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28 April 2024
at 2:00 pm

Naxxar L.

1979-1980 Valletta vs Leeds


Valetta’s resistance against mighty Leeds of England lasted only thirteen minutes.

Because when Arthur Graham slotted in the first goals for the visitors, the game was already at that stage won and lost. Three goals followed as the professionals for another time proved too strong for the amateurs.

The game began briskly but after City were presented with two half chances by Paul Madeley the tide soon swept towards Grima’s fort as the Englishmen with their variety of telling centres, clever heading and precise shooting began to dictate matters with composure and authority.

With the industrious Flynn, the non-nonsense Cherry and the genial Gray forming an impregnable barrier in midfield and with the three raiders Curtis, Hanklin and Graham tormenting the leaded-footed City rearguard which at times was so crowded that it looked like Republic street on a Sunday evening with their potent play. The huge crowd present soon realised that the locals were in for a hard time.

Valletta did their utmost but there was nothing to be done against Leeds, who gave the impression that they are slowly emerging from a crucial period culminating in the recent 7-0 thrashing at Highbury.

But Valetta. apart from the disparity in class, yesterday made things easy for the Eng­lishmen. First they continuously lobbed high balls into the United area crammed with tall players; second they elected to play it tough and rough with their robust opponents and third there was too much loose mark­ing at the back. One cannot expect to face a team like Leeds – or any other UK team for the matter – with­out keeping a watchful eye on their front runners. Yesterday Abdilla was able to get to grips with a lively Graham while Cur­tis, Hankin and even midflelders Flynn and Gray were often allowed space in which they could indulge in their favourite pastime of scoring goals. United willingly obliged.

The match lost much of its interest after the ftrst half dou­ble burst by Leeds and the two . quick second half goals further dampened the atmosphere which promised to be so lively and picturesque at the beginning.

The first two chances came to Valletta, but it was Leeds who created them duw to some untidy clearances that produced two awkward loose balls. In the first Magro made ground on the right but his low cross was turned to corner by Hird and in the second Leonard Farrugia outpaced a slow Maddeley but lobbed too high over the advancing Harvey.

Leeds had their chance in the 12 minute when Curtis, a very clever player, let loose a precise drive that was acrobatically turned to corner by Grima.

But the ‘keeper’s efforts were all in vain because from the resultant corner kick taken by Gray, Paul Hart soared above one and all at the near post to nod the ball onto Graham’s feet who slotted onto the net from close range.

City replied with a Fenech drive that went high over the bar. As the English side began to play some delightful football on the wings, the City defence ‘s defects were being exposed. Once Gray was left unmarked on the edge of the area and his right-footed volley hit the upright with Grima beaten. A minute later Curtis was brought down by Gauci – Valetta fouled too much yesterday – and Gray hit wide when well-placed.

In the 32nd minute Leeds made it two. Good work by fullback Hird on the right wing ended inexorably witll a high cross· defender Hart rushed in to head ‘the ball into the net with Grima helpless.

In the second half we expected a Valetta reaction but it was Leeds who scored after barely a minute. Curtis laid on a perfect ball to the unmarked Graham who let loose a rocket of a shot that finished up in the back of the net for the best goal of the match. The same Graham with Valletta in pieces, hit in his hat-trick four minutes later when Curtis again found him with a cute flick and this time the left-winger lobbed over Grima and into the net. Four-zero with forty minutes still to go!

Valletta’s pride was hurt and for a moment they took hold of proceedings as the United naturally ‘slowed down’. A Seychell shot sailed just over the intersection of the posts but Curtis, my man of the match, showed his undoubted skills when he evaded Gauci in style before shooting straight into Grima’s waiting hands.

With fourteen minutes to go Leonard Farrugia could have got a goal when a shot of his on the turn was saved by a sprawling Harvey.

The last minutes of the game were dominated wholly Leeds as Valletta wondered what it will be like in a fortnight at Elland Road.

Source: Times of Malta

Valletta 0 Leeds 4
First round, 1st leg

Frankie Grima

Valletta: F. Grima, V. Gauci, L. Farrugia, Abdilla, Spiteri, D. Fenech, V. Magro, E. Seychell (Curmi), C. Seychell.
Leeds: Harvey, Hird, Hampton, Flynn, Hart, Madeley, Gray, Cherry, Hankin, Curtis, Graham (Harris).

Referee: Mr Riggli (Switzerland)
Scorers: 13′ Graham, 32′ Hart, 47′ 51′ Graham.
Attendance: 18,735
Date: 20 September 1979
Competition: UEFA Cup
The Stadium  – Gzira