured pass towards Andre Prates who hit home with a brilliant shot into the lower left corner.

More drama was in the offing as four minutes later referee Visar Kastrati sent off Prates for a second bookable offence after he was earlier yellow-carded for taking off his shirt as he celebrated his goal.

But Balzan were now in total command.

Grech should have killed off NK Domzale after 114 minutes but hit wide in front of goal after receiving from Zerjal.

Domzale tried to mount a late pressure but Balzan held on to crown a memorable night for their fans.

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