Holders Luxol St Andrews crashed out of the Gatorade Elite play-offs after being stifled by a brilliantly well-organised Valletta side and undone by a 4-1 semi-final, second leg defeat.
The slogan that hung at the stands of the Corradino Pavillion read “Nothing is Impossible” and Valletta always believed in this motto, even when they might have feared it would be taken from them in the final minute.
Few know how to suffer like they do but few know how to make opponents suffer like they do either. The pressure built and the numerous Valletta supporters encouraging their team, made this match a really intense one.
As for Luxol, their belief in a second consecutive championship was extinguished here. Here, too, it was tense and there were nerves until the very end but ultimately Valletta deserved their victory, seeking it from the start. Luxol did not. After controlling their opponents with a great tactical discipline in the first half, the Citizens ventured forward and broke the deadlock on the half hour.
On their part, the St Andrews side, had an immense majority of the ball but they moved it slowly and from deep and Saliba’s opener rendered the tactic redundant.
The first half was a cagey affair with both rearguards having control of their respective attackers as a stalemate prevailed before the break.
Valletta broke the deadlock on 32 minutes when Xavier Saliba, well served by Elamari netted the first goal from close range.
One minute later, the Citizens’ captain headed home a Milijic exquisite cross to give a deserved 2-0 lead.
Luxol were stunned and the Lilywhites took advantage as they netted their third goal when Melvin Borg, well-served by Cuadros Silva slotted into the net.
Luxol tried to grow into the game, but struggled to create clear chances. Their two best opportunities fell to Frane Despotovic, the scorer of four goals in their 6-5 win in the first leg, but the Croatian could only shoot straight at Neil Cuschieri, the Valletta’s keeper.
In the following attempt, Luxol’s player-coach was unlucky as the woodwork denied the joy of goal.
Glenn Bonello reduced the arrears a few minutes later to produce an intense finale.
Despotovic opted for the flying keeper to instill more pressure on Valletta’s defence but in doing so they exposed their net with Jovica Milijic taking advantage to fire home and rubberstamp his team’s qualification.