Falcone 2; Macedo 45
V. Vranes-6, A. Loof-6, S. Arab-5.5 (84 N. Frendo), M. Duric-7, P. Fenech-6, A. Alves-6, M. Johnson-6.5, U. Ljubomirac-6.5, M. Mijic-7 (79 G. Camilleri), A. Andrejic-6 (70 B. Kaljevic-5), S. Cipriott-6 (79 M. Grima).
D. Fernandes-6, E. Ruiz-6, Y. Yankam-5.5, L. Montebello-6, P. Mbong-6 (63 L. Aguirre), K. Zammit-6, F. Falcone-6.5, C. Attard-6.5, O. Carniello-6, J. Macedo-7 (82 K. Bevis), D. Venancio (25 R. Scicluna-5.5).
Referee: Philip Farrugia.
Yellow cards: Ruiz, Cipriott, Scicluna, Arab, Duric.
BOV Player of the match: Milos Mijic (Balzan)
Early days these may be, but Birkirkara delivered a powerful statement of intent yesterday when they won their third straight match from the start of a season for the first time under the helm of André Paus.
The Stripes, who misfired the start of the campaign in each of the past three editions, this year, were off to a blistering start to the season as they are currently sharing the top spot with Hibernians on a maximum nine points.
Federico Falcone took just 92 seconds to break the deadlock. In a game of countless chances, that early goal set the tone for an entertaining encounter.
Birkirkara got off to the best possible start. Diego Venancio was the provider as he found Luke Montebello on the flank. The stocky striker went clear down the left and put in a perfectly weighted pass for Falcone, who calmly slid a shot behind Vukasin Vranes.
Having taken the lead, the Stripes looked to build on their early advantage and proceeded to dominate the opening exchanges.
Montebello’s pace proved a constant threat as Balzan struggled to regain their composure.
Venancio was at the centre of much of Birkirkara’s attacking play and after 10 minutes he curled in a shot from free-kick that looked heading for the top corner but finished on the side-netting.
From the ensuing corner, Oscar Carniello’s header was cleared off the line by Michael Johnson.
After that bright start, Birkirkara seemed to take their foot off the gas and Balzan enjoyed far greater possession.
Venancio limped off with a possible thigh strain and was substituted by Ryan Scicluna, who before the match was presented with a commemorative jersey on the occasion of his 200th league appearance in a Birkirkara shirt.
Uros Ljubomirac’s surging run after 28 minutes took him past three defenders, but his unconvincing shot was beaten away by Daniel Fernandes.
This move galvanised Balzan as they equalised on 39 minutes. Milan Duric squared the ball for Milos Mijic who killed it with his first touch and sent it high beyond Fernandes with his second. Simple but sublime.
The equaliser lasted only six minutes as Birkirkara restored their lead after hesitancy in the Balzan defence had put Paul Mbong through, Jefereson Macedo ghosted past his marker and buried the Malta striker’s teasing cross past Vranes.
After the break, Balzan were still dangerous and Fernandes needed to be alert to block Sean Cipriott’s drive from free-kick.
Ljubomirac was a huge influence in midfield as usual and on 63 minutes he found Duric whose header flashed past the far post.
Three minutes from time, Duric’s low drive looked destined for the bottom corner but his effort finished agonisingly wide.
Balzan could claim that the result was somewhat harsh on them but Birkirkara looked organised and struck when it mattered most.