V. Vukasin-8, A. Loof-6, S. Arab-6 (89 N. Frendo), P. Fenech-6 (73 S. Cipriott), E. McWoods-5 (80 A. Effiong), S. Pisani-6.5 (80 P. Mota), S. Bezzina-6, M. Johnson-6.5, U. Ljubomirac-6, S. Dimic-6, M. Kamara-5.
I. Akpan-6.5, E. Ruiz-6, D. Venancio-6.5, K. Keqi-5 (75 B. Paiber), U. Arias-7, J. Pisani-6, M. Garcia-6, M. Dias-6, J. Busuttil-6 (81 S. Arab), R. Camenzuli-6, T. Fonseca-6.
Referee Trustin Farrugia Cann.
Yellow cards Fenech, Arias, Pisani, Arab.
BOV Player of the match Diego Venancio (Floriana).
Champions Floriana lost precious ground on the Premier League front-runners as they could not go beyond a goalless against Balzan at the Centenary Stadium.
The Greens had piled on the pressure on the Balzan defence, particularly in the second half, but could not find a much-needed breakthrough due mainly to goalkeeping heroics of Serbian Vukasin Vranes who kept out everything thrown at him to ensure his team secured a point.
The final stalemate left Floriana sixth with 13 points three ahead of Balzan.
Floriana coach Vincenzo Potenza made three changes from the team that beat Gudja United last month as Ulises Arias, Jan Busuttil and Matias Garcia were handed a starting berth at the expense of Brandon Paiber, Flavio Cheveresan and Nicola Leone.
On the other hand, Mark Miller, the Balzan coach, handed a starting berth to Steve Bezzina and Stefan Dimic as Suleiman Jalu and Weverton Gomes were not part of their squad.
The first half had two facets with FLoriana holding the edge for the first part.
In fact, they created the first scoring opportunity when Mattias Garcia met Arias’ cross but his effort was saved by Vukasin Vranes.
Scoring chances remained few and far between and the next opportunity arrived on the half hour mark when Kristijan Keqi’s shot just missed the upright.
Balzan finally came to life on 35 when in a swift break Steve Pisani fed Uros Ljubomirac who sent a low cross into the path of Dimic who was denied by a fine stop from Ini Akpan.
From the ensuing flag-kick, Pisani sped past two Floriana defenders and his cross-shot was somehow kept out by Akpan.
Balzan were now in ascendancy and three minutes before the break Ljubomirac hit a firm drive that finished just over.
Floriana stepped up their ante after the break and on 51 minutes Busuttil found Keqi in space but the Albanian forward was denied by Vranes.
Five minutes later, the Balzan no.1 was at it again when he somehow kept out Arias’ shot and from the rebound Keqi headed over in front of a gaping goal.
Floriana’s best chance came on 66 minutes when Arias broke through and chipped the ball over the onrushing Vranes but Michael Johnson was on hand to clear the danger.
The Serbian goalkeeper was turning out to be the protagonist of the match and on 73 minutes again denied the Greens when he showed excellent reflexes to somehow keep out Thiago Fonseca’s effort from close in.
There was more frustration for Floriana as eight minutes from time substitute Siraj Arab, who had just replaced Busuttil, thought that he had hammered the ball home but Vranes pulled off another fine block.
Floriana almost snatched the point in stoppage time when Arias hit a thumping drive that came off the upright as Balzan held on for a point.