Euro Challenge Cup
Valletta fought back from a goal down to down rivals Floriana 2-1 in the opening match of the Euro Cup this evening.
The rivalry between these two clubs drew a sell-out crowd of 1,400 to the Hibs Stadium and the fans were not disappointed as the two teams, despite still being way below their best in terms of match fitness, produced a combative encounter.
Victory for Valletta has boosted their chances of winning this three-team tournament while Floriana must beat Birkirkara in Monday's second match to stay in contention.
New signing Ousseni Zongo and Brazilian trialist William Barbosa Da Silva were included in Valletta's starting formation.
Floriana coach Michael Woods also used this match to have a closer look at the three players who are training with the club on a trial basis, namely English defender John Hardicker, French winger L'Imam Seydi and Italian striker Salvatore Amirante.
Denni tried his luck with a dipping shot but his long-range effort sailed high and wide. At the other end, Amirante hit the ball over the bar after meeting a fine left-wing cross from Christian Caruana.
Both teams looked short of match fitness in the early exchanges, something that was to be expected given that this was their first pre-season match.
Roderick Briffa went close for Valletta but his grounder was off target. A good City move opened up Floriana as William Barbosa flicked the ball to Denni who promptly passed to the advancing Briffa. The City left-back sped into the box before delivering a shot across Matthew Towns but much to Floriana's relief, the ball bounced wide of the far post.
Floriana responded quickly. Running on to a long ball, Amirante shrugged off Steve Borg's challenge but fired over from the edge of the box.
In the closing stages of the first half, Briffa served Zongo in the box but the former Msida winger sent his shot wide of the near post.
Floriana stunned Valletta when taking the lead eight minutes into the second half. Mano Micallef's cross from a free-kick triggered a penalty-box scramble and Joseph Borg's backheader flew past the startled Andrew Hogg.
Valletta produced an instant reaction. Denni headed straight at Matthew Towns from Ryan Fernech's cross.
Ian Zammit, a second-half substitute, fired wide after receiving from William Barbosa as Valletta raised their efforts in search of an equaliser.
Clyde Borg threatened to increase Floriana's lead but his piledriver was tipped away by Hogg. Valletta made it 1-1 14 minutes from time thanks to Fenech who beat Towns with a swerving free-kick.
Valletta moved ahead with 10 minutes remaining, Edmond Agius flicking past Towns from close in after connecting with Steve Borg's headed assist.
In the final match of the Euro Challenge Cup, Valletta needed only a draw to clinch the trophy whilst Birkirkara required nothing less than a victory to make it theirs.
Birkirkara started brightly with Valletta looking to calm the game down which suited their goal. However it was the Lilywhites who took the lead after just 9 minutes when Steve Borg found William Barbosa who from just inside the box made no mistake with a fierce drive which slammed into the net.
The Stripes were awarded a penalty on 26 minutes when Rena was felled in the box by Steve Borg with Alan Tabone coolly converting the spot kick.
On 42 minutes, Birkirkara overturned the result when Tabone managed to place his low shot past a hapless Hogg.
Valletta regained parity on 59 minutes when a floated free kick found Denni who headed home from close range.
UEFA Champions League
Valletta FC were drawn against Tre Fiori FC of San Marino in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.
The first leg was held in San Marino on Tuesday June 28 while the home leg was held at the Hibernians Stadium on Wednesday July 6th.
Valletta registered an emphatic 3-0 win away from home over Sammarinese champions SP Tre Fiori in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round at the Stadio Olimpico in Serravalle to move very close to securing a place in the second qualifying round
It was Denni Rocha Dos Santos who put Valletta ahead two minutes from the end of the first half.
Five minutes in the second half, Denni was the provider as he sent Alfred Effiong through and the Nigerian striker slotted past Bertozzi.
William Barbosa Da Silva could have added another goal on 65 minutes but hit incredibly wide from close range when served by Denni from the right.
But five minutes later, substitute Gilbert Agius was brought down inside the area by Andreini and from the penalty spot, Agius made no mistake to make it 3-0.
In the home leg Valletta sealed their passage to the second qualifying round of the Champions League beating San Marino champions Tre Fiori 2-1 for a 5-1 aggregate win.
Valletta should have opened the scoring after one minute. Alfred Effiong slipped a through-pass to Denni who ran into the box but his diagonal grounder was pushed away by Tre Fiori goalkeeper Gianluca Cola.
