Effiong hands Balzan their first ever trophy

Alfred Effiong scored four times inside the match as well as a decisive penalty during the penalty shoot-out to hand Balzan the FA Trophy following a 4-4 draw.

Photo: Christine Borg
Photo: Christine Borg

Valletta and Balzan started the match looking to lift the second most prestigious award in Maltese football.

For Valletta, a win would mean securing their second consecutive double as they already retained the BOV Premier League.

On the other end, Balzan experienced a disappointing season. However, a win in this match meant a place in the Europa League as well as their first ever honour of the season.

To make it to the final, Valletta eliminated Gzira United during the semi-final. Meanwhile, Balzan won against Birkirkara.

Balzan created the first opportunity of the match after less than a minute. Ivan Bozovic drilled a powerful shot from distance that was parried by Henry Bonello.

Bonello had to be on the alert again to keep Valletta level seconds later since from the resulting corner, Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte’s delivery went into the path of Effiong whose header forced an excellent save from Valletta’s custodian.

Balzan’s early efforts paid off on the 8th minute. Following a horrific mistake by Rowen Muscat at the centre of the pitch, Effiong ran forward before placing the ball past Bonello.

Jacques Scerri was forced to make an early substitution on the 33rd minute. Carlos Fiori Mendes suffered an injury and had to be replaced by Dale Camilleri.

Valletta hit back on the 37th minute. Enmy Pena Beltre served Kyrian Nwoko and the latter fired a powerful shot that hit the side netting.

This was the prelude for the goal as Valletta equalised three minutes later. This time it was Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte’s turn to commit a fatal mistake. The Uruguayan’s control of the ball inside the penalty area left much to be desire. Pena Beltre took hold of possession and smashed a powerful shot from inside the penalty area that gave Sean Mintoff no chance.

Balzan regained their lead on the 43rd through a very controversial decision. Steven Pisani hit a shot that took a deflection off Steve Borg and went into the path of Effiong who was in a clear offside position. The assistant referee raised his flag for an offside. However, the referee judged the deflection to be a back pass and decided to signal a goal to the disbelief of Valletta’s players and technical staff who protested harshly.

 As expected, Valletta started the second half on the attack and went close immediately. Bojan Kaljevic played Mario Fontanella through on the left side, but the forward found Mintoff in his way.

Balzan replied on the 55th minute. Pisani fired a strong shot that was blocked by Bonello. The rebound fell for Uros Ljubomirac whose effort failed to hit the target.

Valletta lost a great chance seconds later. Kaljevic received the ball from Fontanella, but finished off target from an ideal position.

Balzan threw their lead away once more on the 72nd minute. Bogdan Gavrila’s shot from a free-kick was not neutralised by Mintoff. Pena Beltre was at the right place at the right moment again and finished inside the net.

On the 86th minute, Santago Malano of Valletta tried his luck from distance, but his effort went over.

Five minutes later, Nwoko received a cross from the right and sent a header that was neutralised by Mintoff.

On the other end of the pitch, Effiong managed to fire a low shot that was saved by Bonello.

This was the last chance created during the regular time as the match went into extra time.

Effiong completed his hat-trick five minutes into the second half. Valletta’s defence failed to clear Pisani’s delivery from a free-kick. The ball fell for the Maltese striker who finished home.

Valletta responded four minutes later. Nwoko’s shot was neutralised by Mintoff.

Effiong scored his fourth goal on the 105th minute. Ivan Bozovic delivered a cross towards the forward who headed past Bonello.

A minute later, Mintoff produced great reflexes to deny Nwoko from close range.

Fontanella pulled one back for Valletta on the 115th minute. Correa Duarte fouled Pena Beltre inside the penalty area and the referee pointed towards the spot. The Italian stepped up and converted.

However, Valletta ended up in ten men just three minutes later. Gavrila committed a violent conduct on Sean Cipriott and left the referee with no other option but to send him off.

The red card didn’t demoralise Valletta as they equalised on the 119th minute. Joseph Zerafa’s long ball found Rowen Muscat whose splendid header hit the upright before ending up inside the net.

Both sides didn’t have time to react as the match went into penalties.

Balzan emerged victorious following the shoot-out.

Aleksandar Kosoric, Nenad Sljivic, Ljubomirac, Andrija Majdevac and Effiong scored their penalties for Balzan.

Malano, Fontanella, Jean Borg and Muscat scored for Valletta. However, Nicholas Pulis saw his effort from the penalty spot being saved by Mintoff.

Following this result, Balzan win their first ever honour and also clinch their space in the preliminary round of the Europa League.

Such result also means that Hamrun will not participate in the Europa League despite finishing fourth in the BOV Premier League as Balzan took their place.

Balzan starting line-up: Sean Mintoff, Aleksandar Kosoric, Nenad Sljivic, Steven Pisani (Sean Cipriott-103), Steven Bezzina (Andrija Majdevac-77), Paul Fenech, Alfred Effiong, Uros Ljubomirac, Ivan Bozovic, Carlos Fiori Mendes (Dale Camilleri- 33 (Justin Grioli-105), Ricardo Calixto Correa Duarte

Valletta starting line-up: Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Borg (Joseph Zerafa-72), Santiago Malano, Kyrian Nwoko, Jean Borg, Enmy Pena Beltre (Shaun Dimech-120), Ibrahim Raed Saleh (Nicholas Pulis- 81), Rowen Muscat, Bojan Kaljevic (Bogdan Gavrila- 63), Mario Fontanella

Referee: Mario Apap

Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Paul Apap

Fourth Official: Eman Grech

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