Bala Town face a tough challenge to progress in the Europa League 1st Qualifying Round after a 2-1 defeat at Belle Vue to Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz.
Bala started the game with positive intent and could’ve had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Kieran Smith was brought down in the box after five minutes, but the referee waved the protests away. Bala continued applying pressure, with a Smith shot deflected wide and Nathan Burke firing at the Vaduz keeper.
Kieran Smith then had the best chance of the opening twenty minutes when his volley was destined for the top corner, but was matched by a strong save from Peter Jehle in the Vaduz goal.
Vaduz immediately hit back on the counter attack and a thumping finish from Gonzalo Zarate opened the scoring for the visitors. The goal invigorated the away side who then doubled their lead a few minutes later with another incisive break through the middle found Vaduz with a 2-on-1 situation against Ashley Morris in the Bala goal, with Maurice Brunner taking full advantage after a squared pass.
Vaduz were able to take control of the game after taking the lead and looked to add to it before the interval, creating a number of half chances which kept the pressure on the Lakesiders, who were just looking to hold on and regroup after the interval.
The second half started just as the first had ended. Vaduz having most of the ball and frustrating Bala and winning free kicks to slow the game down. It took five second half minutes for the goalscorer Zarate to pose a threat with a lob sailing over Morris and the crossbar.
Bala looked to find a way back into the tie and their best chance of the early stages came from some great build up play, with the ball falling to Anthony Stephens who fired over from 25 yards. But it wasn’t long after the Stephens chance when the home side finally got their reward. A great run and shot from Smith forced Jehle to make a save down to his right, with the ball falling at the feet of the clinical Chris Venables who slotted home the rebound from 10 yards out.
Spurred on by the goal Bala pressed for an equaliser. A Smith corner found the head of Les Davies who nodded wide, then Ian Sheridan shaved the coating off the post from 20 yards out. As the clock ticked towards the final 15 minutes it was all Bala. Venables had a shot stopped by a defender in red, before Sheridan had his chance blocked during a scramble in the penalty area.
It was clear as time ticked away which team needed the goal as Vaduz started to time waste at every opportunity, while Bala’s sense of urgency seemed to cause mistakes. A mix up between Stuart Jones and Morris almost allowed a chance for the visitors but was cleared.
Bala pressed on for the equaliser and almost had their goal in added time when Stuart Jones headed wide from a free kick. It wasn’t to be and the Lakesiders fell to a much undeserved defeat. Facing the task of needing to score twice away in Liechtenstein next Thursday.
(FEATURED IMAGE: Bala Town/Naomi Jones)