UEFA Europa League Valletta 1 Folgore 0 Published on: 07-07-2017

Valletta are through to the second qualifying round of the Europa League when they edged Folgore 1-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Serravalle to seal a 3-0 aggregate win.
It was far from a vintage performance from the Citizens but they still did just enough to see of their San Marino counter parts.
Valletta held the initiative for much of the match and bar a scare just before the half-time interval they were always in control.
They made their qualification safe midway through the second half courtesy of an own goal by goalkeeper Alessandro Bianchi following a free-kick execution by Santiago Malano to set up a second qualifying round tie against FC Utrecht of the Netherlands.
Zoran Popovic, the Valletta coach, kept faith to the team that won the opening leg 2-0 last week.
Speedy wingback Uchenna Umeh was deployed at the back with the task of aiding Romeu Romao on
the right flank.
Upfront, Maximiliano Velasco was the main striker with Malta skipper Michael Mifsud supporting him on the left, although for most of the match he was even roaming behind him.
Valletta started the match brightly. They started to pile up the pressure on the Folgore defence with Santiago Malano coming close on four minutes but his header was pushed away by Luca Bianchi.
Michael Mifsud tried his luck from the distance but his effort flew over the bar.
The Citizens were much more pragmatic when in possession and despite the poor conditions of the pitch, they showed good composure on the ball.
As time went by, Folgore started to gain inches on the field but their lack of quality upfront hindered any chances of breaking the deadlock.
Mifsud could have put Valletta ahead on 17 minutes when from a tight angle, he tried to slot the ball
behind the goalkeeper but the latter managed to save temporarily before the defenders cleared the
Moments later, Valletta threatened again when Malano sped past the Folgore midfielders before sliding the ball towards Maximiliano Velasco. However, the Argentine striker shot straight into the hands of the Folgore goalkeeper.
On the stroke of half-time, Valletta goalkeeper Henry Bonello almost gifted Folgore the opener when he opted to come out of his area with the ball at his feet but was dispossessed by Marco Bernardi.
However, the San Marino striker incredibly fired wide with an open goal at his mercy. After the change of ends, both teams struggled to raise the tempo of the game.
However, at the first time of asking, Valletta forged ahead through a stupendous free kick from Malano, which after striking the woodwork, hit the back of Bianchi and rolled into the net.
The goal virtually wrapped up the qualification for the Citizens, as it enabled them to play in a much more comfortable way.
Moments later, Ramiro Martin Lago tried to surprise Bonello from a long-range distance but his effort went over the crossbar.
Lago was called into action again a minute later, when he advanced towards the edge of the area and fired a central shot which punched away by Valletta’s no.1 Folgore continued to push and they almost leveled terms when from a corner-kick, Valletta failed to clear the danger away but none of their opponents managed to connect successfully with the delivery.
Late in the match, Folgore tried to push further more in an attempt to equalize, but Valletta remained composed and preserved their one goal lead until the final whistle.

L. Bianchi, A. Semprini, A. Nucci, S. Sacco (62 L. Bonifazi), L. Bezzi, R. Lago (87 L. Rossi), M. Berardi, L. Paradisi, F. Sartori, C. Brolli, M. Bernardi (81 N. Venerucci).
H. Bonello, S. Borg, R. Camilleri (69 J. Borg), J. Cruz Gill (81 K. Nwoko), M. Santiago, M. Mifsud, J. Zerafa, C. Pani, M.  Velasco, U. Umeh, Romeu (61 R. Briffa).
Referee Genc Nuza (Kosovo).
Yellow cards C. Pani, J. Zerafa, U. Calistus, R. Briffa (V), S. Sacco, L. Bezzi (F)

Source - Times of Malta