LA FIORITA 0
D. Fernandes, E. Pepe, Y. Yankam, L. Montebello, R. Briffa, K. Zammit, F. Falcone, R. Scicluna (58 D. Venancio), C. Attard, O. Carniello, J. Bezzina (64 C. Bonanni).
G. Vivan, A. Brighi, I. Pedrelli, M. Prandelli, S. Errico (77 R. Zulli), A. Grandoni, D. Rinaldi (64 S. Loiodice), M. Gasperoni (6 R. Lago), A. Amati (64 T. Guidi), M. Mularoni (77 G Bardeggia).
Referee Nikolas Neokleous (Cyprus).
Yellow cards Montebello, Amati, Scicluna, Briffa, Rinaldi.
Birkirkara seized the advantage in their UEFA Conference League tie against La Fiorita, of San Marino, as a Yannik Yankam goal earned them a 1-0 win at the Centenary Stadium.
The Stripes will surely feel that they could have secured a more pronounced victory, particularly given their territorial dominance throughout the 90 minutes.
However, the Birkirkara players are still well short of their full match sharpness, given that they were playing their first competitive match in four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Stripes will now look forward to next week’s second leg where they will hope they can avoid defeat to secure their place in the second qualifying round.
Birkirkara coach Andre Paus elected to hand a debut to new signings Daniel Fernandes, the Portuguese goalkeeper, and midfield duo Ryan Scicluna and Johan Bezzina. Diego Venancio, who arrived from Floriana started on the bench.
The Stripes were off to a strong start and inside the first 30 seconds Federico Falcone hit a curling drive that was deflected just wide. From the resultant corner kick the Argentine connected to Johan Bezzina’s delivery but his header came off the upright.
Birkirkara found the breakthrough on 13 minutes when Yannick Yankam exchanged the ball with Falcone and the young midfielder kept his balance to steer the ball into the net.
After that early breakthrough one thought that Birkirkara would step up a gear in search of a second goal.
Instead, the Stripes were happy to administer their advantage and rarely threatened La Fiorita goal.
We had to wait until three minutes from half-time for another goalscoring opportunity and it came La Fiorita’s way when Danilo Rinaldi’s header finished just past the upright.
Just before the half-time whistle, Scicluna fed Falcone who nodded the ball towards Luke Montebello but the lanky striker was denied Gianluca Vivan.
Five minutes into the second half, Falcone had a golden opportunity to double the Stripes’ lead when he stormed clear but instead of passing to the unmarked Montebello he went all alone but was closed out by Vivan.
On the stroke of the hour, Birkirkara coach Paus tried to add more flair to his team play when he handed a debut to new signing Diego Venancio who replaced Ryan Scicluna.
The Brazilian soon left his mark on 62 minutes when his throughball put Montebello clear but the Malta striker was denied by Vivan.
Six minutes later, Venancio tried his luck from a free-kick but his effort finished over.
La Fiorita should have drawn level 11 minutes from time when Ramiro Lago nodded the ball into the path of Tommaso Guidi who was denied by a fine reflex save from Fernandes.