CSKA SOFIA 2
SIRENS FC 1
Sirens got the first European goal in their history yesterday, but this was not enough to take the side into the next round of the Europa League qualifiers as they were eliminated 2-1 by Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia in their first competitive match since March.
Steve D’Amato’s side, which he himself had previously called them underdogs of the fixture, looked like a new squad with as many as six new signings at the coach’s disposal. Goalscorer Maxuell started right behind Wilfried Domoraud, both on their first outing for the club as veteran forward Michael Mifsud made his debut from the bench.
The St. Paul’s Bay side put their opponent’s stature to the side as they kicked off in style, going close to opening proceedings immediately. In the first minute of the game, Maxuell shimmied past a number of CSKA defenders, reaching the area before firing straight at CSKA goalkeeper Gustavo Busatto.
The blues were denied again a few minutes later as from a Terrence Agius corner and misunderstanding within the Sofia defence, Welligton miskicked from point-blank range but the ball was parried away into another corner only at the last second by Busatto, injuring himself in the process.
CSKA had their first real opportunity on 23 minutes as an unmarked Ali Sowe turned across goal and fired but Sirens captain David Cassar was alert of stop the shot.
Sirens suffered their first setback of the night just before the half hour as full back Romeo Romao was forced off the pitch with a shoulder injury. D’Amato sent on another debutant Jacob Walker in his place.
As pressure began to pile on Sirens before the break, Cassar was forced to the side’s rescue again after a Amos Youga backheel flew directly towards the bottom corner.
The second half had a near identical start, only this time, Maxuell earned a shot from the spot after getting hacked by Jurgen Mattheij. Similarly, it was Busatto who came out on top as he saved Maxuell’s resultant penalty to keep it all square.
However, Maxuell made up for it midway through the half as Sirens finally got their first Europa League goal on 69 minutes. A swift counter-attack which started from Domoraud, who had had a particularly quiet game so far, who pushed the ball to Angel Bustos as Maxuell was standing by to fire the ball from distance into the net and open the score.
Sirens began to take control, but their dominance was cut short as CSKA scored their equaliser on 75 minutes. Substitute Ahmed Ahmedov, unmarked in the area, got on the end of a cross from outside and his volley was perfectly timed as Sirens were brought back to reality.
In addition to this, tiredness came into play forcing Sirens to take off another two players due to injury – this time new boy Agius and Wellington, who had to be taken off on a stretcher. Veteran forward Michael Mifsud and Ryan Grech took to the stage but were not able to make much difference.
Sorrow was on the menu for the Blues as Sofia made it two at the beginning of injury time. It was Sowe this time who powered through the defence and his shot is too strong for Cassar to keep out.
CSKA SOFIA: G. Busatto, P. Galabov, J. Matheij, V. Antov, B. Mazikou, T. Rodrigues, A. Youga (71 A. Ahmedov), Henrique, S. Beltrame (65 Y. Sankhare), G. Carey (57 G. Yomov), A. Sowe.
SIRENS: D. Cassar, R. Romao (30 J. Walker), R. dos Anjos, A. Borg, T. Espindola, T. Agius (82 R. Grech) , R. Scicluna, Wellington (78 M. Mifsud), Maxuell, A. Bustos, W. Domoraud.