Sunday 8th January 2017: Balzan had to struggle to beat Gzira, as they defended well for most of the game. They even scored an equaliser briefly after falling behind, towards the end of the first half. However, seven minutes from the end, Balzan’s sealed the victory from a well executed free kick.

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Balzan had four changes from the team which defeated Hibernians as Ivan Janjusevic and the suspended Elkin Serrano, Alfred Effiong and Bojan Kaljevic where replaced by Christian Cassar, Justin Grioli, Samir Arab and Alan Da Silva Souza. On the other hand new signings Ige Abdullahi Adeshina, Louis Rene Zome, and Ian Azzopardi were all included in the starting line-up, while Emerson Amaira was included as a substitute.

Although Balzan dominated possession they created very little up in front, as Gzira opted to stay composed in defence and hit on the counterattacks, with long balls.

On the half hour goalkeeper Mauro Boerchio denied Balzan’s first goal scoring opportunity for from a direct free-kick taken by Ryan Fenech.

On the 40th minute Gzira responded when a shot by Moises Avila Perez finished way off target.

A minute later, Balzan broke the deadlock. Matteo Piciollo in a solo effort, chased a long ball from the left, dribbled past Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, advanced inside the area and managed to beat goalkeeper Mauro Boerchio from an acute angle.

But Balzan’s lead lasted less than four minutes as Riccardo Calixto Correa Duarte picked well a Juan Corbalan’s pass before beating goalkeeper Christian Cassar, with a powerful shot from inside the area.

At halftime, Balzan replaced Justin Grioli with Lydon Micallef to increase the much needed effort up in front. They pressed their opponents forcing Gzira to retreat in defence.

In the 49th minute, Balzan failed to capitalise as Nafti’s curling shot from a free kick finished well over the bar.

Gzira went close when, in the 53rd minute, when a header by Souleymane Diamoutene was cleard off the line by Paul Fenech and a minute later a shot by Ige Abdullahi Adeshina finished over the crossbar.

In the 63rd minute, goalkeeper Mauro Boerchino save well over a low drive by Matteo Picciollo.

Gzira had another glimpse at goal on the 77 minute. Following a Louis Rene Zome’s cross, Ian Azzopardi connected but his shot was blocked by Dylan Grima.

With the match heading towards a draw, on Balzan sealed victory when they awarded a free kick from just outside the area. The free-kick was well taken by Alan Da Silva Souza which goalkeeper Mauro Boerchino partially saved. The rebound fell into Matteo Piciollo’s path tapping the loose home from close range.

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