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Gżira United outpower Balzan to move up to fourth

Gżira United striker Maxuell Maia shoots at goal against Balzan. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

BALZAN 1

Kaljevic 19

GZIRA UNITED 3

Maia 12 pen., 49; Kolega 85

Balzan

V. Vranes-5, A. Loof-5, M. Duric-5, U. Ljubomirac-5.5, M Zlatkovic-5 (70 A. Andrejic), N. Frendo-5, G. Camilleri-4 (58 M. Johnson-5), M. Mijic-5, A. Bradshaw-5 (77 J. Grech), B. Kaljevic-6 (77 S. Jalu), S. Cipriott-6.

Gzira United

D. Zarkov-6, G. Bohrer-6, M. Cosic-6, L. Tabone-6.5, N. Muscat-5, Z. Scerri-7, C. Gauci-6 (82 J.P. Attard), A. Pavic-5, M. Maia-7 (64 T. Kolega), Jefferson-6.5 (89 N. Portelli), J. Mendoza-7.

Referee Trustin Farrugia Cann.

Yellow cards: Camilleri, Muscat, Mendoza.

BOV player of the match: Maxuell Maia (Gzira United).

Gżira climbed to fourth in the Premier League with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Balzan.

Darren Abdilla’s side have struggled for consistency all season but two consecutive victories in direct encounters, lifted them to 27 points alongside Ħamrun Spartans, three points behind third-placed Birkirkara.

On the other hand, Balzan could find themselves in the relegation mire after their fourth defeat on the trot.

Before kick-off, the Balzan players gathered around Bojan Kaljevic who was presented a commemorative shirt bearing the number 100 after recently joining a select list of players to break into the 100-goal barrier.

Gżira exerted some good early pressure on the Balzan defence, with Maxuell Maia proving a constant threat with his deft flicks and excellent vision.

Yet the Premier League top-scorer had a calamitous defending by Gary Camilleri to thank for the Maroons’ opener, bringing down the Brazilian striker in the area with a tackle. Maxuell picked himself up to confidently dispatch the resulting spot-kick.

But Maxuell and his Gżira team-mates quickly became overrun in midfield with Milan Duric, Uros Ljubomirac and Milos Mijic pulling the strings as Balzan briefly took control.

Kaljevic, a largely anonymous figure at that juncture, did not spurn the chance on 19 minutes to score his 103rd goal in the Premier League. Goalkeeper Darijan Zarkov failed to hold onto an Adam Bradshaw’a shot and the Montenegrin striker reacted first in the Gżira area to fire in the equaliser.

Buoyed with their quick response, Balzan pushed forward. On 23 minutes, Zarkov did well to claw away a free-kick by Mijic with his fingertips.

The game ebbed and flowed, with both teams pressing for a second goal.

A Gżira attack ended with Clive Gauci heading just wide to complete a delightful move with Zach Scerri, the architect providing an exquisite pass.

It was Gżira’s South American connection that made the Maroons’ second. Jackson Mendoza’s inch-perfect Crossfield pass found Maia who controlled the ball beautifully, evaded Milos Zlatkovic to unleash a powerful shot with equal aplomb.

When Zlatkovic was replaced by Aleksa Andrejic after 70 minutes, it opened up space down the Gżira right flank for Scerri and Jefferson.

Twice Gżira broke through the fragile Balzan rearguard. Jefferson had his shot saved comfortably by Vranes as Gauci, failing to pick out the unmarked Brazilian, was closed down by Sean Cipriott.

But substitute Toni Kolega settled Gzira’s nerves with a composed finish following a great move from Jefferson on the right flank.

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