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Balzan fight back to hold Naxxar in mid-table clash

Naxxar and Balzan settled for shared points after a draw on Friday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier


Edson 21


Katanic 70

NAXXAR LIONS M. Debono, F. Barbosa, N. Pace Cocks (80 N. Micallef), P. de Carvalho, Edson, R. Cassar (67 M. Fenech), T. Yamaguchi (75 W. Marcilio), Elizeu, Maicon, Y. Ito, J. Cardoso.

BALZAN R. Briffa, I. Bozovic, A. Prates, S. Arab, J. Busuttil (69 B.Hili), D. Oluwatobiloba (81 H. Euigwon), R. Michibuchi, N. Zerjal (69 A. Katanic), O, Rommers, A. Andrejic, G. Blackwood

Referee: Darryl Agius

Yellow cards: Edson, Cassar, Yamaguchi, Oluwatobiloba, Cardoso.

Red cards: Bozovic (B) 15, Elizeu (N) 81.

Naxxar Lions were forced to settle for a point despite a dominant performance against Balzan.

Friday’s skirmish between Naxxar and Balzan presented these two Premier League mid-table teams with the opportunity to steal a march on their rivals.

Buoyed with their win against Hibernians, Naxxar ought to have been driven by the prospect of going five points above the danger zone if they beat Balzan, whereas a victory for the latter would have lifted Oliver Spiteri’s troops into seventh place.

Victory was the keyword, but a draw was perhaps a fair result in a tale of two halves with Naxxar completely dominating their opponents in the opening period with Balzan steadying the ship after the interval.

The Lions started in assured fashion. Balzan goalkeeper Rudy Briffa denied Pablo Carvalho on 13 minutes after the striker linked well with Takuma Yamaguchi.

Naxxar got a boost when Ivan Bozovic was dismissed for swinging his elbow at Edson inside the first quarter of an hour.

With a man more on the pitch, the Lions were causing Balzan all sorts of problems down the right flank and Neil Pace Cocks pulled the strings in midfield as Naxxar dominated the first half.

And when Edson got on the end of a superb free kick from Pace Cocks, the Brazilian striker needed only to head the ball home to give his team the lead.

Edson looked hungry and could have added a second on 32 minutes, only to see Briffa palming his strike to safety.

Three minutes later, Naxxar’s Elizeu crashed a shot off the underside of the bar.

After a spate of wasted chances in the opening 45 minutes and all the Naxxar pressure, Balzan almost equalised soon after the break.

Naxxar shotstopper Matthias Debono failed to deal properly with Jan Busuttil’s shot, allowing Dimeji Oluwatobiloba to steal in but hit the ball over the bar.

This sparked Balzan into life, and Busuttil unleashed a diagonal shot that flashed just wide. That was the turning point with Balzan finally finding their feet and laying siege to Naxxar’s goal.

Oliver Spiteri tried to bring in fresh legs upfront, roping in Benjamin Hili and Aleksander Katanic.

The substitutions reaped instant dividends as Katanic brought Balzan back on level terms with virtually his first touch of the ball. The Balzan’s equaliser was not just the product of Katanic’s opportunism but also Hili’s persistence on the left flank.

Numerical equilibrium was restored when Elizeu was dismissed with a straight red after a reckless lunge on George Blackwood nine minutes from time as the stalemate prevailed.

Standings provided by Sofascore

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