Balzan FC president Anton Tagliaferro praised his team’s resilience and determination after their eye-catching 1-0 win over Ħamrun Spartans at the National Stadium on Sunday.
A Milan Duric goal midway through the first half was enough for Balzan to have the better of the out-of-sorts Malta champions that lifted them to fifth place in the Premier League standings on six points.
“I am very pleased with the effort of my players,” said Tagliaferro.
“It was a very good performance. The league this year is very balanced and the majority of the matches are decided by one goal as the level is competition is far higher than previous years.
“The players have shown a lot of discipline against a very good team. All the players in the squad played their part, even the
substitutes when they came on they put in a great shift. In a few words, it was a fantastic team performance.
“But not let’s get carried away. There are still a lot of matches to play so we just have to see what happens.”
Balzan were undoubtedly the better side on the day against the far more-quoted Spartans and their superiority was mirrored by the fact that Ħamrun didn’t manage a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.
Instead, it was Balzan who had the chances to kill off the match with Bojan Kaljevic missing a penalty midway through the second half while Alex Da Paixao had at least three opportunities to clinch a second goal.
But Tagliaferro played down his team’s profligacy in front of goal.
“Having a 2-0 lead is no guarantee of winning matches in the Maltese Premier League,” a smiling Tagliaferro said.
“Tactically, the team played very well and we were very dangerous with our counter-attacks, pity we didn’t take our chances. But what matters most is that we took all three points home. Last week, we also played a very good match against Birkirkara but it didn’t go our way so, in the end, it’s the results that matter most.”
In the close season, Balzan made very little changes from the team of last season with the most notable additions being Kaljevic and Da Paixao who returned to the club, and the arrival of Milos Mijic.
Top six goal
Tagliaferro said that their main goal is inevitably that to make the Championship Pool but he believes that these are still early days.
“We want to finish in the top six, but the problem is that even the other 11 teams want that so competition will be tough,” Tagliaferro said.
“But if we do manage to finish in the top six, then the goal will be to finish as high as possible.”
The Balzan president said that having the Premier League formed by only 12 teams has been a huge blessing as the level of football in the top flight has improved significantly and he added the success achieved by the national team has also played a part in seeing more competitive football.
“There is no question that the standard of football in the Premier League has risen substantially this year and that owes much to having 12 teams instead of 14 this year,” Tagliaferro said.
“Added to that, the fact that the national team has been doing so well in the last few months has given the local league a huge boost. Devis Mangia should be congratulated for the results the team achieved, particularly for the job he is doing with the players.
“After many years, young players are now aspiring to form part of the national team and they have a lot of motivation to work harder to try and earn a place in the team.
“In the last few years, I have been putting a lot of money into the club and I’m pleased to finally see young players like Marcus Grima, Gary Camilleri, and Sean Cipriott among others who are blossoming in such a tough championship.
“Players today are motivated to succeed as they have the ambition to form part of what has become a successful national team and that is surely boosting Maltese football development.”