Domoraud 31, Grech 46
BALZAN: J. Galea-5, A. Loof-6.5, M. Duric-6 (82 P. Mota), P. Fenech-, A. Alves-6 (69 B. Kaljevic), U. Ljubomirac-6, M. Zlatkovic-5, G. Camilleri-5 (90 G. Farrugia), M. Mijic-5, A. Andrejic-6, S. Cipriott-5.
HIBERNIANS: I. Kone-6, F. Apap-6, M. Ellul-6 (74 Z.Grech), J. Grech-6, J. Degabriele-6 (87 A. Attard), B. Kristensen-6.5, D. Vella-6, Thaylor-6.5 (64 E. Beu), A. Agius-5, G. Artiles-5.5, W. Domoraud-6.5.
Referee: Glen Tonna
Yellow card: Agius, Degabriele, Kone,
BOV Player of the match: Jake Grech (Hibernians)
Jake Grech’s seventh goal of the season consigned Paul Zammit to his first defeat as Balzan coach and extended Hibernians’ lead at the top to five points.
Zammit’s team will feel that the result flattered the Paolites with the biggest sense of injustice belonging to Alex Alves. The Brazilian had an effort cleared off the line, but television replays showed that the ball had crossed the goal-line.
Although the leaders rode their luck in the first period, Balzan did not build on their first-half performance and produced a flat reaction after Grech restored the Paolites’ lead early in the second half.
Hibernians went into the match without Leandro Almeida suspended and Raphael Dos Anjos injures, with 19-year-old defender Matthew Ellul starting alongside Andrei Agius and Fernando Apap in Hibernians’ three-man defence. Dunstan Vella roped in midfield after his good display against Hamrun Spartans last week.
Paul Fenech filled the void left by the absence of Marcus Grima in the only change made by Balzan from the 6-1 drubbing of Sirens.
Early on, Balzan enjoyed a purple patch of play and were unlucky not to score. Some industrious work from Alex Alves on the left flank created space for Paul Fenech whose subsequent powerful shot was blocked by Ibrahim Kone.
From the ensuing corner, Agius did well to clear Alves’s effort off the line. But television replays clearly showed that his shot had crossed the line. Uros Ljubomirac positioned in front of Hibs’ goal was flabbergasted that the ‘goal’ was not awarded.
Rubbing salt into Balzan’s wounds, past the half-hour mark, Hibernians opened the scoring albeit in controversial circumstances.
Thaylor flicked the ball into the path of Wilfred Domoraud, the French striker in a bid to anticipate Milos Zlatkovic, accidentally hit the defender in the face before reacting quickly to drill the ball past Jake Galea.
But Balzan refused to cave in and restored parity through the irrepressible Fenech. Ljubomirac drilled a menacing cross into the box and Fenech slipped past Agius to prod the ball home.
Yet, Hibernians were quickly out of the blocks for the second half in search of a second goal and got their rewards immediately thanks again to Thaylor.
The Angolan winger instigated a neat move on the right flank which saw Jurgen Degabriele leaving it for Jake Grech whose first-time shot nestled into the back of the net.
As a reaction, Balzan forced a number of flag-kicks but they rarely threatened the opposition goal.
Their inability to force an opening prompted Paul Zammit to swap Alves for Bojan Kaljevic, but Balzan never looked like scoring against a team who have conceded just four goals in six matches.