Balzan were in excellent form as they registered a 4-1 win over Keşla FK of Azerbaijan in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday.
In Baku, next week, Balzan need to avoid losing by three goals to nil in order to secure a historic qualification to the second qualifying round of the competition where they would face Milsami Orhei of Moldova or Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia.
Coach Marko Micovic handed Steve Sultana and Nenad Slivic their debut. Two other new recruits Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte and Andrija Majdevac were included as substitutes late in the game.
Balzan were the better side right from the start and managed to take the lead on the 12th minute thanks to ALFRED EFFIONG who placed the ball in the bottom left corner following a cross by Carlos Eduardo de Fiori Mendes (Kadu) for Bojan Kaljevic from the left.
Three minutes later, the visitors almost equalised but Andre Clennon’s close range shot was saved at point blank by Steve Sultana.
On the 21st minute, Balzan doubled the score when off a cross by Milos Lepovic, Kadu served ALEX DA PAIXAO ALVES (Lecao) who slotted the ball past Keşla goalkeeper Kamran Agayev.
Keşla were awarded a penalty on the 28th minute after Lecao handled the ball inside the area following a cross from the left by Alkhasov and from the penalty spot, CESAR MEZA COLLI converted to pull one back.
Balzan however regained a two-goal lead on the 34th minute thanks to BOJAN KALJEVIC who flicked the ball home from close range following a corner from the left by Kadu.
Ten minutes in the second half, CARLOS EDUARDO DE FIORI MENDES (Kadu) increased the lead further with a shot from the outside the area from the right which ended in the bottom left corner.
On the 66th, substitute Uros Ljubomirac could have added another when served by Kaljevic but his conclusion scraped past the post.
BALZAN Steve Sultana, Nenad Slivic (Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte 85′), Alex Da Paixao Alves, Steve Bezzina, Michael Johnson, Alfred Effiong (Uros Ljubomirac 62’), Ivan Bozovic, Elkin Serrano, Carlos Eduardo de Fiori Mendes, Bojan Kaljevic (Andrija Majdevac 78′), Milos Lepovic.
KEŞLA Kamran Agayev, Sertan Tashgin (Christian Tchami Ngangoue 84′), Denis Silva, Slavia Alkhasov, Vagif Javadov (Mammad Guliyev 63’), Cesar Mesa Colli, Andre Clennon, Azer Salahli, Fuad Bayramov (Milos Bosancic 60’), Tarzan Guliyev, Ebrima Sohna.
Referee: Volkan Chinkov (BUL)