1999-2000 Valletta vs Barrytown
The National Stadium witnessed scenes of inde-scribable joy last night as local champions Valletta finally fulfilled their dream of clearing the first hurdle in a European club competition after they saw off the challenge of Welsh champions Barry Town 3-2 in a roller-coaster match.
Without doubt, the Citizens’ hero yesterday was Gilbert Agius. Widely regarded as the darling of the Valletta faithful, the lion-hearted Agius redis-covered his scoring boots with two opportunistic goals that put Valletta en route to the second qualifying round of the Champions League.
Just when it looked as if the first half was going to end in a goalless stalemate, the game exploded into the life in the final minutes courtesy of a double strike from last season’s Premier League top marksman.
Agius, who missed the last matches of 1998/99 season due to a hamstring injury, sent the thousands of Valletta supporters into a frenzy of delight when he broke the deadlock four minutes from the break.
Ivanov’s through pass freed Agius inside the penalty area, the latter firing home a low shot that had the better of David Wells in Barry’s goal.
A louder roar engulfed the stadium a few minutes later when Agius struck a second goal to ease Valletta’s nerves. Midfield powerhouse Radak engineered the move from the middle of the park, found Nicky Saliba unmarked on the right and the skipper’s inch-measured pass was cleverly tapped into the net by Agius.
The Valletta quicksilver striker could have forced a breakthrough on 36 minute but his low drive on the turn was deflected by Wells and the foot of the post.
On the balance of play, Valletta deserved to take the lead for they created better chances earlier on. After four minutes, Ivanov shot high and a few moments later it was Radak’s turn to try his luck from the distance but his powerful shot ricocheted off the woodwork.
Barry had only one chance to their credit when Justin Perry headed over on 15 minutes.
After the interval, Barry Town player-manager Gary Barnett introduced Chris Sloan for Ince and pushed more men forward in search of a goal that would haul them back in contention. Barnett’s move reaped instant dividends for the Welsh dragons because, with practically his first touch of the ball, Sloan found the City net.
A cross from Davies caught Valletta napping and the unmarked former Bristol City forward controlled the ball before sliding past Cini.
Jeffrey Chetcuti restored Valletta’s two-goal lead on 56 minutes when he nodded home a deflected Ivanov cross but their joy was short-lived as Sloan, again, hit back for Barry straight from the restart. The lanky striker noticed Cini out of position and his exquisite lob from outside the penalty box soared over the City goalie and into the net.
The Citizens were stunned and Manolov tried to inject some organisation in his team by putting into the fray defender Joe Camilleri for Ivanov who had a fine performance.
Barry’s hopes of scoring an equaliser were dealt a severe knock on 67 minutes when Terry Evans was dismissed by French referee Derrier for a professional foul on Veselji who was surging towards goal before he was tripped just on the edge of the box. The ensuing free-kick, taken by Agius, was blocked by Barry’s human barrier.
An excellent one-two between Agius and Chetcuti almost saw the latter sealing the issue for the Maltese champions but his drive was repelled by Wells.
A visibly tired Veselji then made way for Kris Laferla who was making a comeback after a lengthy period of recovery from an ankle injury. Laferla’s presence clearly had the desired psychological effect on the white shirted players who held on to their lead to go through to the second round.
All in all in was another spirited per-formance by the Citizens following their fine showing last week at Jenner Park on their first official outing of the season. The first round breakthrough was a great morale boost to the players… and the club’s coffers.
After a series of impressive triumphs on the domestic scene over the last three seasons, one could have easily noticed last night that the City players – and their fans – are still hungry for success.
Their lust for more honours seems to know no bounds even though it will be much more difficult next Wednesday when they travel to Austria to play the more quoted Rapid Vienna in the first leg of the second qualifying round.
Last night Rapid won their third league match from five after beating lowly Ried 2-1 away. They are joint second in the league on ten points along-side Sturm Graz. Tirol Innsbruck are first with maximum points from four matches.
Source: Times of Malta
Valletta 3 Barrytown 2
First qualifying round, 2nd leg
Valletta: R. Cini, S. Giglio, J. Chetcuti, S. Radak, D. Debono, J. Buttigieg, G. Agius, N. Saliba (E. Azzopardi), N. Veselji (K. Laferla), A. Ivanov (J. Camilleri), D. Theuma.
Barrytown: D. Wells, T. Evans, D. Davies, R. Jones, A. York, L. Barrow, G. Barnett (C. Pridham), D. Carter, P. Mitchell, J. Perry, J. Ince (C. Sloan)
Referee: Bruno Derrier (France)
Scorers: 41′ 45′ G. Agius, 57′ J. Chetcuti, 47′ 58′ C. Sloan
Date: 21 July 1999
Competition: UEFA Champions League
National Stadium Ta’ Qali