A goal by Terence Scerri fourteen minutes from time cancelled a first-half penalty for Ruch Chorzów as Valletta and the Polish side shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
All in all, it was a fair result for Jesmond Zerafa’s side. In fact, although Ruch showed better ideas, the Citizens did create a number of scoring opportunities.
Two players were making their debut for the Citizens – defender Jonathan Caruana and Brazilian midfielder Denni Rocha Dos Santos who joined the other two new recruits, namely Ramon Dos Santos and Omonigho Temile. Edmond Agius and Kenneth Scicluna were ruled out injured.
The visitors had the first attempt at goal with a powerful shot from the left by Marcin Zajac which was blocked by Andrew Hogg on the 3rd minute. Valletta replied with a Denni Rocha Dos Santos solo effort, concluded with a low shot which was parried by goalkeeper Pilarz four minutes later. On the 9th, a fine freekick by Gilbert Agius was partially saved by the Polish goalkeeper. Valletta went close once again on 15 minutes with an angled shot from the right by Ian Zammit.
Ruch Chorzow managed to take the lead on 18 minutes when Sebastian Olszar was brought down inside the area by Steve Bezzina. Referee Menashe Masiah ordered a penalty and Wojciech Grzyb made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Valletta replied with an angled shot by Omonigho Temile from the right on 23 minutes. A Gilbert Agius freekick was deflected into a corner five minutes later. On 31 minutes, Dyson Falzon had a good opportunity, hitting just over the bar with a rising shot from just outside the area. Then off an Omonigho Temile cross from the right, Ian Zammit’s header was parried by the Polish goalkeeper. The Citizens appealed for a penalty on 35 minutes when Denni was bought down inside the area by Krzysztof Pilarz but the referee saw no infringement.
Five minutes from the end of the first half, a cross shot by Dyson Falzon from the right was parried by the Polish goalkeeper and on the other side of the pitch, Lukasz Janoszk failed to connect off an inviting cross by Sebastian Olszar three minutes later.
Ten minutes in the second half, the Polish goalkeeper performed a great save on a fine header by Roderick Briffa following a corner from the left by Ian Zammit. A shot by Briffa from outside the area, when served by Temile three minutes later, was also parried by Pilarz.
But Ruch threatened the Valletta rear-guard once again with a cross shot from the right by Wojciech Grzyb which hit the crossbar. Jonathan Caruana then missed a good opportunity for Valletta hitting incredibly wide from inside the area on 72 minutes.
However the Citizens were not to be denied on the 76th minute when off a cross by Denni from the left, substitute Terence Scerri controlled the ball inside the area before slotting past goalkeeper Krzysztof Pilarz.
Three minutes from time, the visitors could have regained the lead but Arkadiusz Piech failed to connect off a perfect pass by Lukasz Janoszk. A minute later, Michal Pulkowski hit wide from an ideal position just outside the area.
The second leg will be played in Chorzów in a week’s time.
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VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Steve Borg, Ramon Dos Santos, Jonathan Caruana, Steve Bezzina (80’ Jamie Pace), Roderick Briffa, Gilbert Agius, Omonigho Temile, Ian Zammit (66’ Terence Scerri), Denni Rocha Dos Santos, Dyson Falzon (56’ Kevin Sammut).
Subs not used: Nicky Vella, Kurt Magro, Clifford Gauci, Leone Camilleri.
Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
RUCH Krzysztof Pilarz, Krzysztof Nykiel, Rafal Grodzicki, Maciej Sadlok, Ariel Jakubowksi, Gabor Straka (74’ Marcin Hlinowksi), Nojciech Grzyb, Lukasz Janoszk, Michal Pulkowski, Marcin Zajac (59’ Arkadiusz Piech), Sebastian Olszar (76’ Bartosz Flis).
Subs not used: Matko Perdijic, Piotr Stawarczyk, Gezegorz Bronowicki, Patryk Stefanski.
Coach: Waldemar Fornalik
Referee: Menashe Masiah (ISR)
Assistant Referees: Danny Krasikow, Shabtai Nahmias (ISR)
Fourth Official: Moshe Buhbut (ISR)
Yellow Cards: Sadlok, Straka, Grzyb, Pilarz
Scorers: 18’ Wojciech Grzyb (pen) (RC); 76’ Terence Scerri (V)