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Euro Cup – Valletta 1 Birkirkara 0

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In a game of two halves, 19-year-old Gambian midfielder Hamza Barry scored on his debut as Valletta beat Birkirkara 1-0 in their second Euro Cup outing at the Centenary Stadium last night.

Birkirkara’s second defeat in as many games ended their hopes of winning the Euro Cup with Valletta, Hibernians and Sliema all with a chance of claiming first place in this pre-season tournament.

As in their 3-1 defeat to Sliema Wanderers last Monday, Birkirkara showed the better ideas in the first half but faded in the second as a string of substitutions disrupted their momentum.

In the first 45 minutes, Paul Zammit’s side should have scored at least a couple of goals but were undone by erratic finishing on their part and some good interventions by Valletta goalkeeper Yenz Cini.

Zammit and Mark Miller, the Valletta coach, were clearly more interested in assessing their youngsters and foreigners rather than going out for a must victory.

Birkirkara had Edward Herrera, Paul Fenech and Joseph Zerafa back in their ranks.

Valletta had Barry and Jose Gil Zapata making their first appearance. Both had a quiet game but Barry redeemed himself with a well-struck goal late in the game.

The Stripes had Sekhana Koko, Gueye Pape and Kevin Bondundi showing some neat touches with the usual Shola Shodiya Haruna finding spaces and running tirelessly.

After 11 minutes, Haruna’s drive from the edge of the area finished just wide with the Citizens responding on 21 minutes.

Brazilian Denni Rocha Dos Santos, who missed the 1-1 draw with Hibs, controlled the ball with his chest but his grounder from outside the area just missed the target.

Valletta had another good opportunity on 32 minutes when Zapata fired wide after good work by Dutchman Harrie Gommans and Denni.

A minute before the break, Cini produced a magnificent save to deny Pape who had controlled well before shooting at the far post from an acute angle.

In the second half, as expected, both coaches introduced more youngsters.

Valletta’s play improved on resumption and on 65 minutes, Barry’s free-kick was well saved by Reuben Gauci, the Birkirkara goalkeeper.

With 18 minutes left, Denni made a good run but his effort was saved by Gauci.

It was Barry who decided the issue 10 minutes from time as his long-range strike caught Gauci unawares.

Birkirkara: R. Gauci (85 J. Martinelli), E. Herrera (46 M. Camilleri), J. Zerafa (62 M. Clinch), A. Mendoza, K. Bondundi, P. Fenech, S. Koko (76 L. Montebello), R. Scicluna, R. Camenzuli (85 K. Zammit), S. Shodiya, G. Pape ( 46 J.P. Mifsud Triganza).

Valletta: Y. Cini (64 P. Marino), Y. Camilleri, L. Dimech (46 K. Magro), J. Vandelannoite, D. Falzon (65 Siraj Arab), L. Cremona, H. Barry, M. Stojanovic (79 I. McCarthy), J. Gil Zapata (46 Samir Arab), H. Gommans (52 T. Scerri), Denni (73 J. Obaje).

Referee: Kevin Azzopardi.
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