Champions Valletta came from behind to beat FA Trophy winners Floriana 2-1 in the first match of the Euro Cup – the competition which kicked-off season 2011/12.
The third team in this pre-season competition, Birkirkara, will be in action on Monday as they take on Floriana while the third and final game will be between Birkirkara and Valletta on Thursday.
With both Valletta and Floriana being geared for their commitments in European competitions, the two teams had a number of new faces in their squads.
Valletta had Ousseni Zongo and trialist William Barbosa making their first appearance in the Valletta shirt while Dyson Falzon was back after a five-month loan spell with Hamrun Spartans. Cleavon Frendo, who spent last season with Qormi, was included as a substitute. The injured Jonathan Caruana and Ramon Dos Santos and suspended duo Jamie Pace and Terence Scerri were missing. Andrade Antunes Anderson and Omonigho Temile have been released by the club since last season.
On the other hand, Floriana had three new players who are currently on trial with the club, namely defender John Hardiker and strikers Salvatore Amirante and L’Imam Seydi. Sacha Borg and Pablo Doffo were unavailable but Ryan Darmanin was back after a six-month loan with Marsaxlokk. Daniel Nwoke has not yet renewed his contract with the club while Dragomir Draganov and Lotfi Saidi are no longer in squad. Christian Cassar returned with Marsaxlokk following a one-year loan.
The two teams shared the exchanges in the opening minutes with the only attempts at goal being long distance shots by Denni and Zongo for Valletta and Manolito Micallef for Floriana.
On 34 minutes, Roderick Briffa could have put the Citizens ahead but his diagonal shot from the right scraped past the post. In a swift counter-attack for Floriana, Salvatore Amirante concluded a good run with a shot from inside the area when surrounded by two defenders, ending wide.
Four minutes in the second half, Matthew Towns performed a good save on a Kevin Sammut freekick from the right.
Floriana managed to break the deadlock on 54 minutes when off a Manolito Micallef freekick from the left, Joseph Borg headed the ball home past goalkeeper Andrew Hogg.
Substitute Ian Zammit concluded a good run on the left flank with a powerful shot ending wide a few minutes later. On the other side of the pitch, a fierce shot by Clyde Borg was neutralised by Hogg on 74 minutes.
Valletta levelled matters on 75 minutes thanks to a direct freekick which beat goalkeeper Matthew Towns.
Four minutes later, the Citizens forged ahead when off a Gilbert Agius freekick from the left, Steve Borg headed the ball down and Edmond Agius hit home from close range.
In added time, John Hardiker went close to equalising when off a Christian Caruana freekick, he headed just wide.
Photos: Copyright © www.stephengatt.com
VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Steve Borg, Ian Azzopardi, Roderick Briffa, Edmond Agius, Ryan Fenech, Kevin Sammut (59’ Gilbert Agius), Dyson Falzon, Denni Rocha Dos Santos (90+2′ Cleavon Frendo), Ousseni Zongo (63’ Ian Zammit), William Barbosa.
Subs not used: Yenz Cini, Kenneth Scicluna, Kurt Magro, Llywelyn Cremona.
Coach: Nardu Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa
FLORIANA Matthew Towns, Manolito Micallef, Duncan Pisani, John Hardiker, Owen Bugeja, Tyrone Farrugia, Clyde Borg, Joseph Borg (77’ Mauro Grioli), Christian Caruana, L’Imam Seydi, Salvatore Amirante (72’ Ryan Darmanin).
Subs not used: John Agius, Ivan Woods, Jermain Brincat, Mark Gauci, Mark Anthony Borg.
Coach: Michael Woods
Referee: Clayton Pisani
Assistant Referees: William Debattista, Paul Apap
Fourth Official: Mario Apap
Yellow Cards: I. Azzopardi, J. Hardiker, C. Caruana, M. Micallef, E. Agius, T. Farrugia, I. Zammit, D. Pisani
Scorers: 54’ Joseph Borg (F); 75’ Ryan Fenech (V); 79’ Edmond Agius (V)