UEFA Europa League – Valletta 1 Newtown 2
Valletta were knocked out of the Europa League after losing 2-1 at home to Welsh minnows Newtown AFC at the Hibernians Stadium.
Trailing 2-1 from the away leg, the Citizens produced a brave performance, dominating possession for long stretches but Jason Oswell’s early strike and the second-half dismissal of Ryan Camilleri left them with too much to do.
The score was tied at 1-1 when Camilleri saw red but Newtown AFC, who showed little skill but plenty of grit, struck a late winner through Matthew Owen who, seconds earlier, had his seen his penalty saved by Valletta goalkeeper Nicky Vella.
Newtown AFC, who won 4-2 on aggregate, will meet Denmark’s FC Copenhagen in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.
Jhonnattann came close to giving Valletta an early lead but his drive, from debutant Thierry Tazemeta’s assist, was turned away by David Jones, the Newtown goalkeeper.
Newtown struck three minutes later, Jason Oswell hitting home at the far post after Valletta had failed to cut out a cross from the right.
Having lost the away leg 2-1, Valletta were now facing an uphill task as they trailed by two foals on aggregate.
The Whites created a good chance after 16 minutes as Abdelkarim Nafti’s cross from a right-wing corner was met by Argentine defender Juan Cruz Gill whose firm header sailed just over the crossbar.
Valletta were dominating possession, Jhonnattann having a dangerous grounder deflected away for a corner, but Newtown remained dangerous on the counter.
There was another scare for the Welsh side as, from Nafti’s free-kick, Cruz Gill’s header was fumbled by Jones but the defence cleared.
Three minutes past the half-hour, Nafti’s free-kick flew wide of the near post.
In a rare attack, Newtown threatened to extend their lead. Oswell, once again, used his strength and eye for goal to move into a dangerous position but his effort was blocked by Italian midfielder Claudio Pani. From the ensuing melee, Luke Boundford hit the post.
On the stoke of half-time, Nafti dribbled his way into the box from the left but his grounder was blocked by the defence.
Valletta equalised within 23 seconds of the start of the second half.
Advancing through the middle, Briffa switched the ball to the right where J
honnattann supplied a low cross into the six-yard box and Tazemeta stabbed the ball home.
Valletta sought to keep up the pressure, forcing two corners. From the first, Nafti’s cross was fisted away by Jones.
The Citizens’ hopes suffered a setback 16 minutes from time when Ryan Camilleri was sent off after his extended foot caught Shane Sutton as the Valletta right-back ran into the Newtown AFC box to try and reach Briffa’s pass.
Valletta’s evening looked to have taken a turn for the worse when as Hungarian referee Mihaly Fabian awarded Newtown a penalty after Cruz Gill was adjudged to have brought down Oswell in the box.
Owen’s low drive from the spot was kept out by Vella, much to the delight of the City fans, but the danger refused to go away.
From the ensuing action, Owen made amends as his low strike from the edge of the box rolled into the low corner of the net.
Matthew Cook, who had come on in the second half, was dismissed after earning a second booking for provoking the Valletta players.
VALLETTA – N. Vella, L. Cremona, J. Cruz Gill, J. Benites, D. Falzon, C. Pani, R. Briffa, A. Nafti (U. Umeh), T. Tazameta Fidue (J.P. Mifsud Triganza), R. Camilleri, J. Caruana.
NEWTOWN – E. Jones, C. Edwards, L. Owen Matthew, K. Mills, S. Sutton, M. Lee Owen (J. Michael Price), M. Hearsey (M. James Cook), L. Boundford, J. Oswell, N. Mitchell (G. Edward Partridge), C. Williams, T. Goodwin.
Scorers: 7′ J. Oswell, 94′ M. Owen (N) 46′ T. Tazameta (V)
Yellow Cards: Boundford, Mills, Jones, Gill, Cook, Partridge (N), J.P. Mifsud Triganza, Nafti (V)
Red Cards: R. Camilleri (V), M. James Cook (N)
Referee: Mihaly Fabian (Hun)