FLORA TALLINN 0
(aet; Flora Tallinn win 4-2 on penalties)
FLORIANA: I. Akpan, E. Ruiz, D. Venancio, N. Leone (117 J. Busuttil), K. Keqi, B. Paiber (80 F. Cheveresan), J. Pisani, M. Garcia, M. Dias, R. Camenzuli, T. Fonseca.
FLORA TALINN: M. Igonen, M. Kuusk, M. Lukka, V. Kreida, R. Alliku (68 M. Miller), R. Sappinen (M.A. Lepik), K. Vassiljev (94 M. Poom), H. Purg, M. Lilander, M. Soomets, V. Sinyavskiy (106 F. Liivak).
Referee Irfan Peljto (Bosnia Herzegovina).
Yellow cards Garcia, Paiber, Sappinen, Miller, Purg, Lukka, Dias.
Penalty sequence: Lilander (FT) scores 1-0; Keqi (F) missed 1-0; Krelda (FT) scores 2-0; Venancio (F) saved 2-0; Poom (F) saved 2-0; Fonseca (F) 2-1; Kuusk (FT) scores 3-1; Busuttil (F) scores 3-2; Liivak (FT) scores 4-2.
A lion-hearted performance was not enough for Floriana to clinch an historic berth in the play-off round of the Europa League as the Malta champions suffered a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Flora Tallinn in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
Floriana put on an impressive performance against a Flora Tallinn side who were much more-quoted than the Malta champions.
In fact, Vincenzo Potenza’s men after a cautious first half, took the game off their opponents and inspired by the constant running of their forwards Kristijan Keqi, Thiago Fonseca and Mathias Garcia carved out the best chances and could feel unlucky not to have found the winner after the 90 minutes.
However, neither side managed to find the breakthrough and the match was decided by a penalty-shoot-out. Here, the Estonians showed superior mental strength as they converted four of the five penalties taken, while Floriana missed twice through Kristijan Keqi and Diego Venancio.
Thus, Flora Tallinn now proceed to the play-off round where they will face Dinamo Zagreb, in Croatia, for a place in the group stages of the competition.
Floriana coach Enzo Potenza restored his strongest formation for this tie as Ini Akpan, Brandon Paiber, Ryan Camenzuli and Tiago Fonseca were back in the starting XI.
Right from the outset, Flora held control of possession right from the outset as they displayed some slick passing football but struggled to break down an organized Floriana defence.
On the otherhand, the Greens were happy to contain their opponents pressure and try to break with quick counter-attacks.
Flora Tallinn recorded their first shot on target on 22 minutes when Konstantin Vassiljev intercepted Nicola Leone’s pass and sped forward before hitting a firm drive that was blocked by Akpan.
Ten minutes later, Mathias Garcia tried to force his way into the Flora area and fell under the challenge of Marten Kuusk but the referee waved play on and booked the Floriana defender for simulation.
Floriana started the second half brightly and on 48 minutes Keqi found Fonseca inside the area and the Brazilian teed up Nicola Leone on the edge of the area and the Italian saw his shot deflected just wide.
Four minutes later it was the turn of Brandon Paiber to hit from the distance but his effort flashed wide.
On the hour, the Greens again came close when Diego Venancio hit a thumping drive that just missed the upright.
The home side were seemingly on top now and on 63 minutes Keqi burst through and fed Paiber whose low shot was blocked by the diving Igonen.
Five minutes later, Floriana again came close when Mathias Garcia’s drive was deflected just past the upright.
Eleven minutes from time Venancio won a free-kick on the edge of the area. The Brazilian picked himself and hit a rasping drive that brushed the bar before finishing wide.
Ten minutes from time, Potenza looked to add more firepower when he roped in Flavio Cheveresan for Paiber.
Flora Tallinn finally responded three minutes from time when substitute Martin Miller played in Mark Lepik but was denied by a fine save by Akpan as the match drifted into extra-time.
In the first half of extra-time, the match became cagey with the only chance coming Floriana’s way on 94 minutes when Keqi picked Cheveresan inside the area but the Brazilian flicked the ball wide.
Then in the second part of overtime it was Fonseca who came close when his thumping drive whizzed past the upright as the stalemate prevailed and the match was decided on penalties.
Here, Estonian goalkeeper Matvei Igonen took centre stage when he blocked Diego Venancio’s shot just after Keqi fired over.
Ini Akpan gave Floriana a lifeline when he saved Markus Poom penalty, but the Estonians held their nerves and Frank Liivak scored the decisive penalty that sent them to the next round.