ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
F. Marchetti-5 (46 H. Bonello-5), S. Borg-6, J. Mbong-6, R. Prso-6, E. Freitas-6, U. Duranovic-6 (87 Ederson) O. Bjelicic-6, N. Krstic-5 (46 L. Montebello-6.5), M. Emerson-5, R. Camenzuli-5, Jonny-7 (87 Y. Nenov).
D. Golovic-5, I. Bozovic-6, A. Prates-5, S. Arab-5, T. Caruana-4 (77 M.Aguek), P. Fenech-5.5 (77 M. Grima), J. Grech-5.5, N. Braunovic-5 (64 N. Zerjal), M. Raso-5, Leonardo-5 (67 R. Michibuchi), A. Andrejic-5.5 (67 A. Katanic).
Referee: Daniel Portelli.
Yellow cards: Braunovic, Jonny, Prsa, Camenzuli, Mbong, Duranovic, Bozovic.
BOV player of the match: Jonny (Ħamrun Spartans)
Champions Ħamrun got off to a winning start with a goal from Jonny securing victory against Balzan.
Luciano Zauri’s side were in control for almost the entire match but failed to capitalise and secure a lead despite penning their opponents for most of the opening period.
The Spartans improved after the break and their pressure was rewarded when the Brazilian headed home early in the second half. Oliver Spiteri’s side could not find an equaliser as Ħamrun held on.
However, for too long, this was a poor game between two sides locked in midfield.
Balzan had one early scare when Joseph Mbong dashed on the right flank, his long ball was misjudged by the rearguard, but Uros Duranovic was unable to take advantage.
Balzan were leaving Aleksa Andrejic isolated up front, but their ploy was unsuccessful as the Reds had little attacking joy in the opening half.
Ognjen Bjelicic’s shot deflected off a defender bounced off the bar, but otherwise it was stale fare from two teams who should have produced much better.
Three minutes from half-time, the Spartans then had their best chance when Balzan failed to clear the ball and Elionay shot just over.
Luciano Zauri made two changes at the start of the second half as he sent on Luke Montebello for Nemanja Krstic as Henry Bonello replaced Federico Marchetti between the goalposts.
The Spartans came closest to breaking the deadlock two minutes after the break when Roko Prsa’s free-kick found Steve Borg at the far post but his header finished just wide.
Ħamrun looked sharper and Jonny gave them lead past the hour mark. Substitute Montebello played a ball over the top of the Balzan defence and the Brazilian timed his run to perfection before his header bounced into the ground and into the roof of the net.
As the game entered its final 20 minutes Spiteri attempted to give his sides fresh impetus as Nikola Zerjal replaced Nikola Braunovic and Manyluak Aguek was brought on for the subdued Triston Caruana.
But there was little sign of any partnership between Aguek and Aleksandar Katanic as the pair rarely linked to trouble Bonello as the Spartans held on for the win.
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