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Gżira United oust Sant Julia after tense shoot-out

GŻIRA                 1           

Mentz 53

SANT JULIA       1           

Gomis 20

(Agg: 1-1; Gżira United win 5-3 on penalties)

GŻIRA UNITED

J. Haber, G. Bohrer Mentz, S. Borg, N. Muscat, S. Pisani, Z. Scerri, M. Davis (69 Jefferson), R. Correa, Maxuell, T. Espindola, J. Mendoza.

SANT JULIA

I. Zabal, I. Echaide, B. Rodriguez Perez, B. Kambi, O. Garcia Gonzalez, P. Cendros (74’ M. Ruiz), I. Checa Cano (90’ F. Nimani), B. Gomis, A. Makoube Ebongue (60’ V. Rizzo), J. Tawaba, F. Begeorgi.

Referee: V. Spasjonnikovs (Latvia).

Yellow Cards: Davis, Maxuell, Kambi, Makoube Ebongue, Muscat, Begeorgi, Rodriguez Perez, Tawaba, Garcia Gonzalez, Rizzo, Mendoza, Gomis, Zabal, Borg.

Red cards: Miguel Ruiz (SJ) 120.

Gżira United defeated Sant Julia of Andorra 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the end of 90 minutes and extra-time in the second leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round.

The Maroons therefore set up a clash of HNK Rijeka of Croatia in the second qualifying round of the competition.

All in all, it was a balanced encounter which, however, featured some rough tackles with referee Vitalijs Spasjonnikovs dishing out no less than 12 yellow cards during the game and two yellow cards and a red card after the final whistle.

Throughout the 90 minutes and especially the first half of extra-time, goal mouth action was rare and shots at goal were few and far in between.

For the Maroons, Steve Pisani was preferred to Dexter Xuereb while Sant Julia had two changes from the first leg as Biel Rodriguez Perez and Bedsente Gomis replaced Dani and Frederic Nimani.

In the opening minutes, Sant Julia showed greater determination and after ten minutes, Oscar Garcia Gonzalez almost surprised Justin Haber following a cross by Bubacar from the left.

The visitors managed to take the lead on 20 minutes. Izan Checa Cano delivered a corner from the left, Haber’s short clearance saw the ball falling at the feet of Bedsente Gomis whose fine volley gave the Gżira goalkeeper no chance. 

In added time, Gomis went close once again for Sant Julia with a diagonal shot from the left ending just wide.

However, eight minutes in the second half, Gżira levelled matters. Gabriel Mentz rose high to head home off a cross by Thiago Espindola from the left.

Martin Davis missed a good opportunity for the Maroons on 64 minutes, when served on the right by Pisani, hitting the side netting.

Maxuell headed wide off a cross by Espindola from the left on 86 minutes and three minutes later, Brazilian pulled to the right after entering the area, but his conclusion was blocked by goalkeeper Ignacio Zabal.

With the score still 1-1 after five minutes of added time, the match went into overtime.

Following a quiet first half of extra-time, three minutes in the second half, Maxuell went close with an overhead kick which just missed the target.

Four minutes later, Haber blocked a long-distance effort by Oscar Garcia Gonzalez.

On 114 minutes, Correa delivered a cross from the right but Jefferson’s header was neutralised by the Sant Julia goalkeeper.

Four minutes later, Ignacio Zabal blocked Steve Pisani’s freekick from the left and off the rebound, Ricardo Correa’s low effort was deflected into a corner.

Steve Borg shouts in delight after scoring Gżira United’s match-winning penalty in the shoot-out. PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina

With the score still draw, the penalty shoot-out had to determine the winner. Gzira scored the five penalties through Maxuell, Jackson Mendoza, Steve Pisani, Mentz and Steve Borg.

On the other hand, Frederic Nimani’s first penalty for Sant Julia was parried by Haber with Bedsente Gomis, Bubakar Kambi and Ion Echaide scored the other three.

After the game, the two sets of players clashed once again with the Latvian referee showing the red card to Miguel Ruiz of Sant Julia and two yellow cards to Steve Borg and goalkeeper Ignacio Zabal after the situation calmed down.

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