UEFA Europa League 1st leg – Newtown 2 Valletta 1
Valletta suffered a heart-breaking defeat in Wales as a Jason Oswell goal deep into stoppage time earned Newtown AFC a 2-1 win in the Europa League first qualifying round, first leg at Latham Park, last night.
The Citizens were down to ten men in the last five minutes but on course to a positive result after substitute Jhonnattann had cancelled out Luke Boundford’s opener for the home side.
However, Valletta, who had Ian Azzopardi dismissed for a double booking, failed to thwart Newtown’s late rally and the Welshmen will now take a slight lead ahead of next week’s second leg at the Hibs Stadium.
Despite the upset, City will still fancy their chances of reaching the next round, having grabbed a crucial away goal.
The winners of this tie play Denmark’s FC Copenhagen in the second qualifying round.
Valletta coach Paul Zammit handed a debut to new signings Juan Cruz Gill, Maxim Focsa, Uchenna Umeh and Claudio Pani while fellow newcomers Jhonnattann and Thierry Fidjeu had to settle for a place on the bench.
Newtown were off to a blistering start and inside the opening 20 minutes Valletta goalkeeper Nicky Vella had to be alert to keep out efforts from Oswell and Matty Owen.
The visitors’ response came on 16 minutes but Abdelkarim Nafti fired wide.
As the minutes ticked by, Valletta started coming more into the picture and Pani went close on 25 minutes but his effort flashed wide.
Umeh was then denied by a fine save from goalkeeper David Jones.
But it was Newtown who took the lead on 40 minutes. An Owen delivery from a free-kick was met by Boundford who hit past goalkeeper Vella.
Valletta started the second side on the offensive.
Nafti fired just wide from a free-kick and soon after Umeh had an even better chance but hit badly from routine distance.
Zammit withdrew Luke Montebello and Umeh and introduced Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza and Jhonnattann as City looked to step up the pressure.
However, it was the home side who almost made it 2-0 on 67 minutes when Owen’s shot came off the woodwork.
After that let off, Valletta continued to push forward and drew level on 74 minutes when Nafti released Jhonnattann who placed his shot beyond’s Jones’s reach.
Five minutes from time, Valletta were reduced to ten men when captain Azzopardi committed a second bookable offence and was dismissed.
With a man more on the pitch, Newtown pushed forward in search of a winner and they struck gold in stoppage time when Oswell was first to Craig Williams’s pass to beat Vella from close in.
Newtown AFC: D. Jones, S. Edwards, K. Mills-Evans, S. Sutton (90 G. Cadwallader), C. Williams, L. Boundford, M. Owen (78 S. Evans), M. Hearsey, T. Goodwin, J. Oswell, N. Mitchell (70 J. Price).
Valletta: N. Vella, I. Azzopardi, R. Camilleri, D. Falzon, J. Gill, M. Focsa, U. Umeh (62 Jhonnattann), L. Cremona, A. Nafti (85 D. Camilleri), L. Montebello (52 J.P. Mifsud Triganza), C. Pani.
Referee: Vladimir Vnuk (Slovakia FA).
Red card: I. Azzopardi (V) 85.
Source – Times of Malta