Tre Fiori had struggled to make an impression in attack but in a rare forway, they gained a glimmer of hope in the shape of a penalty after Albanian referee Bardhyl Pashai punished Kenneth Scicluna for his challenge on Alessandro Giunta inside the box. Albanian midfielder Altin Lisi made no mistake from the spot to put Tre Fiori 1-0 up and 3-1 down on aggregate.
Tre Fiori's breakthrough was a reality check for Valletta who came into this match in high spirits after their 3-0 win in the first leg.
Nine minutes from half-time, Valletta should have made it one-all when Denni, latching onto a fine pass from Jamie Pace, sped into the box.
Valletta gained a double boost 11 minutes into the second half as they won a penalty after Vendemini, who had already been booked in the first half, pushed the leaping Zammit off the ball inside the area. Pashai pointed to the spot and expelled the Tre Fiori defender before Ian Zammit fired his shot past Cola to make it one-all on the night.
William Barbosa stabbed the ball home after getting on the end of Zammit's pass but the latter was in an offside position when he received the ball.
Fenech then missed a glorious chance to seal Valletta's win when shooting high from an inviting position but Barbosa finally put the home team ahead, scoring from close range from Edmond Agius's cross.
Second qualifying round vs FK Ekranas
In the first leg of the second qualifying round of the Champions League, Valletta met FK Ekranas of Lithuania at the Hibernians Stadium
Three goals down after 42 minutes, Valletta looked down and out in the first leg of their Champions League second qualifying round tie against Lithuania's FK Ekranas but the Maltese champions mounted a strong fightback to claw back two goals.
A 3-2 defeat in the home leg is a huge setback for Valletta's chances of advancing to the third qualifying round, but their gallant showing in the second half should give them heart as the Citizens not only pegged the Lithuanians back but also missed late opportunities to force a draw.
In the end, Valletta paid a high price for their slow and erratic start as the athletic FK Ekranas made the most of their wingers' speed and superior match fitness in the first half.
Newly-signed striker Michael Mifsud was named in Valletta's starting formation. Coach Jesmond Zerafa made six changes from last week's home match against Tre Fiori with Roderick Briffa, Jonathan Caruana, Ian Azzopardi, back from a two-match suspension, William Barbosa and Ryan Fenech was handed a starting role.
Ekranas issued an early warning of their threat on the wings as, after eight minutes, Nigerian Uchenna Umeh ran onto a diagonal pass from midfield, swept past Azzopardi and rifled a shot that Andrew Hogg did well to push away for a corner.
Valletta created their first chance soon after when Barbosa's floated pass released Mifsud but the striker miscued his chip which was easily saved by Emiljus Zubas, the Ekranas goalkeeper.
The Citizens began to play better but it was Ekranas who took the lead on 15 minutes, Umeh profiting from the lax defending by the home team as he dashed into the box and fired home after evading the challenge of Hogg.
Ekranas's precise passes to the wings coupled with the speed of their wide players was causing Valletta trouble. Hogg did well to tip away Ramunas Radavicius's drive. The ensuing corner, taken by Aurimas Kucys, was only partially cleared by Valletta but the ball fell to Daimius Gleveckas who rifled in from close range.
Just past the half hour, Valletta missed a great chance to pull one back when Barbosa passed to Gilbert Agius who evaded the offside trap but the City captain lifted his shot over the bar.
Valletta's rask became more complicated when, four minutes from half-time, they conceded a penalty. Vertelis pounced on a misplaced backpass by Pace and quickly released the speedy Umeh who was felled by Caruana's late tackle. Radavicius drilled his shot past Hogg to put Ekranas 3-0 up.
The Citizens looked shell-shocked but Mifsud gave them a lifeline, the City striker scoring with an excellent dipping shot that stunned Zubas..
Urged on by their unflappable captain, Valletta intensified their efforts. They spurned an inviting chance to further narrow the deficit when Fenech's free-kick was diverted into the goalmouth but Steve Borg just failed to connect.
Valletta should have further reduced the arrears when, on 66 minutes, Fenech made a strong run on the left and squared to Mifsud who, after taking a touch to wrong-foot an opponent, came face to face with the goalkeeper but his weak lob was easily blocked by Zubas.
The Citizens continued to press forward, winning three corners in succession but Ekranas held firm. Gilbert Agius slipped a through-pass to Effiong who ran into the box and moved past the goalkeeper but the Nigerian was crowded out by the Ekranas defenders.
Five minutes from time, the Whites were unlucky not to score when Briffa freed Mifsud inside the box but the latter's rising shot shook the woodwork. In next to no time, Mifsud found himself through again but his bold drive was fisted away by Zubas.
