ATLETIC ESCALDES 0
GZIRA UNITED 1
(Gzira United Win 2-1 on aggregate)
ATLETIC ESCALDES A. Ruiz, V. Maffeo, A. Sanchez, J. Morales (72 E. Ruiz), V. Perez, A. Martinez (61 J. Bolivar), G. Lopez, A. Cistero, H. Bouharma (61 X. Bellart), V. Alonso (88 G. Viera), I. Garrido (88 D. Rodriguez).
GZIRA UNITED D. Zarkov, G. Bohrer, N. Muscat, Z. Scerri (91 M. Gauci), M. Dias, L. Riascos, T. Kolega, M. Cosic, Maxuell (91 B. Borg), Jefferson, J. Mendoza (46 R. Correa)
Referee Vitaly Romanov
Yellow Cards Dias, Mendoza, Garrido, Lopez, Moralez, Bohrer, Riascos, E. Ruiz
Gzira United progressed to the next round of the UEFA Conference League qualifiers when they beat Atletic Escaldes 1-0 in extra-time on Thursday.
It was a largely uneventful game but Darren Abdilla’s clan got the result when it mattered as a sole Jefferson goal made all the difference after a first leg 1-1 draw in Malta.
Gzira were unchanged from the first leg, lining up in a 4-3-3 formation and going on the offensive after a five-man defence in their home tie had kept the Andorrans in contention heading into Thursday’s clash.
Darijan Zarkov, Gabriel Bohrer, Nikolai Muscat, Zachery Scerri, Marcelo Dias, Luis Riascos, Toni Kolega, Marko Cosic, Maxuell, Jefferson, Jackson Mendoza all started as the side hoped to take advantage of the open tie.
It was wholesale changes for Atletic as Aleix Cistero, Hamza Bouharma, Victor Alonso, and Ivan Garrido were the only players to remain in the starting eleven from the first leg. Alejandro Ruiz started in goal instead of Victor Lopez, as Victor Maffeo, Alex Sanchez, Javier Morales, Victor Perez, Alex Martinez, Gillaume Lopez also new additions for the tie.
It was a largely drab first half with the only major chance coming late on for Atletic’s Ivan Garrido.
Both sides cancelled out each other throughout the half with play mostly restricted around the halfway line. But as the break drew closer, the Andorrans began to threaten.
It was Gzira’s Zarkov who kept the score intact after Garrido escaped his marker on the edge of the area and fired an angled shot towards the top corner but the Gzira shotstopper pushed it away for a corner.
Atletic took over the reigns in the second half, going close right after the opening, but a longball to Guillaume Lopez caught him off balance and his shot with just Zarkov to beat went wide.
By the hour, Gzira were under pressure as they were restricted to inside their own half. However, on 68 minutes, Jefferson had Gzira’s best chance of the half when he beat two Atletic players on the counterattack but his shot was not strong enough to cause trouble.
Riascos had another opportunity to open the score for Gzira but once again, his shot from distance was weak enough to be collected easily by goalkeeper Ruiz.
The match went into extra-time with both sides unable to break the deadlock by the 90th minute.
Holding onto substitutes until the end paid dividends for Darren Abdilla’s side as fresh legs in extra-time helped the side edge ahead right before the break when Jefferson gave his side the lead. A counterattack found the Brazilian on the run and he showed no mercy when he fired a cannon of a shot into the net.
Ahead on aggregate, Gzira took their time in possession with time in their favour. Late drama was not on the cards as the maroons progressed onto the next round of qualifying.