2009-2010 Valletta vs Keflavik
Valletta coach Ton Caanen called on his players to think positive ahead of their home encounter with Keflavik.
His advice was certainly heeded as theWhites produced an exhilarating display to rip their Icelandic opponents apart as the final 3-0 scoreline clearly indicates.
Exuding confidence from the outset, Valletta tore into Keflavik who found the effective movement and pace of the City players, particularly Doding Priso and Dyson Falzon, too hot to handle.
It was evident from the opening stages that Keflavik were there for the taking and Valletta seized the chance to bolster their prospects of setting up a second qualifying round match against Ireland’s St Patrick’s. In doing so, the Citizens also gave Maltese football much needed boost after a catalogue of disastrous results in European competitions in the last decade.
In fact, the last victories in Europe came in 2004 when Hibs beat Slaven Belupo 2-1 (Intertoto Cup) and Birkirkara beat P. Tirana 2-1 (UEFA Cup).
Caanen favoured a fluid 4-1-4-1 formation that had captain Gilbert Agius taking up screening duties in front of defence.
Dutch forward Geert den Ouden wasValletta’s target man upfront as the roaming Jordi Cruyff was given instructions to link midfield and attack.
The game was only two minutes old when Falzon’s centre from a free-kick was nodded on by Cruyff towards Den Ouden who beat his marker but his tame back-heel posed no danger to the Keflavik keeper.
Valletta had the more enterprising start but their early pressure failed to unhinge Keflavik whose coach Kristjan Gudmundsson opted for a prudent 4-5-1 approach.
The initial exchanges ought to have strengthened Valletta’s belief that victory here was an achievable target as Keflavik looked an ordinary side.
Midway into the first half, Kenneth Scicluna spotted Cruyff running into the area and duly picked him out with an excellent pass. The Dutchman raised his leg to bring the ball down but his first touch was heavy and
Lasse Jorgensen saved.
This was the preamble to Valletta’s opener which came a minute later. Priso’s through-pass released Den Ouden who closed in on goal but his central shot came off the goalkeeper. The
loose ball bounced across the goal-line and Falzon was on hand to tap home from routine distance. One-nil to City.
Buoyed by their breakthrough, Valletta sought to exert more pressure on Keflavik who were struggling to cope with the sweltering heat.
Falzon, a dynamic figure on the right wing, hit a diagonal shot but Jorgensen saved. Retrieving what looked like an overhit pass from Roderick Briffa, initially deployed at right-back, Cruyff fired a shot from an acute angle but the ball hit the upright.
It was all Valletta now, Priso shooting wide after being set up by Den Ouden.
Caanen was clearly intent on making the most of the versatile qualities of his players as Briffa swapped positions with Bezzina and Agius dovetailed with Cruyff in the latter stages of the opening half.
The Citizens should have doubled their lead soon after the restart but Priso flicked Bezzina’s cross wide.
Priso redeemed himself when, with four minutes of the second half gone, he tucked his shot between Jorgensen’s legs after Briffa had released the Cameroonian winger with a raking pass.
Backed by their vocal fans, the Citizens maintained a high tempo as Keflavik looked shell-shocked. Cruyff did well to slip a pass to Den Ouden but the latter’s grounder was deflected away for a corner.
The rhythm dropped as the second half wore on but the home team remained in control. Den Ouden made a good run on the left before passing back to Falzon but the latter’s effort lacked power and accuracy.
A fast City counter-attack, started by Bezzina, finished with Priso setting up Den Ouden who blasted wide of the near post.
But, Valletta made it 3-0 with 18 minutes left. Their new Dutch signings conjured their third goal as Cruyff’s defence-splitting pass sent Den Ouden clear and the towering forward drilled a low shot past Jorgensen.
Eleven minutes from time, Hogg kept Valletta’s 3-0 lead intact when saving Hordur Sveinsson’s header.
Ian Zammit, who had just replaced Falzon, could have made it 4-0 when Gilbert Agius’s lofted pass found him unmarked but the City striker fluffed his chance.
At the other end, Simon Samuelsen’s speculative shot was deflected towards goal by Gudjon Arni Antoninsson but Hogg saved.
From the ensuing action, Priso surged clear before laying the ball back for Edmond Agius but the latter miscued his shot.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA 3 Keflavik 0
First qualifying round, 1st leg
Valletta: A.Hogg, R. Briffa, L. Dimech, K. Scicluna, S. Bezzina, J. Pace (‘76 E. Agius), J. Cruyff, G. Agius, D. Priso, D. Falzon (‘82 I. Zammit), G. Den Ouden (‘90 S. Giglio).
Keflavik: L. Jorgensen, A. Sutej, G. Antoninsson, N. Jorgensen, G.J. Eysteinsson (‘72 T.M. Matthiasson), N. Sveinsson, S. Samuelsen, M. Thorsteinsson, E.O. Einarsson, B.H. Adalsteinsson, B.E. Gudmundsson (‘85 S.O. Arnarson).
Referee: P. Radovanovic (Montenegro).
Scorers: D. Falzon 25; N. Priso 49 G. Den Ouden 72
Yellow Cards: Thorsteinsson; Samuelsson
Competition: Europa League
Date: 2 July 2009
Centenary Stadium Ta’ Qali
2009-2010 Valletta vs St Patrick’s
Valletta’s fairytale run in the Europa League came to a shuddering halt yesterday as a late goal by Declan O’Brien earned Irish team St Patrick’s a 1-0 win and a third qualifying round tie against Russia’s PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara.
A 1-1 draw in Dublin last week ensured that Valletta came into the second leg brimming with optimism but their dream was wrecked by O’Brien’s well-taken header.
There had been little between the two teams in a turgid game that produced few scoring chances with Valletta coachTonCaanenopting for a conservative approach aimed at keeping St Patrick’s at bay, given that a goalless draw would have qualified the Citizens.
However, Caanen’s game plan was risky as one goal for St Patrick’s would have seen them through. And so it proved.
Still, Valletta’s chances of keeping a clean sheet and maybe hit a late goal appeared to increase when St Patrick’swerereducedtotenmen with12minutesleft but the Irish side kept their cool in the sweltering heat to net the all-important goal 10 minutes from the end.
News that this match had attracted a sell-out crowd prompted many fans to head to Ta’ Qali hours before kick-off.
With Doding Priso sidelined by a one-match ban, Caanen awarded a starting berth to Justin Grioli. The wing-back took up a wide position to the right of Geert den Ouden, Valletta’s attacking spearhead. Dyson Falzon started on the left wing with captainGilbertAgiusandJamiePace manning the centre of midfield.
JeffKenna, the St Patrick’s coach, limited himself to only one change from last week’s first leg as Jason Gavinwaspreferred to AlanCawley.
Caanen, looking somewhat frail after being sick for most of the week, greeted the numerous fans with a clenched fist as he set foot on the pitch of the Centenary Stadium.
St Patrick’s tried to force the early tempo but it was Valletta who fashioned the first glimmer of a scoring chance. Gilbert Agius floated a dangerous free-kick into the box and Cruyff’s back-header was saved by Gary Rogers.
A strong run by Pace through the middle had St Patrick’s on the back foot. The Malta midfielder went for goal after exchanging passes with DenOudenbuthewascloseddown by Rogers.
The sizzling heat inducedSlovenian referee Matej Jug to stop play for a minute or so in order for the players to drink some water.
The game was bereft of creative football for much of the opening half-hour with the consequence that scoring chances were scarce.
Seven minutes from half-time, Steve Bezzina laid the ball for Pace but the latter’s shot was too central to unnerve the St Patrick’s goalkeeper.
The tone of the match remained the same in the opening stages of the second half.
Eleven minutes into the second period, Den Ouden turned sharply on the edge of the box but his well-struck effort flashed wide.
At the other end, Andrew Hogg effected his first notable save of the evening when diving to his right to stop Garrett O’Connor’s grounder.
Kenneth Scicluna then saved Valletta from a potentially dangerous situation when heading away a cross-cum-shot by Cawley who replaced Stuart Byrne early in the second half.
On71 minutes, Caanenmadehis first substitution, bringing on EdmondAgius for Grioli.
BobbyRyanthenmanagedto curl a shot towards goal but Hogg was alert to block the St Patrick’s midfielder attempt.
By and large, the match remained dull with both teams seemingly unable to infuse a semblance of fluidity into their play.
Twelve minutes from the end, the Whites received a boost when Darragh Ryan, who had just replaced Bobby Ryan, was shown a straight red card for tripping the goalbound DenOudenwhohadbeensent clear by Dimech.
However, City’s joy soon gave way to despair as in their next attack, St Patrick’s went ahead. Gavin made good progress on the right before whipping in a brilliant cross which was headed home by O’Brien who scored his second goal in as many games since joining the Pat’s.
The Citizens, who were clearly handicapped by the absence of the pacy Priso, threatened to gain an immediate equaliser but Rogers blocked Edmond Agius’s effort.
One-nil down and with only 10 minutes left, the home team had no option but to ditch their cautious approach.On came Ian Zammit for Falzon and Cruyff abandoned his libero position to provide some support forDenOuden.
For his part, Kenna brought on another defender, Damian Lynch, and reverted to a four-man rearguard.
St Patrick’s survived a scare when Harris’sbackwardheadersailed past the onrushing Rogers but the goalkeeper arched back to grab the ball.
With only two minutes left, the City players and fans yelled handball when Lynch appeared to have hit the ball with his and but the referee waved play on.
Valletta then went close when Gilbert Agius, again one of their best players yesterday, summoned fine rising shot that grazed the crossbar.
Valletta laid siege to St Patrick’s goal but the latter’s crowded defence held sway.
Source: Times of Malta
VALLETTA 0 St Patrick’s 1
Second qualifying round, 2nd leg
Valletta: A. Hogg, J. Grioli (‘71 E. Agius), R. Briffa, L. Dimech, K. Scicluna, S. Bezzina, J. Pace, J. Cruyff, G. Agius, D. Falzon (‘83 I. Zammit), G. Den Ouden.
St Patrick’s: G. Rogers, S. Maher (‘82 D. Lynch), J. Gavin, D. Partridge, E. Stevens, S. Byrne (‘58 A. Cawley), G. O’Connor, B. Ryan (‘75 D. Ryan), J. Harris, D. O’Brien, R. Guy.
Referee: Matej Jug (Slovenia)
Scorers: 80′ D. O’Brien
Yellow Cards: Stevens; Gavin; Zammit
Red Card: 78′ D. Ryan
Competition: Europa League
Date: 23 July 2009
Centenary Stadium Ta’ Qali