In a rare counter-attack, Ekranas threatened to apply the killer touch but substitute Tadas Markevicius's effort from inside the box was deflected away for a corner.
Undaunted, Valletta quickly regained the initiative. They received a lifeline in the shape of a penalty after Borg's flick from a goalmouth melee came off Andrijus Joksas's outstretched arm. Barbosa converted the penalty to set up a thrilling finale.
Mifsud came close to sealing Valletta's fightback when he wriggled his way into the box but his goalbound shot was blocked by Kucys.
In the away leg Ekranas edged the Malta champions 1-0 to progress to the third qualifying round of the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League 4-2 on aggregate.
His words turned out to be prophetical as Dedura jolted Valletta’s hopes of turning the tie around yesterday following the Lithuanians’ 3-2 win in Malta last week.
The hosts looked more match-fit and did well to administer their advantage and set up a third qualifying round clash against Belarus neighbours Bate Borisov.
Despite their elimination, how-ever, the Citizens can still take some positives from these two matches with Ekranas.
In the end, costly defensive mistakes, particularly in the first leg, sealed their fate.
Zerafa effected two changes to his starting formation.
Dyson Falzon replaced the suspended Roderick Briffa at left back while flank defender Ian Azzopardi was switched to a central role in the rearguard to fill the void left by Jonathan Caruana, who was also serving a one-match ban.
The Valletta coach kept to his promise of naming a more offensive line-up as he relegated Jamie Pace to the bench with Alfred Effiong forming a three-pronged attack with William Barbosa and Michael Mifsud.
Valletta endured a nightmare start as they found themselves a goal behind after only four minutes.
Ekranas won a free-kick on the left and Ramunas Raduvicius’s inswinger was met by Dedura who headed home past goal-keeper Andrew Hogg.
Stung by this setback, the Citizens were still recovering when Ekranas almost doubled their lead.
From another free-kick, Marko Andjelkovic’s delivery found the unmarked Dusan Matovic who hit just wide.
Valletta’s first opportunity at goal arrived on 22 minutes when Nigerian Effiong pounced on some hesitant defending from the hosts to race through only to be blocked as he was about to shoot.
Scoring chances remained few and far in between with the Citizens, despite enjoying most of the possession, struggling to break down their opponents.
Their first real shot at goal arrived on 35 minutes when Ryan Fenech’s dipper was easily dealt with by Emiljus Zubas.
Four minutes from the break, Barbosa sent a dangerous cross in the Ekranas box but no City players were at hand to pounce on the opportunity.
Valletta started to play with more purpose in the second half and on 47 minutes Gilbert Agius tried his luck from the distance but Zubas was well placed to block.
The Citizens were clearly the better team in these early stages and on 53 minutes Fenech’s cross-shot was tipped to a corner by the Ekranas keeper.
Zerafa withdrew Sammut and roped in Denni as he looked to add more flair to his team’s manoeuvres.
The introduction of the Brazilian livewire left a positive effect as Valletta started to put pressure on the Ekranas defence and on 65 minutes Barbosa’s effort forced Zubas into a smart save.
At the other end, Valletta’s Hogg was forced to make his first intervention of the second half on 70 minutes when he dived to his right to block Umeh’s menacing shot.
The visitors kept pushing in search of what would have been a deserved equaliser and nine minutes from time Denni’s piledriver was stopped by Zubas.
The Citizens’ best chance came six minutes from time when Falzon’s cross eluded the Ekranas defence but Mifsud dallied before firing his second attempt into the side-netting.
In time added on, Valletta again came close to cancelling Ekranas’s advantage when Brazilian Bar-bosa’s thumping drive from just outside the box was pushed to a corner by the alert Zubas who was on the right spot to tip the scorching shot over the bar.
From the ensuing flag-kick, taken by Denni, Azzopardi’s shot finished over.
Source - Times of Malta
BOV Super Cup
Michael Mifsud scored a hat-trick as champions Valletta beat rivals Floriana 3-0 to retain the BOV Super Cup.
The Malta captain was the star of the show as his running and deadly finishing proved too much for a battling Floriana side who tried hard to contain their illustrious neighbours but ultimately came up short.
Valletta were worth their win as they were the better side but Floriana threatened a fightback in the latter stages only to be held back by opposing goalkeeper Andrew Hogg who effected two excellent saves before the champions struck the killer blow to send their numerous fans into raptures.
Valletta underlined their attacking intentions from the outset, creating two excellent chances inside the opening two minutes.
