UEFA Europa League 2nd qualifying round FC Utrecht 3 Valletta 1 Published on: 20-07-2017

FC Utrecht are through to the third qualifying round of the Europa League after having the better of Valletta 3-1 at the Mandemakers Stadion yesterday.
It was far from a straight-forward victory for the Dutch side who after taking an early lead through a Sean Klaiber screamer they failed to press home their advantage as the visitors kept themselves in the match with a battling display.
On the restart, Valletta enjoyed their best spell and had two good chances to pull level. However, their failure to take their opportunities came back to haunt them as FC Utrecht grabbed two late goals to seal their place in the next round when they will face Polish side Lech Poznan.
Valletta coach Zoran Popovic kept faith with the same players that featured in last week’s goalless draw in the opening leg. As expected, FC Utrecht made all the early running and four minutes passed when Sean Klaiber’s effort flashed wide.
The hosts had an even better chance on 10 minutes. Simon Makienok spurned a glorious opportunity to open the score when with only goalkeeper Henry Bonello to beat the former Palermo striker was denied by the Valletta no. 1.
Valletta failed to heed the alarm bells as in their next attack, Utrecht struck again.
Yassin Ayoub delivered a cross from the right flank that was deflected into the path of Klaiber who hit a wonderful firsttime volley that gave no chance to Bonello.
The home side could have easily doubled the score on 24 minutes but somehow kept out Makienok’s close-range header.
Valletta finally threatened nine minutes from the break with a long-range shot from Maximiliano Velasco that flew wide.
Makienok missed another open opportunity on 36 when he was again denied by the onrushing Bonello.
On the restart, Valletta started to push more men forward and 57 minutes Michael Mifsud turned past his marker but hit the sidenetting from a close angle.
Three minutes later FC Utrecht goalkeeper David Jensen was alert to push away Uchenna Umeh’s cross-shot.
The hosts felt they should have a penalty on 63 minutes when Makienok was pulled down in the area by Steve Borg but the referee waved play on.
Valletta tried to push more men forward but the hosts killed off the tie 14 minutes from time when skipper Willem Janssen connected with Moroccan Labyad’s corner kick to head the ball past Bonello.
The Citizens were rattled and the Dutch added a third goal seven minutes from time when Labyad struck with a curling drive. Valletta managed to pull a goal back two minutes from time when Santiago Malano
headed the ball home from a corner.

H. Bonello, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, J. Cruz Gill, M. Santiago, M. Mifsud (K. Nwoko), J. Zerafa (J. Borg), C. Pani, M.  Velasco, U. Calistus, R. Romeu (R. Briffa).
D. Jensen, E. Braafield (U. Emanuelson), W. Janssen, M. Van Der Maarel, S. Klaiber, W. Brama (R. Leeuwin), Z. Labyad, Y. Ayoub, S. Van Der Streek, S. Makienok, G. Kerk (C. Dessers).

Scorers: 18' S. Klaiber, 76' W. Janssen, 83' Z. Labyad (U), 88'S. Malano (V)
Yellow Cards J. Zerafa, M. Mifsud (V), W. Janssen (U)

Ian McNabb (NIR).

Source - Times of Malta