Gżira United coach Darren Abdilla described his team’s performance against Radnicki as one of the best he has ever seen in a UEFA club competition as the Maroons stunned Serbian giants Radnicki in Nis to reach the third qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League.
After a 2-2 draw in the first leg last week at the Centenary Stadium, few had given the Maroons a chance against Serbian SuperLiga side Radnicki Nis.
But the Gżira United players defied the odds with a heroic display which saw them fight back from a goal down three times before prevailing in a tense penalty shoot-out.
“This was by far one of the best matches I have seen from a Maltese team in a UEFA club competition,” Abdilla said.
“The players were absolutely incredible. The courage and the mental strength they showed throughout the match was outstanding. Every time we found ourselves a goal down, the players refused to lie down, and fought back to get back on level terms.
“We kept fighting till the end. The players believed that they had nothing less than their opponents and even if we had lost the match, I would still be proud of their performance.”
Abdilla said that the results achieved by Gżira United and the two other Maltese teams in the Conference League, Ħamrun Spartans and Hibernians, show that Maltese clubs have made marked improvement and that is all down to a better organisational structure from the clubs.
“Maltese teams today are heading to European competition much more prepared than they used to be in the past,” Abdilla said.
“Teams today prepare for these ties from all aspects and we analyse our opponents very well indeed. Good results don’t come by chance, today every club is doing its homework properly even though foreign teams don’t give us the respect we deserve.
“I was disappointed with the comments made by the Radnicki coach who said that it was a shame for his team to lose against us. I think he forgot that in the first leg they needed an injury time goal to avoid defeat. We were determined to make it hard for them and we not only achieved that but we also managed to knock them out.
“Another positive thing for me is that in this tie we made use of all members of our squad and in each match the changes I effected all left the desired dividends. We played young players like Brookly Borg and Andy Borg, we used all our foreign players and despite the limited resources when compared to other clubs we made six substitutions but the team’s mindset remained that to win the match.”
Next up for Gżira United is a clash against Austrian giants Wolfsberger, with the first leg scheduled in Austria on Wednesday.
“Obviously, it’s a tough tie but the team has surpassed the big hurdle to qualify into the third qualifying round so the mental block no longer exists,” Abdilla said.
“We are going in Austria with great determination to play a good game and try and achieve a positive result. If the players show the same attitude displayed against Radnicki, I have no doubt that we have a lot to look forward to.”
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