BALA TOWN 1
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 start 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 start to step up the pressure and on 15 minutes Alba hits a low cross but Shaun Dimech fails to connect.
Four minutes later, Dimech is again picked on the edge of the area by the Argentine winger but his shot is 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 sends a fine cross inside the area and skipper Chris Venables is the quickest to react and stab the ball past Henry Bonello.
Valletta responded two minutes later when from an Alba corner kick, Jonathan Caruana sees 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 dispossesses Jovanovic and storms into the area. He sends 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 makes an instant impact as on 61 minutes he collects Fontanella’s pass but is pushed to the ground. The referee pointed to the spot but Fontanella saw his shot saved by the diving Alex Ramsay.
Valletta were now growing frustrated with Taisei Marukawa replacing Shaun Dimech as the Citizens looked to add more speed to their attacking moves.
Five minutes from time, Marukawa storms through the Bala Town defence but elects to keep the ball instead of passing the unmarked Kyrian Nwoko. He then serves Taylon whose shot is blocked.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Marukawa again uses his speed to go inside the area and hits a low cross-shot which just eludes the diving Taylon as Bala Town held on for a famous win.