Birkirkara found the going tough in their UEFA Women’s Champions League opener after succumbing to a 4-0 defeat against SFK Sarajevo, champions of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As a result on Sunday, the Stripes will now wrap up their commitments with a third-place ranking match in Group 7 against Glentoran of Northern Ireland, who lost 4-2 on penalties to Olimpija Cluj in their semi-final game, on Thursday.
Against the Bosnian side, coach Jose Borg handed debuts to three of their four newcomers in Italian pair Marta Grosso and Gaia Milan together with Canadian forward Sofie Iaderosa.
The rest of the starting formation was composed by the players who delivered the 10th domestic title last season.
Sarajevo forged ahead inside the opening 14 minutes, but coach Borg was pleased with his team’s reaction after going down so early in the game.
“I liked how my team reacted having conceded just after 14 minutes,” Borg told the Times of Malta.
“We spent most of the remaining first half playing in their defensive half as we put pressure on them, and we also hit the crossbar… maybe we could have had a penalty too.
“We believed in a positive result and we have to maintain that strong mentality.”
On the other hand, though, Borg wants a stronger showing throughout all the game, as his team’s display in the second half left a lot to be desired.
“After the change of ends, we conceded an early goal and we started to lose shape with Sarajevo dominating and scoring another couple of goals,” the former men’s Premier League coach said.
“We have to remain compact against teams of this level because otherwise you will get steamrolled, so it is important for us to work on that aspect.”
Borg also pointed out that they need to improve on their positive transitions if they are to contend for at least a third-place finish in this group.
Birkirkara’s coach did not put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of newly-signed forward Iaderosa, having joined the team just a few days before this expedition.
“I did not expect much from her but there were positive signs which bode well for her integration within our playing system,” he explained.
At the same time, Borg lauded the Italian players who gave an immense contribution to his team’s performance.
“The Italians had a strong showing and they helped us a lot in the central department, in both offensive and defensive phases,” Borg said.
Sunday’s opponents, Glentoran, are nine-time champions of Northern Ireland and are currently challenging for a potential 10th.
They trail leaders Cliftonville by five points after nine games played in the championship.
Glentoran will be facing Birkirkara for the second time in their European history, having beaten the Stripes 3-1 in the 2012/2013 edition.