LA FIORITA 1
G. Vivan, I. Pedrelli, A. Brighi, R. Di Maio, A. Grandoni, A. Amati (77 S. Loiodice), S. Errico, M. Mularoni (64 T. Guidi), R. Lago (71 T. Zafferano), M. Prandelli, D. Rinaldi (77 G. Bardeggia).
D. Fernandes, C. Bonanni (90 J. Bezzina), E. Pepe, O. Carniello, K. Zammit, R. Briffa (85 R. Scicluna), D. Venancio, Y. Yankam, C. Attard, L. Montebello, F. Falcone.
Referee Eldoraj Hamiti (Albania).
Yellow cards Pepe, Carniello, Rinaldi, Montebello
Birkirkara battled their way into the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League when they held to a 1-1 draw at La Fiorita at Serravalle Stadium to progress 2-1 on aggregate.
The Stripes held control of the match for much of the opening hour and looked to be cruising through when Luke Montebello scored a spectacular opener.
However, the Stripes conceded an equaliser just three minutes later to reopen the tie and the Maltese outfit had to use all their experience to stave off La Fiorita’s late pressure to hold on to a 1-1 draw that secured them a place in the second qualifying round.
The Stripes reward for their qualification is a much tougher tie when they face Slovenian giants Olimpija Ljubljana.
Birkirkara coach Andre Paus effected two changes from the team that beat La Fiorita 1-0 in the opening leg as Diego Venancio was handed his first start for the Stripes since his close season move at the expense of Johan Bezzina while Claudio Bonanni was preferred to Ryan Scicluna.
Birkirkara soon took control of proceedings and they almost struck after ten minutes of play.
Roderick Briffa was given space on the right and sent a fine cross towards Yannik Yankam who saw his header pushed away by La Fiorita goalkeeper Gianluca Vivan.
La Fiorita responded on 21 minutes when Daniele Rinaldi headed just wide following a cross by Armando Amati.
The match remained a scrappy affair with both sides trying to play some slick football but their final distribution was leaving much to the desired with the result that scoring chances remained at a premium.
On 33 minutes La Fiorita came close when Amati hit a dipping drive from the edge of the area that finished just over.
Birkirkara almost took the lead in the first three minutes of the second half when from a Venancio free-kick, Montebello was left unmarked at the far post but his effort was cleared off the line by Prandelli.
However, the Malta striker made amends in style on 53 minutes when Luke Montebello embarked on a surging run that took him, past two defenders, before sliding the ball past Vivan.
But the Stripes’ joy was short-lived as La Fiorita took just two minutes to pull level.
From an Amati free-kick, Yankam tried to anticipate Di Vaio but inadvertently deviated the ball past Fernandes.
The goal galvanised the home side and on 59 minutes Mago broke clear but was denied by a fine tackle from Enrico Pepe.
Birkirkara gradually started to regain control of the match and 19 minutes from time, they were awarded a central free-kick and Venancio’s effort was pushed away by Vivan.
Fourteen minutes from time, Pedrelli burst into the Birkirkara area but the former Bologna wingback fired wide.
The home side were now piling the pressure and Fernandes had to be alert to keep out Di Maio’s header.