The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

UEFA Europa League: Balzan go down fighting in entertaining match

Chris Cassar Thursday, 11 July 2019, 22:45 Last update: about 10 days ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Balzan                 3

NK Domzale        4

Balzan: K. Naumovski, I. Bozovic, S. Bezzina, N. Sljivic, A. Kosoric, P. Fenech, S. Pisani, U. Ljubomorac (A. Majdevac 82'), R. Correa (L.Micallef 86'), S. Dimic. A. Effiong (Arthur 69')

Domzale: G. Sorcan, J. Corluka, G. Sikosek, G. Dobrovoljc, T. Klemencic, A. Vetrih, A. Gnezda, S. Ibricic, M. Podlogar (Z. Repas 74'), T. Mujan (M. Kaeit 64'), S. Vuk (D. Kolobaric 83')

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Scorers: S.Ibricic - pen. 5' (D), R. Correa 34' (B), U. Ljubomirac 38' (B), S. Vuk 48' (D), A. Effiong 55' (B), G. Sikosek 61' (D). M. Podlogar 75' (D)

Yellow cards: I. Bozovic 4' (B), G. Dobrovoljc 44' (D), N. Sljivic 63' (B). S. Bezzina 69' (B)

Referee: A. Matyunin (Russja)

Ass. Referees: R. Usachev, A. Shiryaev

The scorching heat at the Centenary Stadium did not hinder Balzan and NK Domzale from producing an exciting 90 minutes yesterday, with the Slovenians finally emerging winners 4-3, a result which practically gives them the qualification for the next round.

However Balzan must be praised for a spirited display against better opposition, twice taking the lead, but then gradually fading out in the last half an hour of the match. It must be said that Balzan's new signing from Birkirkara, goalkeeper Naumovski was outstanding with some great saves that kept his side in the reckoning.

Domzale took an early lead through a rather soft penalty, and dominated the first thirty minutes of the match with Naumovski saving everything that came his way. But Balzan sparng to life around the 30th minute, hitting the post and scoring two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead by half time.

On the resumption Domzale surged forward and obtained an early equaliser, only for Effiong to put back his side in front minutes later. From then onwards it was Domzale all the way as they attacked in full force with Balzan on the defensive.

Domzale scored the goals that mattered to regain the lead by the 75th minute. Balzan were now a spent lot as they had already gave their all and Domzale controlled the last minutes to take home an important and almost decisive result.

After only three minutes play Domzale were awarded a penalty for an apparent pushing inside the area following an Ibricic corner, and from the penalty spot the same Ibricic sent Naumovski the wrong way.

This was surely not what coach Jacques Scerri had hoped for a start on his European debut. Balzan were in apparent difficulty with Naumovski making a string of saves to keep Domzale at bay. But after this difficult start Balzan started to play better and on the half hour were unlucky when an Effiong header hit the base of the upright.

On 34 minutes Balzan drew level with Correa scoring a great goal with a shot from the edge of the area after being served by Effiong. It was now Domzale's turn to be in difficulty as Balzan took the lead four minutes later when Ljubomirac was put through by Effiong and he calmly slotted home past Sorcan.

Just before the break Podlogar headed over the bar from an ideal position and Naumovski made a daring save off a point blank shot from the same Podlogar.

On the resumption Domzale pushed forward and drew level on 49 minutes when Vuk headed home from close range a Mujan cross from the right. Two minutes later Naumovski again came to Balzan's rescue stopping Vuk's dangerous shot.

At the other end Balzan missed a sitter when Dimic hesitated in front of goal following a goalkeeper blunder, but the same Sorcan recovered to block Dimic's feeble effort. But on 56 minutes Balzan were again in front when Effiong was put through by Fenech and the Malta striker made no mistake with a low drive.

Balzan's joy was short lived as five minutes later Sikosek resolved a melee in front of Naumovski by firing home in the top corner. This was practically the end of Balzan's hopes as Domzale continued to pile pressure with Balzan slowly tiring out.

Fifteen minutes from time Domzale sealed the issue when Podlogar beat Naumovski for the second time to give his side a strong advantage for the return leg in Slovenia.

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