Sliema Wanderers FC produced one of their finest European performances of recent years as goals from Daniel Bogdanovic and Danilo Doncic helped the Maltese title-holders gain a two-goal cushion from their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round first-leg tie against Latvia's Skonto FC.
Not wilting, despite temperatures reaching 37C at the Hibernians Football Ground in Corradino, Sliema took control from the start, inspired by new attacking signings Stefan Giglio and Bogdanovic. The latter went close in the second minute, hitting the outside of the post. Doncic and Drosco Andnam all then had further first-half chances which went begging.
At the other end, Maris Verpakovskis was proving Skonto's main threat and, just before the half-hour mark, he dribbled through the Maltese defence, only to be denied in a one-on-one by Sliema's Nigerian goalkeeper Murphy Akanji.
However, the second half saw Sliema press home their advantage, and Bogdanovic scored his first goal for his new club on 62 minutes with a well-taken finish. Three minutes later the same player was fouled in the Skonto box by Aleksandrs Isakovs, who earned a red card for his second bookable offence, and Doncic stepped up to double the lead. Sliema held on to defend their lead for Wednesday's return leg in Riga.
'I am pleased'
After the game, Sliema coach Edward Aquilina said: "I am pleased with the result. Tactically my team was well on top during the whole course of the match. We will go into the second leg knowing that despite the 2-0 first-leg win, we still need to be totally focused in Riga." The eventual winners of the tie will face FC København of Denmark in the next round.
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