Double joy in Europe for Cymru Premier League!

There was double joy for the Cymru Premier after both representatives were victorious in the Europa League tonight.

Bala Town won their first European tie after they triumphed 1-0 in their one-legged encounter in Malta against Valletta.

And The New Saints were 3-1 home victors in extra time against Slovakia’s MŠK Žilina.

This means three Cymru Premier clubs will feature in the pot for Monday’s second qualifying round draw, with Connah’s Quay Nomads already in there following a Champions League exit against FK Sarajevo of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Valletta 0 Bala Town 1

It just had to be Chris Venables!

Bala’s captain fantastic was the man who grabbed the all-important goal to secure the Lakesiders a famous Europa League victory at the Ta Qali Football Stadium in Malta.

Venables, four-times Cymru Premier golden boot winner and sixth in the league’s all-time scorers list despite not being a natural striker, again displayed his uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time in the 38th minute.

Steven Leslie delivered a brilliant ball into the box, and the 35-year-old Venables was there to drill home from 12 yards.

Although Bala had won three previous games in Europe, they had yet to come out on top in a tie.

That has all changed now after tonight’s success against Valletta, who were playing their 100th match in Europe.

To add to this evening’s drama, Bala’s debutant keeper Alex Ramsay saved a second half penalty.

Valletta, winners of 25 national league titles, looked slightly more threatening in the first quarter, with Anthony Stephens producing two great defensive blocks.

Then came that magical moment in the 38th minute when Venables broke the deadlock.

The Maltese applied some late first half pressure, but Bala were rock solid.

Half-time: Valletta 0 Bala Town 1

Town looked to have a good penalty shout when Will Evans appeared to be tripped in the box on 50 minutes, but referee Barbeno Luca of San Marino saw no offence.

Valletta had a chance to equalise on the hour when they were awarded a spot-kick, but Ramsay brilliantly kept out Italian Mario Fontenella’s effort.

The hosts pressed hard at times after that, but with Ramsay in fine form and Stephens especially outstanding at the back, the Lakesiders held firm.

What a result for Bala Town!

Bala: Alex Ramsay, Anthony Stephens, Sean Smith, Antony Kay, Jonny Spittle, Lassana Mendes, Steve Leslie (Kieran Smith 70), Oliver Shannon, Will Evans, Chris Venables (c), Raul Correia (Henry Jones 78).
Unused subs: Andrew Burns, Nathan Peate, Llyr Morris, Harri Lloyd, Lee Molyneux.

The New Saints 3 MŠK Žilina 1 (after extra time)

Leo Smith. Picture: TNS FC

Extra time goals from substitutes Leo Smith and Adrian Cieslewicz sealed a sensational win for Saints against seven-time Slovak Superliga champions Zilina.

The visitors made a strong start, Paul Harrison doing well to deny Jakub Paur, but at the other end, Scott Ruscoe’s men also threatened through Danny Redmond, who was thwarted by a good Samuel Petras stop.

The Cymru Premier side then got on top, Petras with a fantastic save from Jamie Mullan, while Ryan Brobbel’s corner and Blaine Hudson’s header both came back off the post.

Petras foiled Brobbel again to ensure the first half ended goal-less.

Half-time: TNS 0 Zilina 0

The deadlock ended on 56 minutes when new signing Louis Robles headed in a Chris Marriott corner.

Robles was deprived of a second by further Petras heroics before the Slovakians won a 75th minute penalty against the run of play.

Patrik Myslovik made it all square from the spot.

Ex-Wrexham midfielder Leo Smith came on for TNS in the 81st minute and added more zip to the home attacks.

The hosts looked desperately unlucky not to earn a late penalty for handball, but 90 minutes came with the scores level.

Full-time: TNS 1 Zilina 1

Ten minutes into the first period, the green and whites edged back in front when debutant Smith turned sharply inside the box and fired in for 2-1.

In the 107th minute Saints extended their lead with a Cieslewicz spot-kick and to make matters worse for the visitors, defender Branislav Sluka was sent off for an offence in the build up to the penalty.

All over! TNS progress.

The New Saints: Paul Harrison, Simon Spender (Ryan Harrington 49), Blaine Hudson, Ryan Astles, Chris Marriott, Danny Redmond (Jon Routledge 119), Ryan Brobbel (Leo Smith 81), Tom Holland, Jamie Mullan, Louis Robles (Adrian Cieslweicz 87), Dean Ebbe.
Unused subs: Keston Davies, Greg Draper, Connor Roberts (GK)

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