Bala Town 1-0 Tre Fiori
Tre Fiori win the tie 3-1 on aggregate
Following a first-leg performance defined by uncharacteristic errors which left Bala 0-3 down coming into tonight’s home leg at Rhyl, the Lakesiders left themselves a significant challenge to overcome as their opponents from San Marino came to the Belle Vue to protect their advantage and frustrate Bala for 90 minutes.
Unfortunately for the home side, Tre Fiori mostly succeeded to do so. Goalkeeper Giorgio Pizzolato was key between the sticks for the visitors as he dealt with Bala’s crosses very well and organised his defence, but even so he was almost caught out in the opening minute as the home side started quickly and the keeper dropped a catch from the free-kick, which Caton’s side couldn’t quite convert.
In terms of chance creation, it was an even opening quarter to the game, but Bala seemed to find another gear soon afterwards as they sent a barrage of crosses into the box which none of their forwards could quite connect correctly with. Mirco Vassallo broke clear soon afterwards for the visitors and forced two good saves out of Ashley Morris, reminding Bala to stay alert at the back whilst they went in search of an opener.
Halftime came with no sign of a goal for the home side, and it looked like Bala would need an incredible second half to win the tie, especially as the visitors packed their own penalty area with defensive bodies, making it very difficult for Caton’s side to cut a path through to the goal.
Nathan Burke managed to overcome that challenge with just under 20 minutes to go though, as he danced through the defence and prodded home, giving Bala hope of achieving what would have been a sublime comeback.
With eight minutes left to play, Bala had the ball in the back of the net again, but as the home side were preparing to set up again for the restart, the goal was ruled out for offside and the score remained 1-0. Seven minutes of added time gave Bala further opportunities to close the deficit,but they were unable to convert and Tre Fiori advanced to the next round at Bala’s expense.
FK Trakai 1-0 Cefn Druids
Trakai win 2-1 on aggregate
Druids' European adventure also came to an end this evening as a penalty from former Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was enough to send Trakai through to the next round.
It was almost so different though, as sub Jonathan Taylor came within inches of heading the game into extra time with the last touch of the game, rising tallest to meet Naim Arsan's deep cross but agonisingly missing the goal.
Both teams came out looking to make a quick start, but chances were at a premium early on. Alec Mudimu and Ryan Kershaw tested Tomas Švedkauskas with half chances, before at the other end Michael Jones pulled off a great diving save to deny Donatas Kazlauskas.
Just before the half hour mark, the moment came that ultimitely decided things. Breaking from a Druids throw, Trakai raced forward, and Justinas Marazas found space in the box. As he tried to round Jones, the keeper brought him down, and Bilyaletdinov dispatched the spot kick.
Trakai almost went into the break two up, as Rokas Masenzovas played a lovely one two from a corner to set himself up on the edge of the box. His curling effort flew over Jones and crashed against the bar.
Nathan Peate headed wide just before the break, and a tense opening to the second half saw Trakai come close with a few chances. Druids then had one of their own, when Arek Piskorski's cross fizzed goalwards only to evade James Davies and Matty Owen.
Late on Huw Griffiths went for broke, thowing Taylor and Morris on and up front, and it was the former whose header came inches away from forcing extra time. Despite the defeat, Druids battled well over the two legs and can rightly be proud of their performances.