Balzan had to settle for a goalless draw against champions Floriana at the Centenary Stadium.
Floriana missed out on the chance to close in on joint-leaders Gzira United and Hibernians and are now four points behind them, in sixth place but with a game in hand. On the other hand, Balzan hasn’t won a game in these last four matches and is in tenth place.
Balzan started the match with goalkeeper Vukasin Vranes, Steve Bezzina, and Stefan Dimic on the lineup as Sean Mintoff, Suleiman Jalu and Weverton Gomes were still recovering from injury. On the other hand, Floriana made three changes from their last match as Ulises Arias, Jan Busuttil, and Matias Garcia were preferred to Flavio Cheveresan, Nicola Leone, and Brandon Paiber.
Floriana held the edge piling pressure on the Balzan defense, particularly in the second half, but could not break the deadlock mainly due to good goalkeeping by Vukasin Vranes who saved everything thrown at him to ensure his team secured a point.
The first scoring opportunity came to Floriana when Ulises Arias sent a cross which was met by Mattias Nicolas Garcia but his effort was saved by Vukasin Vranes.
Scoring chances were few and the next opportunity arrived on the half-hour when Kristijan Keqi’s shot just missed the upright.
In the 35th minute, Balzan responded with a swift break when Steven Pisani fed Uros Ljubomirac who sent a low cross into the path of Stefan Dimic who was denied by a fine save by goalkeeper Ini Etim Akpan.
From the ensuing corner-kick, Steven Pisani dribbled past two Floriana defenders and his cross-shot was somehow kept out by Ini Etim Akpan.
Balzan insisted and three minutes before the break Uros Ljubomirac hit a firm drive that finished just over.
After the break, Floriana stepped up their pace and in the 51st minute Jan Busuttil found Kristijan Keqi in space but his effort was neutralized by Vukasin Vranes.
Five minutes later, Vukasin Vranes was again in action when he somehow blocked a shot by Ulises Arias and from the rebound, Kristian Keqi headed over from an ideal position.
Floriana’s best chance came in the 66th minute when Ulises Arias made his way through and chipped the ball over the onrushing Vukasin Vranes but Michael Johnson was on hand to clear the danger.
Vukasin Vranes was turning out to be the protagonist of the match in the 73rd minute he showed excellent reflexes to somehow keep out Thiago Fonseca’s effort from close range.
There was more frustration for Floriana as eight minutes from time substitute Siraj Arab, who had just replaced Jan Busuttil, thought that he had hammered the ball home but Vukasin Vranes pulled off another fine block.
Floriana almost snatched the point in stoppage time when Ulises Arias hit a thumping drive that came off the upright as Balzan held on for a point.
BALZAN : Vukasin Vranes, Augustine Loof, Samir Arab (89’ Neil Frendo), Paul Fenech (74’ Sean Cipriott), Eric McWoods (81’ Alfred Effiong), Steve Pisani (81’ Pedro Augusto Mota), Steve Bezzina, Michael Johnson, Uros Ljubomirac, Stefan Dimic, Moussa Kamara.
FLORIANA : Ini Etim Akpan, Enzo Ruiz, Diego Venancio, Kristian Keqi (75’ Brandon Paiber), Ulises Arias, Jurgen Pisani, Matias Nicolas Garcia, Marcelo Dias, Jan Busuttil (81’ Siraj Arab Eddin), Ryan Camenzuli, Tiago Adan Fonseca.
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann