Floriana coach Enzo Potenza sounded pleased with his team’s performance despite a 2-0 defeat to CFR Cluj that ended their participation in the Champions League and said that Wednesday’s performance should inject more self-belief in his players ahead of their upcoming commitments in the UEFA Nations League.
The Romanian side had to dig deep into their reserves to see off the gritty challenge of Floriana. After a scrappy first half, during which both sides failed to register a shot on target, CFR Cluj took the lead with a Mike Cestor thumping header.
Floriana tried to hit back and came close to an equalizer through Nicola Leone. However, it was Cluj who had the final say with substitute Catalin Golofca sealing their win to set up a second qualifying round clash against Dinamo Zagreb.
“I’m proud of my players,” Potenza told the Times of Malta.
“We put up a very good performance which was even highlighted by the Romanian media. After an opening 15 minutes where our players gave too much respect to our opponents but from then on, we started to control proceedings.
“I don’t like to put alibis, but we came into the match with several first-team players who were not in their best physical condition. We had Keqi, Fonseca and Diego Venancio who are not in their best condition while we lost Uli Arias the day before the match.
“But despite all these problems we still made it hard for a good team like Cluj and that should fill us with confidence ahead of our upcoming commitments in the Europa League.”
Floriana did have one serious raid at the Cluj goal which could have turned the match around just after the visitors’ opening goal when Nicola Leone saw his effort somehow kept out by the Romanian goalkeeper.
“That could have changed the complexity of the game, no doubt,” Potenza said.
“We had just fallen behind but the players soon lifted themselves up and pushed forward and it had to be a good reflex save from the goalkeeper to deny us an equalizer.
“From then on, the team played with more personality and hopefully it will continue to increase our confidence ahead of our Europa League commitments.
“I’m sure that this match will help our players realise that they have what it takes to be competitive in European football.”