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Floriana win FA Trophy in extra-time thriller

Floriana sealed the IZIBET FA Trophy title after an extra time win over Valletta. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

VALLETTA        1         

Fontanella 52 pen

FLORIANA        2         

Busuttil 19, Ciolacu 111

VALLETTA A. Guarnone, T. Caruana (96’ J. Borg), C. Gauci (109’ R. Camilleri), A. Zammit (75’ S. Dimech), E. Pena Beltre, P. Oluawtobi (109’ L. Campos), I. Curjuric (75’ K. Tulimieri), R. Muscat, E. Sala, C. Prado, M. Fontanella.

FLORIANA G. Kitanov, A. Magri Overend, C. Rutjens, O. El Hasni (38’ Z. Cassar), K. Keqi (68’ A. Ciolacu), U. Arias (102’ D. Agius), M. Garcia (68’ R. Hovsepyan), B. Paiber (69’ M. Veselji), E. Callegari, J. Busuttil, R. Camenzuli (53’ A. Garzia).

Referee: Matthew De Gabriele

Yellow Cards: E. Pena Beltre, U. Arias, Z. Cassar, R. Hovsepyan, A. Guarnone, M. Veselji, E. Sala, A. Magri Overend, K. Tulimieri

Attendance: 6,012

Floriana won the Izibet FA Trophy after defeating eternal rivals Valletta 2-1 after extra time.

The final, watched by a record crowd this season, turned out to be a highly-entertaining clash. The Greens were clearly a better side during the first half, taking a well-deserved lead, but Valletta improved during the second half, showing great determination and equalising. The match went into extra time and despite a penalty miss, Floriana still managed to notch the winner.

Floriana, therefore, match Sliema Wanderers’ record of twenty-one FA Trophy wins. Thanks to their win, Gżira United qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League as the team placed fourth in the Premier League.

Valletta had one change from the team which defeated Santa Lucia as they welcomed back Ivan Curjuric who replaced Kevin Tulimieri, the latter included as a substitute. On the other hand, Ryan Camenzuli and Kristian Keqi were named in the starting line-up for Floriana as Kemar Reid was ruled out through suspension and Zachary Cassar was among the substitutes.

Floriana coach Gianluca Atzori celebrates with veteran player Manolito Micallef. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Less than a minute had passed when Jan Busuttil received an assist inside the area and pulled to the left, rounding a defender, testing Guarnone with an angled shot.  Four minutes later, Matias Garcia delivered a cross from the right and Ulises Arias’s close-range effort was blocked from point-blank range by the Valletta goalkeeper. Busuttil took the rebound and served Garcia whose cross was well-met by Arias who headed wide.

The Greens maintained the pressure and off an Arias corner from the right, Paiber served Keqi whose shot from outside the area ended high on nine minutes.

Floriana managed to take the lead in the19th minute. Ulises Arias concluded a good move on the left flank with a cross for Jan Busuttil who headed the ball home in style past the Valletta goalkeeper.

The Citizens failed to react and Floriana threatened once again with a Brandon Paiber first-time effort which was blocked by Guarnone.  On the half-hour, Busuttil exchanged the ball with Keqi before entering the area from the right but the Valletta goalkeeper blocked his attempt from close range and towards the end of the first half, Keqi missed a good opportunity, hitting wide when served by Magri Overend.

However, six minutes in the second half, Valletta levelled matters. Mario Fontanella delivered a cross from the right, Emiliano Callegari failed to clear the ball into safety and Andrea Zammit was fouled inside the area. Referee Matthew De Gabriele ordered a penalty and Mario Fontanella duly converted.

The goal boosted the Citizens’ confidence and on 63 minutes, Georgi Kitanov intercepted the ball before Fontanella could conclude from close range. Two minutes later, Andrea Zammit had a shot from inside the area blocked by a defender and on 67 minutes, a header by Promise was parried by the Floriana goalkeeper following a Pena Beltre cross from the right.

After replacing the injured El Hasni with Zachary Cassar in the first half and Camenzuli with Aleandro Garzia early in the second half, Atzori opted for another three changes, including Hovsepyan, Ciolacu and Veselji.

Alessandro Guarnone came to the rescue for Valletta, neutralising a Ulises Arias freekick on 70 minutes and two minutes later, the Citizens hit back with a Zammit effort from outside the area which was parried by Kitanov.

Danilo Doncic introduced two pairs of fresh legs as he replaced Curjuric and Zammit with Shaun Dimech and Tulimieri.

On 77 minutes, Busuttil served substitute Rumyan Hovsepyan from the left, and the Armenian midfielder’s angled shot was deflected by the Valletta goalkeeper. On 86 minutes, another substitute, Andrei Ciolacu, had a low shot from outside the area which was partially saved by the goalkeeper with the ball being cleared into safety by a defender. Three minutes later, Busuttil delivered a corner from the right and the ball was deflected by Rutjens towards goal but was cleared off the goal line by a defender.

Valletta replied with a Triston Caruana freekick from which Promise’s feeble effort was parried by Kitanov on 90 minutes without particular difficulty and three minutes in added time, Fontanella received a cross from the right but his powerful header was saved by the Floriana goalkeeper.

With the score still draw, the game went into extra time, and just before the end of the first half of extra-time, Floriana were awarded a penalty as Rowen Muscat was adjudged to have floored Daniel Agius inside the area. However, from the penalty spot, Busuttil hit wide.

Floriana regained the lead six minutes in the second half of extra time. Busuttil delivered a cross from the left and with a diagonal shot from the edge of the area, Ciolacu beat Guarnone.

Valletta replied with a cross by Caio Prado from the left from which Mario Fontanella’s header was neutralised by Kitanov on 115 minutes.  Two minutes later, the Floriana goalkeeper performed a good save on a Fontanella freekick from the right.

The trophy was presented to Floriana captain Matias Garcia by MFA president Bjorn Vassallo and an official from Izibet. 

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