Ryan Fenech’s cross from the left unsettled the Floriana defender as goalkeeper Manuel Bartolo failed to clear. Denni’s header was blocked before Bartolo made amends by saving Brazilian striker William Barbosa’s follow-on drive.
Seconds later, Valletta threatened again. Michael Mifsud swept past Duncan Pisani before hitting a powerful drive that crashed against the near post.
Mifsud partnered Barbosa in Valletta’s attack with Denni roaming behind the striking duo.
Ivan Woods, the scorer of Floriana’s last-gasp winner in their FA Trophy final win over Valletta last season, was the Greens’ main striker.
Valletta again came close to opening the scoring on 14 minutes. Running on to Fenech’s through-pass, Denni race clear but his attempt was cut out by the on-rushing Bartolo. The loose ball fell to Barbosa but the Brazilian was twice foiled by Tyrone Farrugia who blocked his efforts.
It was not before the 21st minute that Floriana recorded their first attempt at goal. Woods’s low strike from outside the box was easily saved by Hogg.
Nigerian Alfred Effiong replaced Denni midway into the first half after Valletta’s Brazilian ace suffered an injury.
Valletta were looking the likelier side to score. Mifsud twice had the ball in the net for Valletta but on both occasions, the ‘goal’ was disallowed due to an offside infringement.
A minute past the half-hour, Christian Caruana cut om from the left and teed up Christian Cassar whose shot was too central to trouble Hogg.
The Malta captain should have fired the champions ahead when he sprinted into the box to reach Barbosa’s through-ball but his angled effort skimmed the base of the far post.
Mifsud was not to be denied though as the speedy striker sidefooted the ball past Bartolo from close range after being put clear by Gilbert Agius.
Six minutes before half-time, Floriana thought they had grabbed an equaliser when Doffo’s corner was headed goalwards by Farrugia. Hogg needed two attempts to block but the Greens claimed that the ball had crossed the line. The match officials had other ideas.
Early in the second half, Fenech’s angled effort for Valletta rolled wide of the far post. Valletta were unlucky not to double their lead nine minutes into the second half. Effiong advanced before passing to Mifsud who rifled a thunderous drive that shook the crossbar.
At the other end, Woods’s free-kick was stopped by Hogg.
Midway into the second half, Valletta all but sealed the issue after they were given a penalty for Pablo Doffo’s late tackle on Mifsud inside the box. The nippy striker scored with his first attempt but referee Chris Lautier ordered a retake after Mifsud appeared to pause before striking the ball. Unflustered, Mifsud beat Bartolo with a strong drive.
The Malta captain then missed a chance to complete his hat-trick as he headed wide from Fenech’s cross.
Woods also fluffed a good opportunity to reduce the deficit for Floriana as he nodded wide from Manolito Micallef’s cross. Floriana suddenly created a flurry of chances as Micallef’s goalbound shot came off team-mate Caruana before Hogg effected two great saves to push away shots by Joseph Borg and Christian Cassar.
But, Valletta put their minds at rest as, in a fast counter-attack, Roderick Briffa released Mifsud who sped clear and beat Bartolo for the third time. Dyson Falzon, a second-half substitute for Ryan Fenech, went close to putting his name on the scoresheet but his rising shot from close range cannoned off the crossbar.
Late on, Woods’s header came off the crossbar but the referee’s final whistle came soon after.
Champions 2011 - 2012
The Citizens were crowned champions for the 21st time in their history on Sunday 29th April after a 3-0 win over Sliema Wanderers gave them an unassailable nine-point lead over Hibs at the top with two games left, sparking huge celebrations among their passionate fans.
Having cruised to the league title last season without conceding defeat, Valletta had a tough task on their hands to scale the heights of the previous campaign but they have been up for the challenge.
Regarded as surefire favourites to retain the title before the season got underway, Valletta were on a hiding to nothing.
Club president Victor Sciriha’s drive to recruit the best Maltese players plus high-quality foreigners has seen Valletta assemble a formidable squad in recent years but this inevitably heightened the level of expectancy.
Although Valletta have accom-plished their title mission with two matches to spare, their march was not always plainsailing.
Losing 2-0 to Hibs on the fifth day was a hammer blow, not so much because Valletta went down to one of their fiercest rivals but moreso because the defeat ruined their bid to set a new record for the longest unbeaten sequence in the league.
Valletta had equalled Hibs’ mark of 37 matches without defeat before their first meeting of the season but Mark Miller’s men upset the cham-pions in a match that underlined the Paolites’ potential to challenge for the title.
