|29th June 2017||7:00 pm||UEFA Europa League||2017/18|
Spirited performance by the Lakesiders keeps hopes alive for 2nd Leg.
Town welcomed Vaduz of Liechtenstein to Belle Vue for the First Round tie of the 2017-18 Europa League on Thursday evening and will be full of optimism going into next week’s reverse fixture in Vaduz.
The game started at a high tempo with the visitors testing Bala early on.
Town’s first chance came on 3 minutes when Venables picked out Davies but he was deemed offside. Smith was bundled over in the box minutes later but the referee from Luxembourg waved away any chances of a penalty
As the half grew, It became apparent that Vaduz weren’t the ‘easy’ opponents that many had been expecting and were making Town work hard to close them down and keep them at bay.
Kieran Smith had a great chance after 15 minutes when a scramble in the box saw Venables and Davies’s opportunities blocked before Smith scuffed his effort wide of the upright.
The conditions were more like November in June with the strong sea breeze in Bala’s faces during the first half and causing problems.
A chance for Vaduz flashed across the face of goal before down the other end, a run down the left by Sheridan saw Thompson deliver into the area but Owens couldn’t connect cleanly and the ball was cleared away.
The best chance of the half for the Lakesiders arrived to Smith who arrived perfectly timed to a cross from Burke into the area to drive a volley goalwards but Jehle did excellently in the Vaduz net to palm it away.
From the counter attack, Vaduz took the lead. A break down the left hand side saw the ball come to the influencial Zarate who drove the ball into the roof of the net and took a harsh lead.
However it was soon 2-0 when a lapse in concerntration and loss of possession in midfield saw the ball arrive to Brunner who tapped into an empty net after 30 minutes of play. Two chances and two goals.
Further chances for Zarate and Puljic fell for the visitors but they were blasted over and placed wide.
Town weren’t disheartened however and kept chipping away at the visitors but were slightly lacking in the final third.
A half chance saw Venables break into the box but couldn’t find Sheridan before the interval.
The second half was better by Bala who more than matched Vaduz.
Tempers flared early on as a late challenge saw Zarate and Smith carded and Davies on the end of an off the ball incident.
Bala were having more possession and their effort paid off after 62 minutes. A spell of pressure saw a cross swung in which Smith connected with but saw his initial shot blocked but Venables was there to slot home from 9 yards and re-ignite Bala’s hopes.
Another fantastic chance followed when Sheridan brilliantly brought the ball down on his chest and struck first time from 20 yards but the ball creeped inches wide of the post. Venables saw his low shot blocked with Bala still testing the Vaduz backline.
They could’ve been back level on 74 minutes when Davies found Sheridan and following a scramble in the six yard box an unmarked Bala shirt turned the ball around the post.
With 5 minutes left, Bala won a freekick on the edge of the box. Burke swung in the ball which Stuart J. Jones at the backpost unmarked somehow headed wide of the post and the opportunity went begging.
A challenging evening for the Lakesiders but there is plenty still to play for out in Liechtenstein next week.
Match photos by Naomi Jones