Red Star overcome stiff Valletta challenge

Serbian giants Crvena Zvezda came from behind to beat Valletta 2-1 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Tuesday.

It was a fine display by the Citizens especially during the first half when they managed to take the lead courtesy of another Federico Falcone striker and had a goal disallowed by the Austrian referee. In the second half, Crvena Zvezda pushed hard to score and scored twice to take home a precious win.

Valletta coach Paul Zammit made one change to the team which lost to B36 in Torshavn as the returning Steve Borg replaced Santiago Malano.

The Citizens managed to take the lead on the 14th minute when off a perfect cross from the left by Leandro Aguirre, Federico Falcone slammed the ball home past goalkeeper Kahriman with a great volley.

Jhonnattann then sent Falcone through just past the half hour but the goal was disallowed for an offside. A few minutes later, the Argentine striker had to leave the pitch injured.

Three minutes in the second half, Valletta had another good opportunity when Santiago Malano advanced all alone but ended onto the ground when tried to round the goalkeeper.

The visitors replied with a low shot from the left by Aleksandar Katai which was neutralised by Bonello. Substitute Pablo Mouche then had a good shot from the right turned into a corner by the Valletta custodian on the 59th.

Following another inviting cross by Aguirre from the left, Jhonnattann advanced on the right before testing the Red Star custodian with rising shot on the 65th.

Red Star levelled matters on the 66th thanks to a perfect lob by Aleksandar Katai from the right which beat goalkeeper Bonello.

Leandro Aguirre concluded a good run for Valletta on the 68th with a powerful shot which was deflected into a corner.

However the visitors forged ahead on the 75th minute when off an assist by Katai from the left, substitute Predrag Sikimić slotted the ball past Bonello from close range.

Two minutes from time, Jhonnattann served Santiago Malano who controlled the ball on the edge of the area before testing Kahriman with a low shot.

VALLETTA Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Ian Azzopardi (83′ Uchenna Calistus Umeh), Steve Borg, Juan Cruz Gill, Roderick Briffa (78′ Llywelyn Cremona), Federico Matias Falcone (40′ Santiago Malano), Claudio Pani, Leandro Aguirre, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao, Romeu Pericles Romao.
CRVENA ZVEZDA Damir Kahriman, Aleksandar Lukovic, Damien Le Tallec, Guelor Kanga, Aleksandar Katai (83′ John Jairo Ruiz), Milos Cvetković, Mitchell Donald, Slavoljub Srnič (46’Pablo Nicolas Mouche), Hugo Felipe Da Costa Oliveira (65′ Predrag Sikimić), Luis Ezequiel Ibańez, Thomas Phibel.
Referee: Alexander Harkam (AUT)
Assistant referees: Andreas Witschnigg, Robert Steinacher (AUT)
Fourth official: Julian Weinberger (AUT)