Ferencvaros enjoyed almost domination in their Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round 1st Leg encounter against the Maltese champions Valletta at the Groupama Arena. Fradi ran out comfortable 3-1 winners despite a late flourish from the visitors, however, the loss of an avoidable away goal will take some of the shine off an otherwise impressive performance.
Two goals from returning talisman Davide Lanzafame helped Ferencvaros to open up a comfortable three-goal lead before the hour mark against Valletta, before some slack defending in the closing minutes allowed the Maltese back into the game, and possibly the tie.
After a cagey opening period during which neither side was able to gain a foothold on the game, Ferencvaros eventually settled into the match and began to take the ascendency. The hosts made the most of their home advantage and took the lead after 19 minutes in rather fortuitous fashion as Valletta keeper Bonello punched a Fradi corner into his own net.
The goal proved to be the turning point in the match as Ferencvaros, buoyed by a large and noisy support, immediately took control of the match. Lanzafame’s clever movement and link-up play unsettled the Valletta backline, while the busy Zubkov caused no end of problems with his direct runs and dangerous passing.
The Lanza-Zubkov combination led the Ferencvaros assault on goal and twice came close to doubling Fradi’s lead in quick succession around the half-hour mark before the Italian eventually got his name on the score sheet from the penalty spot.
The laconic striker added his second, and Frencvaros third goal of the evening, mid-way through the second half, clipping a neat finish over the Valletta keeper following another fine through pass from Zubkov.
At three-nil, and looking comfortable, Ferencvaros pressed for a tie killing fourth goal and came close on several occasions, Bonello making amends for his earlier howler with some vital saves.
However, as the game crept towards a satisfactory conclusion, Ferencvaros were caught out by a long ball over the top. Fontanella, who was identified pre-match as the Valletta danger man, found a yard of space on the right before flashing a low cross to the far post and the waiting Messias who stroked home a vital away goal.
Worse was almost to follow as substitute Piciollo, again unmarked at the back post, saw a gilt-edged effort saved crucially by Dibusz in the 92nd minute. However, the drama was not quite over yet as Valletta’s Steve Borg saw a late red for an elbow in the face of Ferencvaros sub Bole in the final minute of injury time.
Despite the 3-1 scoreline, the final whistle was met with a mixed reaction of joy and relief as Ferencvaros threatened to somehow throw-away a commanding lead. As it stands, Fradi will take a 2 goal advantage to Malta next week, but will they live to regret conceding that all important away goal?