After an absence of (7) weeks we finally returned to action. It wasn't an easy task to keep the team motivated without playing games, but thankfully after (2) good sessions on Saturday and Sunday with a full squad, we were prepared for our opponent. Fielding our 'now' trade mark 1-4-3-3 our first eleven saw some changes. Seb Spiteri played in Goal, Ruslan Borg and Matthew Muscat were employed in a defensive partnership at the CB position. Sixsmith was available after a (60min) cameo with the first team whereas first team new comers Zak Muscat and Russell Micallef Decesare were welcomed back. Our opponents had a familiar face leading their team in Alejandro Pantoja. A very good coach that worked for Luxol for many years and knows all our players. A good thing though is that we are also familiar with Pantoja's style of play and his approach. We were up against a 1-4-2-3-1 system and a team that topped the league chart before Covid hit. Our mentality is strong and our players have installed a 'never say die attitude' and the will to give their 100% for the team. We set individual mini-goals, as we worked on Build up play from the Goalkeepers and the 'Imbucata' forward pass from our full backs to our forwards. Balzan tried to dictate play in the initial stages but soon found it hard to contain our high pressing, with Torregiani, Muscat and Hudson being very aggressive to win the ball, which proved vital as we took an early lead. Torregiani winning a foul out side the box, that was cleverly taken by Sixsmith. Russell Micallef Decesare was perfectly positioned to place the ball in the back of the net from the re-bound off the Goalkeeper. Balzan tried to react through the flanks especially through their Right Back, which saw us sacrificing Zak Muscat to cover momentarily to soften any form of damage. We were strong on the counter and once again Torregiani who had a 'Man of the match' performance whizzed through their helpless Left back and was fouled in the penalty box. Our Captain took the kick but we missed. No problem, on we get! Just three minutes later we doubled our account. Goal kick for Balzan, high press from Zak Muscat, Followed by pressure from Hudson, forced error that Torregiani managed to put a foot into it and Hudson who had a positive outing, managed to connect and with a good shot from just inside the penalty box glorified his persistence and the ball was in the back of the net to open his personal account. You could see confidence blooming all over our team's faces. Balzan tried to get their rhythm going, but our instructions to defend in a medium block 1-4-5-1 proved worthy of the though, for we managed to limit any collateral damage. Occasionally we were late in our tackling and gave away too many fouls that could be penalised or sanctioned if it were an official match. We have to dictate tempo especially when we have the ball at our Goalkeeper. Once or twice we played the ball to fast and left a gap in the middle, causing us to lose the first and second ball occasionally. Our centre backs are still shaky in aerial duals and it is something that we surely need to work on.
A good half-time talk and introduction of young players such as Beppe Mangion, Kane Arpa, Luca Zammit and Matt Gatt, that replaced Seb Spiteri, Seb Agius, Jacob Crossey and Ruslan Borg respectively, helped us continue were we left off. This gives us squad depth as we know that the season is long and having competition in each department will certainly prove vital for our march forward. We were good on the ball, our agressive approach upfront continued. The endurance levels of the squad seems good although we had some hiccups along the way and for two weeks we only had an average of six players due to National Team, First team and U17 commitments of most of our squad members. Not to mention no less then (5) players recovering from injury. On the hour Nick Galea replaced Sixsmith who had a good game and Matthew Bonnici replaced a good performer in Liam Hudson. On the 63rd minute Zak Muscat terrorized the opponents defence and hit the post with a strong effort. Zammit tried his luck also but his shot was saved by the Balzan's Goalkeeper. Our tactical approach was being played almost to perfection with Arpa venturing forward effectively down the right flank. At the back we remained solid. There are somethings we certainly have to work on, such as quicker passing with less touches and shifting play.
On the 70th minute our final two changes took place together with a tactical change. Zack Camilleri replaced Andy Borg that had an outstanding performance whereas Jake Parnis replaced our brilliant Russell Micallef Decesare. We revertet to a (2-1) in Midfield with Galea and Camilleri as holding midfielders, with Luca Zammit occupying a more adventurous role as a CAM. Mangion was solid in goal with pin point distribution and we managed to catch our opponents on a fast break on various occasions with Torregiani continuing to cause havoc, with Bonnici getting stuck in. Parnis also started venturing forward effectively and we could of easily gone three up with another effort from Torregiani that went wide and a brilliant solo effort from Arpa who had to get the best out of the oppositions reguard.
Final Score Team Thunderstruck 2 Balzan Youths 0.