Balzan’s defence of the Premier Division title got an unexpected setback after they lost to an excellent Hamrun Spartans 7-2 in a match full of excitement and adrenaline.
Like a runner lapped before the bell, Balzan will soldier on but it is clear that this year they will face stiff competition from other teams as they will try to recover after suffering their second consecutive defeat.
The Spartans made the last part of the second half an ordeal for Balzan with new Brazilian recruit Raphael Felipe Ortiz de Oliveira, known as Rafinha, being a continuous menace for his opponents’ rearguard.
Rafinha partnered a fantastic tandem with compatriot Rogerio dos Santos Filho as they resulted the main tormentors for Balzan’s defence.
Hamrun stunned the champions when taking the lead inside the opening 30 seconds. Rafinha was the catalyst as his powerful shot beat Farrugia to make it 1-0.
Despite the initial setback, Balzan reacted and managed to level matters when Italian Marco Conti found the net after a good counter attack.
The Champions were now pressing forward and found the advantage goal before the break through Glenn Bonello after a good one-two with Karl Azzopardi.
In the second half, Balzan tried to maintain their offensive plan but Hamrun managed to grab the equalizer and it was again Rafinha who illuminated the proceedings with an inch-perfect lob that gave no chance to Farrugia.
This equalizer turned the tide of the match as Hamrun produced a remarkable reaction and managed to turn the tables when substiture Mohammed Elamari netted his team’s third goal.
Balzan were stunned and it was no surprise that Hamrun scored another one through Chris Cardona who tapped in a Rogerio pass.
The champions opted for the flying keeper in order to instill pressure on the Spartans’ defensive department.
But through this move Hamrun managed to score twice from Rafinha and Chris Cardona who hit the target after finding their opponents’ net exposed.
Balzan were unlucky to hit the post twice from Bonello and Marev in the final minutes of the match.
Seconds from the end, Brazilian Rogerio sealed the issue from close range following a great pass by Chris Cardona.
The final whistle brought with it an explosion of joy amongst the Hamrun clan who temporarily move first in the table after this hard-fought win.
Meanwhile, Valletta maintained their good form of late when they defeated Swieqi United 8-6.
This win helped the Citizens to reach their same opponents on the 12 point mark and push forward for a place in the play-offs.
Xavier Saliba hit a hat-trick, Melvin Borg netted a brace while Bryan Deguara, Denis di Maio and Shawn Vella were on target for Valletta.
Three braces by Velibor Milicic, Fredrik Johansson and Paul Hyzler were on the mark for Swieqi.