Valletta ease past Tre Fiori

Valletta FC 2-1 SP Tre Fiori (agg: 5-1)
The hosts came from behind to overcome their ten-man opponents after substitute William Barbosa grabbed an 88th-minute winning goal.

Valletta's Ian Zammit (right) celebrates his equaliser with Jamie Pace
Valletta's Ian Zammit (right) celebrates his equaliser with Jamie Pace ©Domenic Aquilina

A goal two minutes from time by substitute William Barbosa earned Maltese champions Valletta FC a 2-1 second-leg success against ten-man SP Tre Fiori and a second qualifying round encounter with FK Ekranas next week.

Barbosa had missed a succession of second-half chances after Ian Zammit brought his side level on the night by cancelling out Altin Lisi's first-half penalty with a spot-kick of his own in the 58th minute. But with Tre Fiori down to men following Matteo Vendemini's dismissal, the substitute eventually found his aim to complete a second successive win against Paolo Tarini's plucky charges.

Buoyed by their 3-0 first leg success in San Marino, Valletta began the match confidently but found their aggregate lead reduced to two goals when Kenneth Scicluna bought down Alessandro Giunta in the area, enabling Altin Lisi to score from the spot.

The Maltese champions twice came close to equalising before the break through Denni, but the Brazilian forward was denied by Gianluca Cola on both occasions and had to be substituted following the goalkeeper's second challenge four minutes before half-time.

Cola was in fine form and denied Jamie Pace shortly after the interval with a fine reaction save, after which Zammit could only sky the rebound. However, Zammit soon made amends when he beat Cola from the penalty spot after Vendemini had hauled him down in the area and was sent off after being shown a second yellow card. The Tre Fiori goalkeeper continued to impress for the Sammarinese champions but his resistance was broken again late in the game when Barbosa finished off Edmond Agius's floating cross.

"I don't think that our performance was that good in the first half," Valletta captain Gilbert Agius told UEFA.com. "We were too static and let our opponents see too much of the ball. We showed our mettle in the second half, though, and improved tremendously. Overall I was satisfied with the team's general peformance. There is always room for improvement which should be a must if our objective against our next UEFA Champions League opponents Ekranas is to take us further in this exlusive competition."

The reward for Valletta's 5-1 aggregate win is a second qualifying round encounter with Ekranas, the first leg taking place in Malta on 12 July with the return a week later.