GŻIRA UNITED 0
(Rijeka win 3-0 on aggregate)
N. Labrovic; J. Escoval, N. Galovic, H. Smolcic, I. Tomecak (86 R. Jurisic), A. Vukcevic (82 F. Braut), A. Cerin, D. Pavicic, A. Issah (63 A. Liber), P. Ampem (82 D. Busnja), J. Drmic (63 J. Obregon).
J. Haber, N. Portelli (60 D. Xuereb), S. Borg (76 L. Tabone), G. Bohrer, T. Espindola, Z. Scerri (76 C. Gauci), J. Mendoza, S. Pisani, M. Davis (76 Judivan), Maxuell, R. Correa (46 Jefferson).
Referee Veaceslav Banari (North Macedonia FA).
Yellow cards Davis, Haber, Bohrer, Galovic.
There was no second time lucky for Gżira United in Croatia as they failed to turn around the tie after losing 1-0 to NK Rijeka side in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Rijeka, winners of this two-legged affair with a 3-0 aggregate score, will now face Scotland’s Hibernian in the next round.
The odds of emulating their heroics against Hajduk Split two years ago were already low heading into this game and Rijeka’s first-half goal vanished all their remaining hopes of trying to rescue this tie.
Gżira United were not phazed by their opponents’ strength or by the several Croatian fans allowed at the stadium, as they tried to take control of the game in the opening minutes.
Donning their neon green kit, Gżira relied on the quality provided by their pacey wingers Martin Davis and Ricardo Correa to threaten Rijeka’s backline.
Despite their early possession, it was Switzerland’s international Josip Drmic who had the first chance of the game but his close-range volley sailed wide over the bar.
Rijeka started to inch their way up the field and Prince Ampem forced Justin Haber into action when the Gżira goalkeeper denied the Ghanaian forward from inside the penalty area.
Moments later, Haber came to Gżira’s rescue again when he diverted Abass Issah’s long-range effort into corner before Ampem tried his luck from long distance but failed to hit the target.
Drmic threatened again with a shot from the edge of the area but once again, Rijeka could not capitalise on their chances.
At this point of the game, it was clear that Rijeka were in control and Gżira were looking to catch their opponents on the break.
Rijeka made their pressure count in the 27th minute when Ivan Tomecak whipped in a cross into the box that Haber failed to catch as Drmic pounced on the ball and slotted it into empty net to extend their overall lead to three goals.
Gżira’s reply came swiftly through Correa’s feet who let fly a strike but could not keep it low.
Davis came close to level terms for Gżira when he managed to dart into the box but from a tight angle could not find the back of the net.
Afterwards, Rijeka missed a flurry of quick chances through Adam Cerin and Pavicic as they were looking to double their score.
Then, Andrija Vukcevic squandered a glorious chance when he could not beat Haber from inside the penalty area.
Midfielder Steve Pisani replied for Gżira when hit a strike from outside the area just to see the ball go wide.
On the brink of half-time, Davis caught Rijeka’s goalkeeper out of position but his attempted header went inches wide as Gżira were still striving to break their duck in this tie.
At the restart, Gżira replaced Correa with Jefferson as the Maroons moved to a 4-3-1-2 shape with Davis acting as an advanced midfielder behind the new attacking tandem formed by Jefferson and Maxuell.
Davis had a shot on goal on the hour mark but it was smothered by Rijeka’s goalkeeper.
Pavivic replied with another attempt on goal as he was denied by Haber. Rijeka’s no.10 came close to score again but this time it was the woodwork that denied him the joy of the goal.
In the closing stages of the game, Rijeka remained on the forefront but could not double their lead as they emerged winners and progressed to the third qualifying round.