O. LJUBLJANA 0
(aet aggregate 1-1; Olimpija Ljubljana win 5-4 on penalties)
D. Fernandes, C. Attard, O. Carniello, E. Pepe, J. Machedo (89 L. Aguirre), C. Bonanni (78 R. Scicluna), C. Venancio, Y. Yankam (106 J. Bezzina), K. Zammit, F. Falcone (100 R. Briffa), L. Montebello (94 P. Mbong).
N. Vidmar, E. Gliha (56 M. Pavlovic), A. Delamea Milnar, U. Korun, E. Boakye (J. Andrejasic), T. Tomic, N. Kapun, S. Petrov (56 G. Kurez), S. Seslar (106 E. Ostrc), Aldair, M. Nukic (95 D. Spehar).
Referee Bram Van Driessche (Belgium).
Yellow cards Delamea Milnar, Yankam, Aldair, Korun, Aguirre, Briffa.
Pepe (B) scores 1-0; Elsnik (OL) scores 1-1; Venancio (B) scores 2-1; Spehar (OL) scores 2-2; Bezzina (B) scores 3-2; Tomic (OL) scores 3-3; Aguirre (B) scores 4-3; Ostrc (OL) scores 4-4; Mbong (B) misses 4-4; Aldair (OL) scores 5-4.
Birkirkara suffered a heart-breaking elimination from the Conference League after bowing out of the UEFA competition after losing a penalty shoot-out against Slovenian giants Olimpija Ljubljana.
The Stripes needed a perfect performance to turn around last week’s 1-0 defeat in the first leg in Slovenia and they looked well on course to reach their objective.
In fact, Diego Venancio’s spectacular opener had put the Maltese Premier League side back on level terms on aggregate and had also opportunities to grab a second goal that would earn them a place in the next round.
However, with the aggregate score remaining level at 1-1 after extra-time it was the penalty shoot-out that would decide the winner.
Here, Olimpija Ljubljana were perfect netting all five goals while Birkirkara scoring only four with Paul Mbong missing the crucial fifth penalty with Aldair going on to convert the decisive penalty that sent the Slovenians through.
Birkirkara coach Andre Paus effected one change to the team that was beaten in Slovenia last week as Jefferson Machedo was preferred to Roderick Briffa
Olimpija Ljubljana almost caught Birkirkara cold after seven minutes when Sava Petrov broke free on the left, sped into the area but was denied by the onrushing Daniel Fernandes.
The visitors had another great opportunity on 18 minutes when Erik Gliha sent a cross into the path of the unmarked Mustafa Nukic who incredibly volleyed over from close in.
However, it was Birkirkara who drew first blood with their first attempt at goal on 28 minutes. Jeferson Machedo was floored on the edge of the area and from the resultant free-kick Diego Venancio’s curling drive flew into the net.
The goal hit hard the Slovenians who seemed to have lost their fluency with the result that they started to struggle to create any danger to the Birkirkara defence.
Instead it was Birkirkara who came close to a second goal on 43 minutes when Federico Falcone connected to Machedo’s cross but his header flew over.
After the break, Birkirkara had a good chance to double their lead on 48 minutes when Kurt Zammit found Claudio Bonanni but his volley flashed wide.
Ljubljana came close to an equaliser on 58 minutes when in a swift break, Gal Kurez, who had just replaced Sava Petrov, sped inside the area and served the sprinting Seslar who fired over.
It was anyone’s match now and 13 minutes from time Fernandes had to be alert to push away Aldair’s shot from the edge of the area.
Ljubljana should have drawn level in stoppage time when Seslar moved past two Birkirkara defenders but incredibly fired over from routine distance to send the match into extra-time.
In the first period of overtime there was little to separate either side with Ljubljana creating the best chance on 105 minutes when Korun connected to Elsnik’s free-kick but Fernandes was on hand to preserve his team’s clean sheet.
In the final 15 minutes, both teams remained cautious with one scoring chance for each team with Leandro Aguirre seeing his shot from the distance saved by Vidmar and at the other end Fernandes was alert to block Aldair’s effort.
A penalty shoot-out was needed to decide the winner and here Paul Mbong’s miss proved crucial as Olimpija Ljubljana progressed.