Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Effiong hits four as Balzan have last say in gripping final
May 18, 2019
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Photos: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
Photos: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

  • Photos: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
  • Photos: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
  • Photos: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

BALZAN      4
VALLETTA   4

(AET; 90 mins – 2-2; Balzan win 5-4 on penalties)

 

An extraordinary FA Trophy final saw Balzan claim their first major honour after edging champions Valletta 5-4 on penalties at the National Stadium on Saturday.
 


Alfred Effiong stole the show after scoring four goals, putting Balzan 4-2 up in the first half of extra-time only for Valletta’s resilience to come to the fore once again. They struck twice in the closing stages through a Mario Fontanella penalty and Rowen Muscat’s looping header to send the game to penalties.

 

In the penalty shoot-out, Balzan converted their five penalties while Valletta missed one.

 

And to crown a truly memorable afternoon, it was Effiong who netted the decisive penalty for Balzan who not only won their first trophy but also secured a berth in next season’s Europa League.

 

The match was off to a frenetic start with Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello denying Ivan Bozovic and Effiong’s close-range-header.

 

It was not long before Effiong fired Balzan ahead. Uros Ljubomirac cut out Rowen Muscat’s short pass and freed Effiong who held off Steve Borg before hitting a low shot past Bonello.

 

Valletta tried to make a reaction but they took a while to find their usual rhythm. They created a good chance nine minutes from half-time when Mario Fontanella’s through-ball set up Kyrian Nwoko but the Malta forward shot against the side-netting.

 

The champions equalised five minutes from half-time. Ibrahim Saleh’s pass was not cleared and Enmy Pena Beltre flashed in from the right to fire a strong shot past Mintoff.

 

Valletta’s joy was shortlived as three minutes later, Balzan restored their lead through Effiong.

 

As the second half got underway, Valletta raised their game. Their efforts paid off after 18 minutes when Bogdan Gavrila, who had come on as a substitute, unleashed a thunderous free-kick that was repelled by Mintoff but Pena Beltre stabbed the ball into the net.

 

Five minutes from time, Argentine midfielder Santiago Malano should have won it for Valletta but fired over from an inviting position. In stoppage time, Fontanella’s pressure unsettled Aleksandar Kosoric as the Italian won possession and crossed for Nwoko but the Malta striker headed straight into the hands of Mintoff.

 

EXTRA-TIME DRAMA


Reprieved, Balzan began extra-time as the brighter side with Effiong again grabbing the headlines.

 

Steve Pisani’s free-kick dropped to Effiong who controlled the ball before rifling past Bonello to complete his hat-trick.

 

Mintoff denied Nwoko but Balzan thought they had sealed their win when Effiong struck again for his fourth goal. Ivan Bozovic made headway on the right and picked out Effiong who headed home.

 

Two goals down, Valletta refused to give up. Their recovery powers brought them back into contention as, five minutes from the end, Pena Beltre was floored inside the box and from the spot, Fontanella beat Mintoff to make the score 4-3.

 

A minute later, Valletta lost Gavrila who was shown a straight red card following an exchange with Ljubomirac.

 

Still, Valletta kept going. Two minutes from time, Rowen Muscat met Zerafa’s cross and sent a looping header into the corner of the net.

 

PENALTY SHOOT-OUT

 

Penalties were needed to decide this gripping final.

 

The Balzan players kept their nerve as Kosoric, Sljivic, Ljubomirac, Majdevac and Effiong scored from the spot.

 

Malano, Fontanella, Jean Borg and Muscat hit the target for Valletta but Mintoff stopped Pulis’s penalty to tilt the balance Balzan’s way.

 

BALZAN 
Sean Mintoff, Aleksandar Kosoric, Nenad Sljivic, Steve Pisani (103 Sean Cipriott), Steve Bezzina (77 Andrija Majdevac), Paul Fenech, Alfred Effiong, Uros Ljubomirac, Ivan Bozovic, Carlos Eduardo de Fiori Mendes (34 Dale Camilleri, 105 Justin Grioli), Ricardo Correa Duarte.

 

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

 

Referee: Mario Apap.

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