Valletta FC were drawn against FC Lusitans of Andorra in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.
Valletta played the first leg home at the Hibs Stadium. The Citizens managed to set a new record for the highest victory ever achieved by a Maltese team in European competitions.
The scoreline says all about Valletta’s dominance as the Maltese champions blew their dismal opponents apart, racing into a five-goal lead inside the opening 22 minutes.
Valletta showed their attacking intentions from the start as they took the lead after just three minutes. Jonathan Caruana, deployed in front of defence in Valletta’s 4-1-2-3 formation, headed home from Jhonnattann’s cross.
The Citizens soon made it 2-0 thanks to Michael Mifsud who scored with a downward header from Jhonnattann’s excellent cross.
The floodgates were now open as Valletta continued to attack their woeful opponents who couldn’t get to grips with the fast breaks of the City midfielders and forward.
The score became 3-0 on 16 minutes when William Barbosa released Denni whose diagonal shot was pushed away by Benitez but Jhonnattann was on hand to slot the ball home from the rebound. Two minutes later, Mifsud, running on to another through-ball from Barbosa, sped into the box, rounded Benitez and drove home to give Valletta a 4-0 advantage.
The Citizens continued to run the show, scoring their fifth goal on 22 minutes. Benitez rushed out of goal to try and clear a cross but Caruana’s pressure unsettled the overweight Lusitans goalkeeper whose half-clearance fell in the path of Jhonnattann. The Brazilian took a touch before curling the ball into the empty net.
Valletta stayed on the attack. On 25 minutes, Michael Mifsud advanced on the right before passing to Roderick Briffa whose first-time grounder ended wide of the far post.
Two minutes past the half-hour, Krul saved a harmless free-kick from Luis Reis.
On the stroke of half-time, Valletta went 6-0 up, Michael Mifsud completed his hat-trick with a low striker after getting on the end of Briffa’s assist.
Mifsud scored his fourth and Valletta’s seventh on 70 minutes, finishing off a solo run with a simple finish after he rounded Benitez.
Two minutes later, Edmond Agius, who had replaced Jhonnattann, beat Benitez with a curling drive after being set up by Briffa.
During the away leg Valletta followed up their emphatic first-leg win with a slender victory in Andorra to confirm their place in the second qualifying round.
A slender second-leg win against FC Lusitans ensured a 9-0 aggregate victory for Valletta FC and set up a meeting with FK Partizan in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
With an eight-goal advantage heading into the return leg in Andorra, Valletta's progress was all but secured. Jhonnattann, one of the stars of the first leg, earned Mark Miller's side another win with his third goal of the tie 16 minutes in.
It was an impressive strike, too, collecting William Barbosa's deep pass, subtly flicking the ball over Lusitans goalkeeper Ricardo Fernández and heading over the line. The hosts, who had Luis Pinto sent off in added time for a second booking, were seeking their first goal of the tie, but could not muster a response.
Second qualifying round vs FK Partizan
In the first leg of the second qualifying round of the Champions League, Valletta met FK Partizan Ekranas of Serbia at the Hibernians Stadium
Partizan proved too strong for Valletta, translating their early superiority into three first-half goals which all but sealed their win.
While Partizan had good cause to be delighted with their performance, they were shamed by the irresponsible behaviour of some of their supporters who tried to force their way into the stadium from a nearby field after failing to obtain tickets for the match.
Partizan gained the initiative from the initial whistle, taking the lead after just five minutes. Nemanja Tomic surprised Valletta goalkeeper Andre Krul with a dipping effort from an angled position to send the Partizan fans seated in the VIP area into raptures.
The erstwhile subdued Valletta threatened to equalise in an isolated counter-attack. A long clearance from the back landed at the feet of Michael Mifsud who advanced but two Partizan defenders intervened to clear the ball away for a corner.
As Partizan’s initial pressure fizzled out, Valletta came more into the picture. They protested for a penalty when Ryan Fenech’s shot appeared to come off Sasa Markovic’s arm but Israeli referee Liran Liany saw nothing wrong.
On 25 minutes, Scepovic blocked a clearance by Jonathan Caruana and ran into the box from the left but his angled shot ended wide.
Partizan doubled their lead, Ivan Ivanov heading Babovic’s right-hand corner into the net on the 33’ minute.
Three minutes from half-time, Partizan went 3-0 up. The impressive Babovic strode into the box from the left before passing to Scepovic who fired past Krul.
At the start of the second half, Miller introduced newly-signed Brazilian midfielder Joao Gabriel Da Silva for Ian Azzopardi.
Valletta pressed forward after the change of ends. They should have reduced the deficit when Briffa passed to Denni who cut inside from the right but his grounder was deflected away for a corner.
Briffa’s diagonal pass sent Denni clear on the left as the Brazilian sped into the box before sending in a low cross towards Da Silva who blasted over.
At the other end, Babovic shot wide but on 65 minutes, Valletta got one back. The improving Denni supplied a through-ball to Michael Mifsud who beat the offside trap before prodding past Vladimir Stojkovic, the Partizan goalkeeper.
Miller brought on Jhonnattann, another forward, for Fenech but any hopes Valletta may have had of reviving the tie vanished when Partizan went 4-1 up. Milos Ostojic nipped in to head Babovic’s free-kick past Krul.
In the away leg Partizan edged the Malta champions 3-1 to progress to the third qualifying round of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League 7-2 on aggregate.
Two goals from Nemanja Tomic helped Partizan Belgrade to see off a spirited Valletta side as the home side eased to a 3-1 win in Serbia last night.
Despite falling behind after 10 minutes, the Citizens showed great character to get back into the match when Michael Mifsud put them level early in the second half.
But Partizan’s superiority came to the fore late on as they netted two quick goals to seal a 3-1 win and progress 7-2 on aggregate.
Partizan were off to a flyer and after six minutes Lazar Markovic unleashed a powerful drive that hit the bar. On their next opportunity, the hosts took the lead.
The clock marked 10 minutes when Nikola Aksentijevic sent a teasing cross into the path of Tomic who headed past Andre Krul.
Despite this early setback, Valletta tried to get back into the match and as the minutes passed they started to share the exchanges with their opponents.
On the half hour, William Barbosa came close to an equaliser but his stinging drive was pushed away to a corner by Partizan goalkeeper Nikola Petrovic.
On 36 minutes, Partizan were close to double their lead when Stefan Babovic profited from some poor City defending but his low drive came off the woodwork.
Valletta made a bright start to the second half and on the hour they drew level. The impressive William Barbosa released Michael Mifsud and the Malta striker beat Petrovic with a firm drive.
However, the City joy lasted only seven minutes as Partizan soon regained their lead when Tomic’s long-range shot flew past Krul.
The Serbs stepped up the tempo and wrapped their win on 73 minutes when Aksentijevic burst into the area and his shot came off the upright. But from the rebound Aleksander Mitrovic stabbed the ball into an empty net.
Source - Times of Malta