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Dedura heads Ekranas into third qualifying round

FK Ekranas 1-0 Valletta FC (agg: 4-2)
Captain Ignas Dedura's fifth-minute effort ended the Maltese champions' European hopes and kept Lithuania's flag flying high.

Ekranas captain Ignas Dedura celebrates scoring early on against Valletta
Ekranas captain Ignas Dedura celebrates scoring early on against Valletta ©Valdas Knyzelis

A fifth-minute goal by FK Ekranas captain Ignas Dedura ensured that the Lithuanian champions progressed to the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round without undue concern.

Valletta FC had high hopes of continuing a recovery that had begun after going 3-0 behind in the first leg in Malta; two second-half goals in that match had offered hope of a reprieve. However, once Dedura headed Ramūnas Radavičius's free-kick past Andrew Hogg in this second leg the challenge of again scoring twice proved too much.

Backed by a near full-house at the Aukštaitija stadium, Ekranas started strongly and stand-in captain Dedura set the perfect example when he rose above two defenders to head in early on. It could have been 2-0 after another five minutes when Dušan Matović was presented with a similar chance only to head Marko Andjelković's free-kick wide.

As in the first leg, after absorbing the early pressure Valletta came into the game more, Alfred Effiong causing problems with his direct running, but goalkeeper Emilijus Zubas was well protected by his obdurate back four. Team-mates Uchenna Umeh and Andrius Velička might have doubled the hosts' lead in the second half but both were denied by Hogg, while Zubas thwarted Ryan Fenech with eight minutes left before Michael Mifsud squandered an even later chance.

Ekranas will host FC BATE Borisov on 26/27 July, with the third qualifying round second leg scheduled for the following week.


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