The Malta Independent 19 May 2022, Thursday

Premier League: Two penalties save ten-man Spartans

Chris Cassar Sunday, 23 January 2022, 06:53 Last update: about 5 months ago

Two late penalties, the second one in stoppage time gave champions Hamrun Spartans a dramatic equaliser against Balzan in a highly interesting and entertaining draw. Balzan took a two-goal lead by the end of the first half with a Bojan Kaljevic brace, but the Spartans never gave in and managed to score two penalties to earn a precious point.

For Balzan this was the second disappointment in the sapce of four days, after seeing their two-goal advantage completely wiped out against Birkirkara. Coach Paul Zammit, who was presented with the coach of the month award before the match, has some homework to do after yet another good performance, but with a dismal end.

For the Spartans some good news, mainly the return of Ailton Soares, but Steve Borg’s debut with the champions was short, too short, as he was sent off after only five minutes on the field of play.

Hamrun did all the early running with Balzan goalkeeper Jake Galea kept on the alert with efforts from El Bakhtaoui, Luke Gambin, and a header from Balzan defender Loof who almost committed an own goal.

Balzan broke the deadlock on 29 minutes when Andrejic robbed Micallef of the ball and passed towards the unmarked Bojan Kaljevic who kept his cool in front of Bonello to hit home. El Bakhtaoui had an effort going over the bar and five minutes from the break Bojan Kaljevic obtained his brace when Uros Ljubomirac did the running on the right before serving Kaljevic who again gave Bonello no chance.

In the second half Ljubomirac should have done better after another powerful run, and on 63 minutes the Spartans were handed a lifeline when El Bakhtaoui was floored inside the area with the same El Bakhtaoui scoring from the penalty spot.

Ħamrun now grew in confidence as Balzan defended their precious slender lead and on 74 minutes a Guillaumier effort was well saved by Galea. Sixty seconds later Hamrun were down to ten when substitute Steve Borg, just five minutes after getting on the field of play, was shown a straight red for a nasty tackle on Andrejic.

In stoppage time Hamrun won the second penalty of the match when Gary Camilleri floored Soares and for the second time in the match El Bakhtaoui scored from the penalty spot to keep the Spartans hoping for the title.

Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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