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Balzan eliminated from UEFA Conference League after Grodno stalemate

Balzan’s Ivan Bozovic shields the ball away from a Grodno challenge. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Neman Grodno progress with a 2-0 aggregate score




D. Golovic, I. Bozovic, A. Prates, S. Arab (81 N. Zerjal), P. Fenech (75 M. Grima), A. Torres, P. Olawale, R. Michibuchi (63 T. Caruana), J. Grech (81 Evandro), M. Raso, A. Andrejic (75 M. Aguek).


K. Rudzenok, A. Vasilyev, Y. Parkhomenko, Y. Pantia, O. Evdokimov (66 R. Paparyha 78 A. Suchkou), Y. Zubovich (78 M. Krautsou), I. Sadaunichy, A. Sukurov, A. Yakimov (83 Pavlyukovets), S. Karpovich, M. Kozlov (83 A. Legchilin).

Referee Ioannis Papadopoulos (Greece).

Yellow cards Andrejic, Parkhomenko, Olawale.

It was always going to be a difficult test for Balzan and the chance of clawing back from their two-goal deficit suffered against Neman Grodno in the first round was an uphill task for Oliver Spiteri’s side.

Yet a battling Balzan side lacked bite to trouble the Belarussian side on Tuesday to finish the match scoreless in a 0-0 full-time score, ending their run in European qualifiers after a 2-0 aggregate score.

Balzan’s early flurry set the tone for a generally one-sided match in which Balzan, seemed overwhelmed by the importance of the occasion and failed to trouble the goalkeeper Konstantin Rudzenok.

Spiteri’s troops had a solid look about them as they not only defended well but also sought to offer a threat up front albeit they hardly threatened the opponents.

Still, their efforts were appreciated by the supporters who applauded the Balzan players at the end of the match despite the draw which wrapped up Neman Grodno’s passage to the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.

Match statistics provided by

Balzan could have nosed ahead within 10 minutes of the start of the game. Peter Olawale shielded the ball for Aleksa Andrejic but his angled shot was deflected away by the rearguard.

The Reds’ willingness to force an early breakthrough and revive their qualification hopes, saw them dictating the tempo of the game in the early exchanges. In the first quarter of the hour, Angel Torres pounced on a short clearance, chested the ball down to hit a looping shot over the bar.

Inevitably, given the sweltering heat yesterday, the pace of the game dropped slightly as the first half wore on.

On 39 minutes, Jake Grech was the provider, picking out the roaming Andrejic with an astute pass. The Serbian midfielder evaded Grodno’s attempt to enforce the offside trap but when he closed in on goal, he shot feebly into the hands of Konstantin Rudzenok.

Balzan seized the initiative again in the second half but Grodno refused to fold.

A rare Grodno foray into the Balzan half saw Andrei Yakimov mustering a menacing drive that was repelled with some difficulty by Danilo Golovic.

Balzan should have thrown the issue wide open on 73 minutes when another intelligent pass played from deep on the left flank, this time for Samir Arab, caught the Grodno defence unawares but the defender hit the side-netting.  

Eight minutes from time, Grodno could have sneaked an undeserved winner had Andre Prates not cleared off the line a header by Yakimov.

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