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UEFA Champions League Valletta 1 Ferencvaros 1

Valletta vs Ferencvaros

VALLETTA: H. Bonello, R. Camilleri, S. Dimech (K. Nwoko), J. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, J. Zerafa, M. Fontanella, K. Tulimieri, M. Piciollo (R. Tonna), R. Muscat (A. Monticelli), Y. Messias.

FERENCVAROS: D. Dibusz, D. Ihnatenko (D. Siger), G. Lovrencsics, D. Lanzafame (N. Sihnevich), O. Zubkov, I. Kharatin, E. Civic, M. Blazic, L. Dvali, M. Skvarka, T. Nguen (R. Varga)

Scorers: 26′ M. Fontanella (Pen), 59′ T. Nguen (F)

Yellow cards: R. Muscat, E. Pena Beltre (V), D. Lanzafame, D. Ihnatenko (F)

Referee: J. Lardot (Bel)

A spectacular second-half strike from Tokmac Nguen extinguished Valletta’s dream of reaching the third qualifying round of the Champions League as the Citizens were held by Ferencvaros to a 1-1 draw at the Centenary Stadium with the Hungarians going through 4-2 on aggregate.

After losing the opening leg in Hungary 3-1 last week, it was always going to take something special from Valletta to secure the needed two-goal win over the 30 time Hungarian champions to reach the next round.

Yet, when Mario Fontanella gave Valletta the lead on 26 minutes from the penalty spot, it looked as though the Malta champions could complete another remarkable feat.

But Ferencvaros gradually stepped up their game as the Hungarians showed all their superiority in terms of fitness and technique in the second half when they managed to regain control of the tie courtesy of Nguen’s piledriver and from then on there was no way back for Valletta.

Now, Ferencvaros will proceed to face either Dinamo Zagreb, of Croatia, or Georgia’s Saburtalo.

On the other hand, Valletta’s European adventure will continue in the Europa League third qualifying round when they will face either Kazakhstan’s Astana or Santa Coloma, of Andorra, with a place in the play-off round of UEFA’s secondary competition at stake.

Valletta coach Darren Abdilla was forced to make do without Brazilian midfielder Douglas Packer who failed to recover from a back injury. In his place, young Shaun Dimech was given the nod to start in the absence of the injured Santiago Malano and the suspended Nicholas Pulis. Ryan Camilleri replaced the suspended Steve Borg who started a three-match ban.

Upfront Yuri Messias, scorer of Valletta’s only goal in Budapest, started up front ahead of Kyrian Nwoko with Matteo Piciollo playing alongside Mario Fontanella.

Serhiy Rebrov, the Ferencvaros coach, kept faith with the same players that started the opening leg in Hungary with Italian forward, Davide Lanzafame, scorer of a brace, leading their attack.

Valletta vs Ferencvaros

Valletta were almost off to a disastrous starts as barely 22 seconds were played that they almost fell behind.

Straight from kick-off the Hungarians charged forward and Olkesandr Zubkov’s low drive was parried away by Henry Bonello into the path of Michal Skvarka who from a close angle could only hit the upright.

Valletta responded two minutes later with Messias avoiding his marker before hitting a thumping drive that was pushed away by Denes Dibusz.

The Citizens were reprieved again on eight minutes when Ihor Karatin picked up a poor pass from the City defence but his thumping drive hit the upright with Bonello beaten.

The hosts threatened on 14 minutes when Enmy Pena Beltre sent a fine pass behind Ferencvaros’ backline and into the path of Fontanella but the Italian forward fired over.

On 25 minutes, Valletta’s hopes of qualification where handed a major boost when they were awarded a penalty. Kevin Tulimieri was upended in the area by Gergo Lovrencsics and from the spot Fontanella kept his cool to drill the ball past the diving Dibusz.

Rebrov was clearly unhappy with his team and on the half hour he withdrew Ihnatenko and roped in David Siger.

The match kept the same pattern with Valletta happy to soak up the pressure of their opponents and trying to hit them on the break with their vertical balls on Fontanella and Piciollo creating a lot of bother to the Fradi.

On the restart, Ferencvaros tried to step up their game with Oleksandr Zubkov hitting a thumping volley that flew over.

As the minutes passed the game offered little in terms of entertainment as Valletta tried to be more effective up front but with scant success.

Instead it was Ferencvaros who had the ball into the net on 57 minutes when Lanzafame turned home Eldar Civic’s cross but the ‘goal’ was annulled for offside.

However, the Citizens were punished two minutes later when they lost possession cheaply in midfield and Tokma Nguen sped clear and hit a fine long-range strike that gave no chance to Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello.

On 67 minutes it was Bonello who denied Ferencvaros from taking the lead when the Valletta no.1 dived full stretch to keep out Civiz’s downward header.

From the resultant corner, it was again the City custodian who somehow kept out Lanzafame’s close range shot.

Valletta were now clearly on the ropes as they were increasingly struggling to keep the pace with their opponents’ fitness.

Nineteen minutes from time, the visitors again were off to a fast raid with Lanzafame hitting a firm drive that was turned to a corner by Bonello with the aid of the upright.

It was all Ferencvaros now with substitute Nikolai Signevich, who replaced Lanzafame, almost left an immediate impact when breaking through from the right but his shot was again repelled by Bonello.

Valletta finally threatened eight minutes from time with a Messias’ long-range shot that was easily saved by Dibusz.

Messias came even closer to at least give Valletta victory two minutes from time when he took charge of a central free-kick and his inswinger was somehow turned over by the Ferencvaros goalkeeper with the aid of the crossbar.

That was the last chance of the match as Ferencvaros easily administered the final minutes to secure a deserved qualification.