SLIEMA WANDERERS 0
V. Vranes-6, A. Loof-5, S. Arab-6 (68 G. Camilleri), M. Grima-6, M. Djuric-7, P. Fenech-6, M. Johnson-5 (56 M. Zlatkovic-5), U. Ljubomirac-6, M. Mijic-5 (56 A. Alves-4), B. Kaljevic-5 (68 A. Andrejic), S. Cipriott-6.
T. Aquilina-6, H. Warsama-6 (72 J M Fernandes), J. Morales-6, K. Shaw-7, Y. Uchida-5.5 (82 M. Freitas), E. Agius-6, J. Engerer-6 (58 O. Elouni), G. Aquilina-7.5, M. Beerman-5.5, R. Kooh Sohna-6, D. Vukovic-6.
Referee: Daniel Portelli
Yellow cards: Vukovic, Warsama, Johnson, Kalejvic, Zlatkovic, Djuric.
BOV Player of the match: Gabriel Aquilina (Sliema Wanderers).
Milan Djuric’s last-gasp winner earned Balzan the first Premier League points of the season to break Sliema’s hearts.
The Blues failed to put a summer of turmoil behind them as they slipped to an opening defeat against Balzan.
Sliema dominated possession with substitute Omar Elouni going the closest. But it was Djuric who had the final say when grabbing a last-gasp winner for Balzan.
This time last year, Sliema were full of optimism, looking forward to the new season following the club’s forays into transfer market.
But with the cloud of last year’s financial problems and the void left by the summer departures of Jake Galea, Michele Sansone, Alex Satariano, Alessandro Milesi, Danny Holla and Ruslan Kisil amongst others, this season, survival in the Premier League seems to be the number one priority for Andrea Pisanu’s side this campaign.
On the other side, Balzan fielded a team with just three changes from their last league game in March including the return of Bojan Kaljevic and new acquisition Milos Mijic.
Not that Sliema started the match in a way that suggested the club is in disarray.
Raphael Kooh Sohna, one of four summer additions to a threadbare squad, proved to be a handful for Balzan and the Cameroonian striker narrowly hit wide early on.
And for a time, the Blues were the better side, passing the ball around neatly. Yet there was always the feeling that once Balzan settled, they would pose more of a threat
That possibility could have become a reality on 14minutes, when Milan Djuric’s swung in a free-kick which crashed against the upright.
Past the half-hour mark, shouts of penalty resonated around the stadium when Augustine Loof slid in the way of Kooh Sohna and presumably touched the striker’s foot rather than the ball but referee Daniel Portelli waved play on.
Before the break, Kurt Shaw hit a free-kick under Balzan’s jumping wall but his effort was too central to trouble Vukasin Vranes.
Shy the hour mark, Mark Miller threw on winger Alex Alves and new defender Milos Zlatkovic for Johnson and Mijic respectively.
Pisanu replied with Omar Elouni in lieu of Jake Engerer. On 68 minutes, Elouni went agonisingly close with a close-range effort that was pushed away by Vranes.
The tempo increased in the final minutes and Aquilina had to be alert after Uros Ljubomirac played in substitute Aleksa Andrejic. The Sliema keeper was quick out of his goal to block the striker’s effort.
The game looked to be fizzling out in added time until Djuric, hit an excellent shot home via the post to pinch the points in dramatic fashion.