SLIEMA WANDERERS 1
SLIEMA WANDERERS D. Cassar-6.5 (63 A. Buttigieg); J. Morales-6.5, K. Shaw-7, M. Scerri-6.5, R. Kisil-5 (60 G. Inters-5), D. Holla-6 (69 E. Agius), M. Piciollo-6.5 (82 J. Engerer), O. Bethancourt-6.5, M. Beerman-6.5, D. Vukovic-6.5, V. Berisha-5 (82 J. Goncalves).
BALZAN J. Galea-6; A. Loof-6, M. Grima-6, P. Fenech-6.5 (90 M. Trustfull), K. Daniels-5 (46 M. Duric-6.5), N Gulan (16 N. Frendo-6), U. Ljubomirac-6, G. Camilleri-6 (68 J. Suleiman), M. Mijic-5, A. Andrejic-5, S. Cipriott-6.5.
Referee Stefan Pace.
Yellow cards Scerri, Duric, Holla, Vukovic, Goncalves.
BOV Player of the Match Kurt Shaw (Sliema Wanderers).
A first-half goal scored by Kurt Shaw handed Sliema Wanderers their first three points of the season after seeing off Balzan at the Tony Bezzina Stadium.
This was a much-needed victory for the side led by Andrea Pisanu as they revive their salvation hopes. The Blues are now on seven points, just four behind Sta Lucia while trailing Mosta by five. The bottom two sides are relegated at the end of the season.
Adding to Sliema’s bright evening was 2004-born goalkeeper Adam Buttigieg who made his first senior appearance midway into the second half and was impressive with a handful of key saves.
Balzan, on their part, have capped a miserable week after their dramatic defeat and draw against Birkirkara and Ħamrun Spartans respectively.
This comes as an unexpected defeat which dents their chances of a top-six finish and an eventual Championship Pool spot.
Balzan suffered an early blow in the game when Serbian defender Nikola Gulan had to leave the pitch on the 16th minute when he picked up an injury with Neil Frendo taking his place on the field.
Goal scoring chances were scarce in the opening half with Balzan attempting a couple of efforts from long-range but it was all in vain.
As the first half was set to remain locked in a goalless stalemate, Sliema’s defender Kurt Shaw had other plans when he pounced on a loose ball inside the penalty area following a corner-kick situation to slot home past Balzan’s goalkeeper Jake Galea.
At the restart, Balzan’s coach Paul Zammit inserted midfielder Milan Duric into the fray as the Reds were trying to stage a reaction in search of a draw.
Aleksa Andrejic came closest to level terms when his low drive went inches wide past the goal guarded by David Cassar who, following this action, had to be replaced after suffering an injury. Hence, Cassar had to be subbed off for the second straight time but this time, it was 17-year-old Adam Buttigieg who took his place for his Sliema debut.
Balzan’s Uros Ljubomirac tried to test Buttigieg after a well-engineered positive transition but the Serbian winger failed to capitalise on this opportunity.
Sliema’s young goalkeeper was tested moments later when Duric fired a trademark long-range shot which forced Buttigieg into a spectacular save.
The young goalkeeper was called into action again when he kept Duric at bay once again, six minutes from time before clearing a Balzan corner on the goal line as he continued to preserve Sliema’s one-goal lead.