The City fans, dressed in different costumes, had turned out in their thousands. Their spirits dipped at the final whistle but not for long as the sight of captain Gilbert Agius lifting the BOV Premier League trophy was greeted with a joyous roar with the celebrations continuing in the capital later this evening.
Inside the opening two minutes, Jonathan Caruana powered his way clear on the left before passing to Gilbert Agius whose central flick was easily saved by Mario Muscat, the Hibs goalkeeper.
Michael Mifsud had a good chance to put Valletta ahead as he came one-on-one with Muscat but skied his shot over the bar.
Hibs were not intimidated. It was not long before they began to put pressure on Valletta. Jackson Lima’s corner dropped dangerously in the City box but the Valletta defenders cleared the ball away for a corner.
The Paolites’ efforts produced a goal on 10 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Steve Borg was deemed to have blocked Edward Herrera’s cross with his hands.
Clayton Failla made no mistake from the spot to raise the spirits of the few Hibs fans in the Millennium Stand.
Hibs were clearly intent on ruffling their rivals’ feathers but Valletta soon gained a timely tonic.
The game was 18 minutes old when Denni supplied a through-ball to Mifsud who sped through before sending a low shot past Muscat and the Valletta fans into ecstasy.
The match remained finely-poised. Marcelo Dias forced his way through but his shot was deflected away for a corner.
William Barbosa then hit one of his trademark screamers from the distance but Muscat pushed the ball away for a corner.
The two sides continued to tear into each other. Hibs’ defender Rodolfo Soares did well to create space for a shot outside the box but his rising shot was stopped by Hogg.
Three minutes from half-time, Ryan Camilleri sent in an excellent cross as Bjorn Kristensen timed his run into the box to perfection but the young midfielder scuffed his shot over the bar.
Muscat then repelled a curling drive from Denni but Valletta fluffed a golden chance to go ahead before half-time.
Gilbert Agius’s perfect pass dropped to the advancing Denni who had got behind the Hibs defenders.
The Brazilian ran into the box before releasing the unmarked Mifsud who looked certain to score only to send his shot wide in front of a gaping goal.
Three minutes into the second half, Mifsud had a great opportunity to make amends for his miss as the nippy striker sped past three defenders but his central effort was blocked by Muscat.
Cohen’s free-kick was high and, minutes later, Hogg kept out Jackson Lima’s swerving shot from another set-piece.
From the resultant corner, Lima’s cross was met by Kristensen whose header ended inches wide of the far post.
Hibs remained on the offensive.
Nine minutes into the second half, Cohen supplied a teasing cross that moved Mady Panandetiguiri to run into the advancing Tarabai. Referee Malcolm Spiteri pointed to the spot but Failla’s strike came off the base of a post.
Barbosa had a grounder saved by Muscat but it was Hibs who remained the better side. A minute past the hour, Hogg palmed away Jackson Lima’s free-kick.
In a counter-attack, Gilbert Agius delivered a raking pass to Mifsud who ran through but his well-hit volley was beaten away by Muscat.
On 66 minutes, Valletta captain Gilbert Agius received a standing ovation as he made way for Terrence Scerri.
With 20 minutes remaining, Denni roared clear on the counter but his chip brought an excellent save from Muscat.
Five minutes later, Hibs scored what proved to be the winning goal, Kristensten heading home from close range after connecting with a perfect cross from Cohen.
Valletta tried to hit back but their tame pressure was easily repelled by Hibs who had Luis Edison, a first-half substitute for Marcelo Dias, sent off after he earned a second yellow card for time-wasting in stoppage-time.
Muscat, the Hibs goalkeeper, was named BOV player of the match.
VALLETTA - A. Hogg, D. Dos Santos, J. Caruana, I. Azzopardi, S. Borg, G. Agius (T. Scerri), S. Panandetiguiri (A. Effiong), W. Barbosa, R. Briffa, E. Agius, M. Mifsud.
HIBERNIANS - M. Muscat, A. Cohen, E. Herrera, R. Camilleri (S. Pisani), R. Soares, C. Failla, J. Vandelannoite, J. Pearson, J. Lima, B. Kristensen, M. Diaz (E. Luis Dos Santos)
Date: 13-05-12 Time: 16:00 Venue: National Stadium
Scorers: 11' C. Failla, 19' M. Mifsud, 75' B. Kristensen.
Yellow Cards: B. Kristensen, C. Failla, E. Luis Dos Santos, S. Panandetiguiri, R. Briffa.
Red Card: E. Luis Dos Santos
Man of Match: Mario Muscat (H)
Referee: Malcolm Spiteri
Source - Times of Malta