ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 7
Montebello 19 pen., 57, 90, 90+
Duranovic 22, 46
D. Golovic, I. Bozovic, S. Arab (70 B. Hili), T. Caruana (61 O. Awosanya), P. Fenech, J. Busuttil (77 M. Grima), A. Katanic (61 G. Blackwood), N. Zerjal, N. Braunovic, O. Rommens, A. Andrejic (78 M. Aguek).
H. Bonello, S. Borg, L. Montebello, R. Prsa, Elionay (63 S. Paintsil), U. Duranovic (63 S. Paintsil), Ederson, J. Corbalan, E. Marcelina (46 O. Bjelicic), R. Camenzuli (83 K. Vella), Jonny (63 Y. Nenov).
Referee Philip Farrugia.
Yellow cards Caruana, Arab, Elionay, Fenech.
Ħamrun Spartans sent a stern warning to their rivals when they came back from a goal down to hit Balzan for seven and preserve their three-point lead over nearest rivals Floriana.
Luke Montebello was, without doubt, the protagonist of the match as the Malta striker grabbed four goals to further rubberstamp his place at the top of the scorers list with 13 goals.
The Malta champions came into the match under pressure to win after in the early kick-off Floriana had momentarily joined them at the top of the standings following a 2-0 win over Sta Lucia.
Things looked to get more complicated for the Spartans when they found themselves a goal behind after nine minutes.
But they refused to panic and they managed to turn the match in their favour with two goals in the space of three minutes through a Luke Montebello penalty conversion and Uros Duranovic.
Duranovic, Montebello, twice and Roko Prsa further punished an erratic Balzan defence after the break to seal an emphatic win for the Spartans who will now hope to receive some positive news on Thursday when the MFA summons the Protest Board to hear the complaing filed by Hibernians over the eligibility of Christian Rutjens.
Ħamrun threatened twice in the first two minutes. First, Elionay found himself in space on the edge of the area but his volley finished just wide. Then soon after the Brazilian released Uros Djuranovic who was denied by Balzan goalkeeper Danilo Golovic.
However, it was Balzan who took the lead after nine minutes when Olivier Rummens punished the Spartans carelessness in midfield to play in Aleksandar Katanic and the Serbian, despite being in a closed angle, blasted the ball past Henry Bonello.
Ħamrun tried to get back into the match and they managed to draw level on 19 minutes. Duranovic fed the sprinting Ryan Camenzuli who was upended by Triston Caruana inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot.
From the spot, Luke Montebello sent Golovic the wrong way to restore parity.
The goal sparked the Spartans to step up their game and three minutes later they took the lead.
Jonny won the ball on the far right and quickly served Duranovic who hit a rasping drive that gave no chance to Golovic.
Balzan came close to making it 2-2 seven minutes from the break when Katanic powered inside the area teed up Andreijic whose thumping drive just missed the upright.
Balzan made a disastrous start to the second half as straight from their kick off Braunovic lost control of the ball and in came Duranovic who lobbed the ball over Golovic to put the Spartans 3-1 ahead.
Duranovic’s goal hit hard Balzan who looked out of sorts and it was no surprise when on 57 minutes the Spartans added a fourth goal.
Jonny sped clear on the right and sent a low cross into the path of Montebello who stabbed the ball into the net.
The Spartans were in rampant form and 18 minutes from time substitute Seth Paintsil stormed inside the area and his firm drive came off the bar with Prsa nodded home from close in.
A minute from time, Ħamrun earned a second penalty when Montebello was pushed inside the area by Ivan Bozovic and the Premier League top scorer made no mistake to complete his hat-trick.
Montebello was not finished yet as in the second minute of stoppage time he pounced on an error from goalkeeper Goluvic to tap the ball into an empty net for his fourth goal of the match.
Earlier, Floriana piled the pressure on Ħamrun Spartans when they scored a goal in each half to overcome Sta Lucia.
The Greens, who were coming into the match on the back of two successive defeats, enjoyed a fine start and took the lead after 28 minutes of play.
In a quick break, Mattia Veselji broke clear and slid the ball past the onrushing Celio.
Sta Lucia tried to hit back and tried to create problems to the Floriana defence but lacked any flair.
Just before half-time, Carlo Zammit Lonardelli threatened with an effort that was somehow kept out by Celio.
After the break, Celio came to Sta Lucia when he first denied Maksim Valadsko and then was alert to again keep out Veselji’s effort from the rebound.
Floriana substitute Kyrian Nwoko was unlucky not to double his team’s lead when his shot came off the woodwork.
But the Greens did seal the points in stoppage time when Lorenzo De Grazia beat Celio with a low drive.
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