Advert

First-half goals enough for City

Valletta captain Gilbert Agius lifts the FA Trophy at the National Stadium, yesterday. Photos: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Valletta captain Gilbert Agius lifts the FA Trophy at the National Stadium, yesterday. Photos: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Valletta 2
Mifsud 8; Scerri 21
Qormi 1
Camilo 78 pen

Michael Mifsud and Terence Scerri eased Valletta's pain at having missed out on the Premier League when they scored stunning first-half goals to give their team the FA Trophy, yesterday.

Having established a 2-0 lead after 21 minutes, the Citizens proved to have too much defensive nous for Qormi's stirring late comeback.

Qormi failed to produce a fairy-tale finish to their incredible season and now they have to play a decider against Sliema Wanderers to determine which team joins Valletta in the Europa League next season.

The National Stadium was a 'mecca' of football yesterday as thousands of supporters turned the national park into an open-air carnival.

Hours before the match, Ta' Qali gradually became flooded as waves of white and red on one side, and yellow and black, on the other, flowed towards the stadium.

Once inside, the disparity in terms of support was evident as the City followers again crowded the stadium sections allotted to them.

The Qormi fans filled their side of the enclosure and parts of the Millennium Stand. Indeed, the National Stadium was impressively eye-catching yesterday.

To the match itself, with Jordi Cruyff half-fit and Jamie Pace and Steve Bezzina fallen victim to injury and suspension respectively, Valletta coach Ton Caanen was forced to take the desperate measure of converting Dyson Falzon into a defender in a makeshift back four that also featured Steve Borg at centre-back and Roderick Briffa at right-back.

It was Vince Carbonaro who sprung the biggest selection surprise, however, keeping Stefan Giglio on the bench as he sent his team out in a re-modelled 4-3-1-2 formation with Alfred Effiong behind Matthew Bartolo and Camilo.

Qormi went into a huddle just before kick-off to their first-ever FA trophy final showing as Valletta's vociferous supporters were making their superiority in numbers count.

Once the game started, it became clear that it might have been better for Qormi to stay in huddle and form it around Michael Mifsud. Valletta made the brighter start and the former Coventry player grabbed the opener after only eight minutes.

Doding Priso cut inside from the left and delivered a cross to the edge of the box where Mifsud outsmarted Ramon dos Santos and rifled in an unstoppable grounder.

Qormi were on the ropes and it took a goal-line clearance from Brazilian defender Ramon to deny Scerri after a slick exchange with Briffa.

Qormi were clearly struggling to come to terms with the pace of the game and never looked liked surviving this fierce early barrage... and so it proved as Valletta doubled their lead on 21 minutes.

Briffa's incisive runs hurt Qormi time and again, with full-back Duncan Pisani bearing the brunt of the midfielder's repertoire of skills. Scerri is not known as a natural dribbler but his anticipation on an inviting ball by Briffa was first-class. He spun past his marker before shooting the ball into the net.

Qormi's Farrugia was the keeper in constant action and he performed heroics after 32 minutes to keep out Scerri's shot.

Little had been seen of Qormi's attack, a low 20-metre shot from Effiong, that drifted wide of Andrew Hogg's goal, being no more than a token effort. In the closing stages of the first half, however, the game became much less one-sided.

Qormi had steadied their game and started to play more in Valletta's half. A sure sign that the final was now a close contest was the amount of niggle that crept in before half-time as both sides had half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away.

Qormi looked to have settled more after the break, and even felt bold enough to pose another brief threat after 49 minutes, but Effiong's header was cleared off the line by Falzon.

A driving run from Priso, four minutes later, signalled Valletta's determination to take the game beyond Qormi but Mifsud failed to trouble Farrugia with a half-hearted shot.

Qormi made a double substitution on the hour mark, sending on Ryan Deguara and Giglio for Bartolo and Keith Fenech. And Deguara almost marked his arrival with a goal as he sent a thunderous right-foot shot just over the bar.

On 64 minutes, Priso, an increasingly prominent presence in the game, won a penalty after Stephen Wellman was penalised for shirt-tugging. But the Cameroon winger slipped as he planted his standing foot and sent his spot-kick crashing against the bar.

Qormi were given a glimmer of hope in the 78th minute when Gilbert Agius brought down Camilo and the Brazilian stepped up to slot home the penalty to set up a tense finale.

Having been down and out for most of the game, suddenly the Yellows were back in it.

On 82 minutes, Hogg flapped at Effiong's tame shot but Briffa was on the line to spare his keeper's blushes with a timely clearance.

The Yellows caught a whiff of a famous comeback and threw everything at Valletta in the closing minutes. But Caanen's men withstood the late assault to lift the FA Trophy for the 12th time.

Valletta
A. Hogg, E. Agius, K. Scicluna, R. Briffa, D. Falzon ('86 D. Grima), G. Agius, M. Mifsud, T. Scerri, D. Priso, K. Sammut, S. Borg.

Qormi
M. Farrugia, D. Pisani ('88 S. Meilak), S. Wellman, R. Dos Santos, J. Bondin, M. Grima, K. Fenech ('60 R. Deguara), J. Farrugia, A. Effiong, M. Bartolo ('60 S. Giglio), Camilo.

Referee: Clayton Pisani.

Yellow cards: J. Farrugia, Borg, G. Agius, Grima, Camilo, Wellman, Scicluna, Hogg.

Missed penalty: Priso (V) 64.

FA Trophy winners

Sliema Wanderers 20

Floriana 18

Valletta 12

Hibernians 8

Ħamrun Spartans 6

Birkirkara 4

Melita 1

Rabat Ajax 1

Gżira United 1

Żurrieq 1

Advert
Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert