The Malta Independent 21 July 2018, Saturday

UEFA Europa League: Polished Balzan build solid first leg lead

Thursday, 12 July 2018, 23:17 Last update: about 8 days ago
Photos: Domenic Aquilina
Photos: Domenic Aquilina

Balzan            4
FK Kesla         1

Balzan: S. Sultana, N. Slivic (R. Correa Duarte 85 min), Lecao, S. Bezzina, M. Johnson, A. Effiong (U. Ljubomirac 62 min), I. Bozovic, E. Serrano, Cadu, B. Kaljevic (A. Majdevac 78 min), M. Lepovic.

FK Kesla: K. Agayev, S. Tashgin (H.C. Tchami Ngangoue 84 min), D. Silva, S. Alkhasov, V. Javadov (M. Guliyev 63 min), C. Meza Colli, A. Clennon, A. Salahli, F. Bayramov (M. Bosancic 60  min), T. Guliyev, E. Sohna.

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Scorers: A. Effiong 12 min, Lecao 21 min, C. Meza Colli 28 min pen, B. Kaljevic 33 min, Cadu 55 min,

Referee: Volen Chinkov (Bulgaria)

Ass.referees: G. Doynov, D. Sokolov (Bulgaria)

Fourth official: D. Draganov (Bulgaria)

Yellow cards: F. Bayramov,  M. Lepovic, Cadu, E. Sohna

Attendance: 504

Balzan made a bold step forward towards their first-ever qualification in a European competition when yesterday they easily disposed of Azerbaijan's Kesla in the first leg of the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.

The victory and the result were more than deserved for the locals who really impressed in the way they penetrated Kesla's defence. All four goals scored were well taken goals, following some dazzling and spectacular moves.

The result should prove to be sufficient for Balzan to reach their goal, and the fluent way and relative ease with which they perforated the opposing defence should be a guarantee to see them through.

Coach Marko Micovic has now built a solid side which was a delight to watch at times. Cadu was impressive with his neat touches, but other players, like the ever present Lecao, gave a very good account of themselves.

After a timid start Balzan went close on seven minutes with a swift move with between Bozovic and Kaljevic who passed towards Lecao, whose shot went inches wide.

Five minutes later Balzan were in front with a well-executed move started by Cadu whose inch-perfect cross, after a Kaljevic body feint, was met by Effiong who drilled the ball home.

A defensive distraction four minutes later almost gave Kesla the equaliser but Sultana somehow managed to block Clennon's shot from close range. On 21 minutes Balzan doubled the score with another great goal. Lepovic passed towards Cadu who back-heeled towards the unmarked Lecao who fired home from close range, for a great goal.

On 28 minutes Kesla were awarded a penalty for a Lecao handling infringement off an Alkhasov cross, and from the penalty spot Cesar Meza Colli made no mistake.

Five minutes later Balzan re-established their two-goal lead when Bojan Kaljevic shot home from a Cadu well taken corner. Balzan were always menacing in their attacks and Lepovic had two attempts in the final minutes of the first half.

Kesla started on the offensive in the second half and almost reduced the arrears inside the first minute but Alkhasov's shot just missed the upright with Sultana helpless.

On 55 minutes Balzan scored a fourth goal when Cadu, undoubtedly one of the best players on the field of play, was given the liberty to advance and beat Agayev with a grounder from well outside the area.

Balzan's moves were brilliant to say the least and substitute Ljubomirac missed a sitter after another breath taking move between Cadu and Kaljevic. Sultana saved a long distance effort from Guliyev, as Balzan controlled the match.

Kesla increased the pressure and had a goal disallowed for an offside position.  However in the remaining minutes, Balzan were never in danger and could have added a fifth in the final minutes, as they now look forward to the second leg, with very good hopes of finally making it to the next round.

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