This was an important match for both sides, but they both fielded a depleted formation.

Missing from the starting line up Balzan had injured Carlos De Fiori Mendes while Lydon Micallef, Andrija Majdevac and Justin Grioli started on the substitutes’ bench. On the other hand, Valletta had four regular players missing from the starting lineup – the suspended Bojan Kaljevic and the injured Matteo Piciollo while Miguel Alba and Steve Borg started on the substitutes’ bench.

Valletta must consider themselves quite lucky to have won the three points as they were disappointing in all aspects and also because Balzan missed at least two good chances to increase their lead before their deadly final 10 minutes.

The first half was balanced with perhaps Valletta enjoying slightly more possession at the beginning but Balzan never gave away an inch at the back, so much so that goalkeeper Steven Sultana was never really tested. On their part, Balzan launched several counter-attacks and they were more dangerous in their conclusions, as Henry Bonello twice had to thwart them, apart from scoring the only goal at that point in time.

On the 8th minute, Balzan created a good opportunity when Alfred Effiong set Ricardo Correa in the Valletta area, but Henry Bonello’s providential interception avoided an awkward situation for Valletta.

Valletta replied on the 14th minute when a corner taken by Raed Ibrahim Saleh was deviated by a Balzan defender.

At the other end, six minutes later, Henry Bonello was forced to stretch himself to save a dangerous direct free-kick taken from the left by Ricardo Correa.

Balzan took the lead in the 29th minute. Following a free-kick taken by Steven Pisani, Ivan Bozovic headed the ball down to unmarked ELKIN ORLANDO SERRANO VALERO who’s shot was deviated by Jonathan Caruana, hitting the under-part of the crossbar with the ball finishing behind the goal line.

The Valletta players were stunned and they only replied in the 44th minute through a feeble shot by Kyrian Nwoko which finished over the bar.

On the restart, Balzan looked in control with Valletta still failing to deliver up front with Steven Sultana, in the Balzan goal, remaining almost inactive.

On the hour, Balzan went close to adding a second goal when Steven Pisani forced Henry Bonello into a diving save with a shot from the edge of the area.

Four minutes later, following a cross from Miguel Angel Alba, Santiago Malano saw his header finishing over the bar.

Balzan had another good chance to increase their lead on the 67th minute when Paul Fenech sent a perfect ball for Uros Ljubomirac, but the latter’s effort was deviated into a corner by a Valletta defender.

At the other end in the 74th minute, following a cross by Steve Borg, Bogdan Gavrila sent his header well wide of the Balzan post.

However, in the 80th minute, Valletta equalised in a most dramatic and lucky way. Balzan goalkeeper Steven Sultana rushed out of his charge to clear the ball but he was unlucky as the ball hit the back of MARIO FONTANELLA and finished in the net.

Valletta now opened an assault on the Balzan goal in an effort to win the three points and on the 86th minute following a corner kick taken by Miguel Alba was missed by the defenders before going to JONATHAN CARUANA who found the net with an unstoppable hard low shot.

BALZAN : Steve Sultana, Aleksandar Kosoric, Nenad Sljivic (Lydon Micallef 89′), Steve Pisani, Steve Bezzina, Paul Fenech, Alfred Effiong (Andrija Majdevac 66′), Uros Ljubomirac, Ivan Bozovic, Elkin Serrano Valero, Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte.

VALLETTA : Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Ryan Camilleri (Steve Borg 32′), Santiago Malano, Kyrian Nwoko, Enmy Pena Beltre (Miguel Angel Alba 44′), Joseph Zerafa, Raed Ibrahim Saleh, Rowen Muscat (Nicholas Pulis 89′), Bogdan Gavrila, Mario Fontanella. 

Referee: Alan Mario Sant

BOV Player of the Match: Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte