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Valletta bow out of Europa League

Matteo Piciollo (right) of Valletta tries to shield the ball from his opponent. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Matteo Piciollo (right) of Valletta tries to shield the ball from his opponent. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Valletta's Europa League campaign came to a close on Thursday as the Malta champions were beaten by Zrinskji, of Bosnia, 2-1 to go out 3-2 on aggregate.

Zrinskji started brightly and after eight minutes, Milos Filipovic received the ball from a short corner and after moving past his marker he let fly a dipping drive that just missed the upright.

Valletta responded on 14 minutes when Santiago Malano picked Matteo Piciollo inside the area and the Italian striker elected to shoot but his effort was blocked by goalkeeper Antonio Soldo who was replacing the injured Ivan Brkic.

The Citizens had an even better chance on 23 minutes when Rowen Muscat chipped the ball into the path of Alba who with only Soldo to beat saw his lob finish over the bar.

The Maltese side paid heavy for their profligacy in front of goal as Zrinskji took the lead on the half hour.

Hrvoje Barisic picked up possession some 30 metres out and hit a curling drive that gave no chance to a stranded Bonello.

Barely two minutes later Valletta should have pulled themselves level.

Malano’s throughball sent Mario Fontanella clear but the former Floriana striker saw his low shot blocked by the onrushing Soldo.

Valletta started the second half brightly and on 48 minutes, Rowen Muscat’s shot was blocked and from the rebound Malano’s low drive was well saved by Soldo.

A minute later, City’s hopes were boosted when Galic, who was already booked, received his second yellow card after elbowing Piciollo.

Valletta took little time to make the most of their numerical advantage as on 57 minutes they drew level.

The Zrinskji defence were caught by Gavrila’s cross and in came Steve Borg who stabbed the ball into the net to restore parity into the tie.

But their joy was shortlived as eight minutes later the visitors were back in front.

Semir Pezer fed Milos Filipovic who hit a low drive that completely wrong footed Bonello and seal Zrinskji's passage to the next round.

 

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