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Valletta vs Bala Town

Valletta’s European adventure ended at the first hurdle as the Citizens suffered a shock defeat to Bala Town at the Centenary Stadium.

It was a disappointing performance from the Citizens who were expected to hold the edge against a Bala Town side who had never managed to go beyond the first qualifying round of a European competition.

Jesmond Zerafa, the Valletta coach, had warned his team not to underestimate the threat posed by Bala Town despite their poor European record and the former City winger was proved right as the Welsh side played a diligent game as after taking an first-half lead they managed to keep at bay the Citizens.

Valletta surely will rue their missed chances particularly when they were awarded a penalty midway through the second half that could have put them back into the match but Mario Fontanella saw his shot saved by Bala Town’s man-of-the-match Alex Ramsay to crash to a disappointing defeat.

Valletta coach Jesmond Zerafa named his strongest formation with Serbian defender Mihailo Jovanovic handed his competitive debut for the Citizens but fellow new signings, winger Taisei Marukawa and Taylon Nicolas, the Brazilian striker, both started from the bench.

It was the home side who started brightly as after three minutes Matteo Piciollo weaved his way past his marker but his curling drive flew over.

Bala Town responded on eight minutes when Raul Correia was handed too much space on the edge of the area but his low drive flashes wide.

Valletta slowly stepped up the pressure and on 15 minutes, Alba hit a low cross but Shaun Dimech failed to connect.

Four minutes later, Dimech was again picked on the edge of the area by the Argentine winger but his shot was this time, blocked by a Bala Town defender.

Valletta continued to hold most of the possession but they were struggling to create open chances.

Instead it was Bala Town who took the lead on 38 minutes. Steven Leslie sent a fine cross inside the area and skipper Chris Venables was the quickest to react and stab the ball past Henry Bonello.

Valletta responded two minutes later when from an Alba corner kick, Jonathan Caruana saw his header finish just wide.

Zerafa effected his first change when he withdrew Alba and roped in Kyrian Nwoko as he looked to add more firepower.

However, it was Bala Town who came out stronger and on 47 minutes Antony Kay dispossessed Jovanovic and stormed into the area. He put in a low cross but Rowen Muscat was on hand to clear to a corner.

On the hour, Taylon was put into the fray by Zerafa and the Brazilian made an instant impact as on 61 minutes he collected Fontanella’s pass but was pushed to the ground. The referee pointed to the spot but Fontanella saw his shot saved by the diving Alex Ramsay.

Valletta’s frustration grew as Taisei Marukawa replaced Shaun Dimech with the Citizens looking to add more speed to their attacking moves.

Five minutes from time, Marukawa stormed through the Bala Town defence but elected to keep the ball instead of passing the unmarked Kyrian Nwoko. He then served Taylon whose shot was blocked.

In the first minute of stoppage time, Marukawa again used his speed to go inside the area and hit a low cross-shot which just eludes the diving Taylon as Bala Town held on for a famous win.

Source: Times of Malta

First qualifying round

Valletta vs Bala Town

VALLETTA: Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Santiago Malano, Matteo Picciolo (59’ Taylon), Shaun Dimech (68’ Taisei Marukawa), Jean Borg, Enmy Pena Beltre, Rowen Muscat, Miguel Angel Alba (46’ Kyrian Nwoko), Mihailo Jovanovic, Mario Fontanella.

BALA TOWN: Alex Ramsay, Sean Smith, Tony Stephens, Jonathan Spittle, William Evans, Raul Correia (79’ Henry Jones), Steven Leslie (69’ Kieran Smith), Antony Kay, Lassana Mendes, Chris Venables, Oliver Shannon.

Yellow cards:  Ramsey, Kay, Taylon, Malano, Pena Beltre.

Missed penalty: Fontanella (V) 61.

Scorers: 41′ Venables

Referee: Luca Barbeno (SMR)

Date: 27.08.2020

Competition: Europa League

Venue: Centenary Stadium