Valletta goalkeeper and hero for the night, Stefan Vella, saved Emil Raducu’s penalty against Luxol in a dramatic encounter to force a third and decisive final of the Gatorade Futsal Elite play-offs. It was a cruel blow for Luxol who had one hand on the championship trophy but the never-say-die Valletta fought their way back in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out victory.
For a team that slumped to a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Luxol, Valletta’s resurgence after barely a week is something to be commended. Their ‘revenge’ at the Corradino Pavillion against the same opponents had the stamp of efficiency. Their perky futsal was indicative of the spirit they can summon when the going is tough. Valletta now relish the possibility of winning the decisive encounter to be played next Friday.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg
Luxol started briskly and struck ahead on eight minutes courtesy of a Dejan Bizjak goal. Despite this early blow, Valletta levelled the matters in no time as Melvin Borg hit the target with a grounder that left no chance to the Luxol keeper. The game was a roller coaster of emotions as Emil Raducu scored Luxol’s second with a powerful shot. The City team kept up the pressure and again restored parity a few minutes before the interval when Jovica Milijic was on the mark to make it 2-2.
Shortly after the restart, Valletta came out aggressively, looked sufficiently robust and workmanlike in midfield and Milijic had the time to complete a personal brace after a quick counter-attack. Luxol added more firepower to get back into the game and it was Mark Zammit who put them level again to 3-3 to force the match to get into extra-time.
Both teams gave their all to strike the winner as the extra-time got underway. Denis di Maio put Valletta on the driving seat again but the St Andrews side refused to throw in the towel as Mark Zammit ensured a 4-4 scoreline.
Penalties were needed to determine a winner and immediately the balance swung in favour of the Citizens as Emil Raducu’s shot was repelled by the Valletta keeper. Dylan Musu, Jovica Milijic and Rodrigo Ticz Patricio expertly converted their penalties to clinch the tie into their team’s favour.
After this result, a third and final match is needed to be played next Friday to decide this year’s winner of the Gatorade Futsal League.