Saturday 2nd April 2017: Hibernians showed all their intent yesterday as they beat direct challengers Balzan for the first time this season to consolidate their primacy in a crucial period and preserve a degree of intrigue in the title chase.

Kampjonat Premier: Hibernians Fc​ 3-1 Balzan F.C.​

Kampjonat Premier: Hibernians Fc 3-1 Balzan F.C.

Posted by L-ARGUMENT on Sunday, April 2, 2017

Balzan, untouchable for so long at the top and a side that had won 16 games already, with the best attack in the BOV Premier League, succumbed to their second consecutive defeat and, stay further adrift of the leaders.

Hibernians were much the sharper side. Always on the front foot, they exploited time and space on the ball, scoring three times to keep firmly in control.

It proved to be a highly disappointing afternoon for Balzan, who started the match against the leaders with high hopes. They still looked good for their first half 1-1 draw, after falling behind, but their threat and concentration deteriorated after the interval as Hibernians delivered a lesson in ruthlessness.

The teams had the usual look about them in the starting line-ups. Balzan’s offensive plan had Alan Souza and Matteo Piciollo playing wide on the flanks. Alfred Effiong started in a central role behind their most advanced man Bojan Kaljevic. Paul and Ryan Fenech provided a barrier in front of the back four, composed of central defenders Bruno De Oliveira and Elkin Serrano, with Steve Bezzina and Dylan Grima the wide backs. Balzan had midfielder De Barros suspended.

Jorginho, Gilmar Ribeiro and Jurgen Degabriele formed Hibernians’ attacking trident, with Jackson Lima and Bjorn Kristensen providing the central midfield partnership. Rodolfo Soares, Andrei Agius and Dejan Boljevic made up the Paolites’ three-man defence, with Marcelo Dias and Clayton Failla their wing backs on the right and left respectively.

Balzan were the ones to carry the first threat after six minutes. Alan Da Silva Souza broke from midfield and played the ball wide to Bojan Kaljevic who promptly shot from some distance, only missing the target by a few inches.

Hibernians’ response came four minutes later. A Gilmar Ribeiro inswinging free kick from the left was fisted out by the Balzan keeper Ivan Janjusevic. Then, Clayton Failla ran in from the blind side to connect to Marcelo Dias’ run and cross from the right but Dylan Grima was quick to block.

Dylan Grima was at pains to deal with Hibernians’ insidious attacking play on the flank and, when caught between Gilmar Ribeiro Da Silva and Clayton Failla on a Jackson De Lima Siqueira cross from the right, the ball bounced invitingly for CLAYTON FAILLA to finish in past the helpless keeper Ivan Janjusevic and put the leaders in front after 35 minutes.

Suitably stung, Balzan looked like spiritless.

Four minutes later, Jurgen Degabriele found space inside the Balzan area but was blocked by Bruno Gilio De Oliveira into a corner at the point of shooting.

Balzan’s competitive qualities earned them an equaliser on the stroke of halftime though. When Hibernians failed to clear their lines, following a Ryan Fenech corner from the left, ALFRED EFFIONG, standing at the far post, headed in from close range.

Rodolfo Soares could not make the second half for Hibernians after some thigh problem when colliding with the Balzan goalkeeper in the first half. Johann Bezzina was introduced in midfield, with Jackson Lima retreating further in defence.

Balzan were again on the backfoot after hardly ten minutes of the resumption. Jurgen Degabriele, standing on the edge of the Balzan area, rolled the ball square to the unmarked JOHANN BEZZINA who shot low past the outstretched keeper Ivan Janjusevic.

The game hurtled from one end to the other, but with less intensity, as Balzan probed for an equaliser but stayed cautious not to expose themselves at the back.

On the hour Matteo Piciollo chested Alfred Effiong’s cross but shot over.

On 74 minutes Balzan had strong claims for a penalty turned down by the referee as Paul Fenech fell when he came into contact with keeper Andrew Hogg inside the eight-yard box.

And hardly a minute later, Balzan were undone by another outbreak of sloppiness. JORGE DA SILVA PEREIRA took the ball in his stride from 25 metres out, avoided Elkin Serrano and scored with a defiant strike to secure the points for the Paolites.

It was a deflating moment for Balzan, who vented their frustration when Ivan Janjusevic was shown a red card for arguing with the referee after the final whistle.