UEFA Champions League – Valletta 0 Kukesi 0
Valletta managed to get a positive result in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League first
qualifying round tie against Kukesi when they drew 0-0 in Albania, yesterday.
It was a solid showing from the Malta champions who created the better chances for much of the match and in the end were left to rue their profligacy in front of goal that would have put them in a favourable position ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg at the Centenary Stadium.
Danilo Doncic, the Valletta coach, included debutant Mario Fontanella in his starting formation which featured the majority of the players that helped the club to the league title last May.
Henry Bonello started in goal with Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Joseph Zerafa and the pacey Enmy Pena Beltre forming the backline. Santiago Malano and Rowen Muscat were the holding midfielders while Miguel Alba was given a more advanced role.
Upfront, another former Floriana player in Matteo Piciollo joined Fontanella, with Raed Saleh completing the offensive department.
The Citizens exchanged the run of play with their opponents in the early stages with the first action worthy of note arriving on 16 minutes.
Piciollo raced past four opponents before notching the ball towards Pena Beltre. However, the former St Andrews’ man saw his effort deflected into a corner.
Piciollo was Valletta’s main threat and 10 minutes later, he attempted a curling effort only to be denied by Stivi Frasheri, the Kukesi goalkeeper.
After the change of ends, Valletta kept pushing forward but were struggling to make their pressure count.
It was Kukes who came close to draw first blood when William Cordeiro saw his long-range effort parried by Henry Bonello.
But it was substitute Kyrian Nwoko who almost won it for Valletta late on.
The Malta striker, who replaced Alba, was given time and space inside the area but his firm angled drive was somehow pushed away by Frasheri as the stalemate prevailed.
VALLETTA: Henry Bonello; Steve Borg, Ryan Camilleri, Santiago Malano, Matteo Piciollo, Enmy Pena Beltre, Joseph Zerafa, Raed Saleh (90 Jean Borg); Rowen Muscat (70 Juan Gill); Miguel Alba (77 Kyrian Nwoko), Mario Fontanella.
FK KUKESI: S. Frasheri, William, Y. Shaneti, H. Kiakis, S. Rrumbullaku, B. Musolli, D. Shkodra (D. Spehr), I. Dzaria,
A. Cyrbia, S. Plaku (H. Harba), V. Zguro (V. Ethemi)