By Domenic Aquilina at the Ta' Qali stadium
Darius Zutautas scored the first goal of the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League as FBK Kaunas recorded a creditable 2-0 victory at Sliema Wanderers FC.
The 25-year-old defender found the net in the 55th minute in Ta' Qali tonight before Darius Sanajevas added a second in the 77th minute to leave the Lithuanian champions as firm favourites to progress to the second qualifying round. The return leg will be played in Kaunas next Wednesday with the winners of the tie due to face Sweden's title-holders Djurgårdens IF.
Kaunas first tested the Sliema defence on four minutes when Saulius Mikoliunas's cross-shot was saved by goalkeeper Murphy Akanji. Sliema had to wait until the 13th minute to try their luck when Rupert Mangion found Orosco Anonam, but his header was parried to safety by Kaunas goalkeeper Eduardas Kurskis.
The home side were lifted by the chance and began to apply more pressure, notably in the 17th minute when Zutautas was forced to clear a Stefan Giglio cross. However, the visitors had their moments too, with Andrius Velicka finding space to shoot two minutes later. Sliema's Carlo Mamo then went close in the 38th minute before Kaunas' Giedrius Barevicius was denied at close range just before the interval.
The deadlock was finally broken ten minutes into the second half, when Zutautas rose above the Sliema defence to head beyond Akanji. Sliema could have had an equaliser almost immediately as Danilo Doncic released Mangion, but again Kurskis was in the way. Kaunas were the most dangerous of the two sides, with Velicka pulling all the strings and finding room to test Akanji again in the 66th minute.
A second goal always looked likely and it came in the 77th minute when Marius Bezykornovas floated in a free-kick that Kaunas captain Sanajevas met with his head. The two-goal cushion deflated Sliema and, with Kaunas able to take off star man Velicka with five minutes still to play, the Lithuanian side will feel full of confidence ahead of next week's return.