Floriana were no match for AEK Larnaca as the team led by former Valletta coach Ton Caanen hit eight goals past the Greens in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Thursday.
AEK Larnaca, with no less than nine foreign players in their starting line-up – including former Valletta duo Luke Dimech and Njongo Priso, were in a class of their own right from the very first minute with the striker from Cameroon being a constant threat.
With Ivan Woods starting on the bench as he was not fully fit, the Greens had two strikers making their debut, namely Brazilian Edilson Fiori dos Santos and Julio Alcorse. Duncan Pisani was ruled out injured.
AEK took just four minutes to forge ahead when off Edwin Linssen’s cross from the right, Miljan Mrdakovi? headed home from close range.
Eight minutes later, the visitors doubled the score when Njongo Priso was brought down following a good run on the right and Kyriakos Pavlou’s direct freekick from the right was not held by Matthew Towns.
Following another good move by Priso, his pass was well-met by Gregor van Dijk who however hit high on 16 minutes. A minute later, a header by Gonzalo Garcia a minute later was neutralised by the Floriana custodian.
On 24 minutes, AEK increased the lead when off a cross from the left by Pavlou, Gonzalo Garcia slammed the ball home from close range to make it 3-0.
In an isolated attack for Floriana, Julio Alcorse headed just wide off a cross from the left by Edilson dos Santos on 36 minutes.
A minute later, in a swift counter-attack for the Cypriot side, Njongo Priso served Edwin Linssen with a perfect pass from the right and the latter hit hard past Matthew Towns.
Three minutes from the end of the first half, AEK added another goal when van Dijk sent the ball through to Mrdakovi? inside the area and the latter served Gonzalo Garcia whose diagonal shot from the right gave the Floriana goalkeeper no chance.
Eight minutes in the second half, Gonzalo Garcia completed a hat-trick when off a cross by Priso from the right, Mrdakovi?’s header was blocked by Towns but off the rebound, the Spanish striker placed the ball at the back of the net from close range.
On 74 minutes, AEK scored the seventh goal when off a cross by substitute Sunny Kingsley, another substitute Rubén Gómez hit home from close.
It was not over yet as ten minutes later, Nestor Mytidis beat Towns with an overhead kick following a cross by Kingsley from the left for the visitors’ eighth goal.
Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina
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FLORIANA Matthew Towns, Manolito Micallef, Thomas Paris, Owen Bugeja, Tyrone Farrugia, Pablo Doffo, Christian Caruana (61’ Ryan Darmanin), Christian Cassar, Edilson Fiori Dos Santos, Joseph Borg (56’ Clyde Borg), Julio Alcorse.
Subs not used: Jurgen Borg, Ivan Woods, Jermain Brincat, Brooke Farrugia, Mark Anthony Borg.
Coach: Michael Woods
Assistant Coach: Frank Schembri
AEK LARNACA Alexandre Negri, Alberto Serran, Kevin Hofland, Gregor van Dijk, Luke Dimech, Edwin Linssen, Miljan Mrdakovi? (59’ Sunny Kingsley), Gonzalo García (59’ Rubén Gómez), Kyriakos Pavlou (71’ Nestor Mytidis), Jason Demetriou, Njongo Priso.
Subs not used: Marco Fortin, Ioannis Skopelitis, Konstantinos Kastanas, Andreas Konstantinou.
Coach: Ton Caanen
Referee: Emir Aleckovi? (BIH)
Assistant referees: Momir Sirko, Senad Ibrisimbegovi? (BIH)
Fourth official: Elmir Pilav (BIH)
Yellow Cards: dos Santos
Scorers: 4’ Miljan Mrdakovi?, 12’ Kyriakos Pavlou, 24’ Gonzalo Garcia, 47’ Edwin Linssen, 42’ Gonzalo Garcia, 53’ Gonzalo Garcia, 74’ Rubén Gómez, 84’ Nestor Mytidis