Gżira through to the first qualifying round of the Europa League

Gżira United made history as they qualified for the first qualifying round of the Europa League following a 4-1 aggregate win over Sant Julia.

Andrew Cohen trying to play the ball despite being challenged by Francisco Girau. Photo: Christine Borg
Andrew Cohen trying to play the ball despite being challenged by Francisco Girau. Photo: Christine Borg

Following a 2-0 win in Andorra, Gżira were looking for another positive performance in order to reach the first qualifying round of the Europa League for the first time in their history.

Darren Abdilla was eager to guide his side to do so; however, as stated in yesterday’s press conference, they had to respect their opponents and try to seal the issue as early as possible.

Gżira were definitely the best side during the first half. Abdilla’s side dominated possession through-out the whole half. However, despite creating a number of chances, they couldn’t find a way past Sant Julia’s defence.

Sant Julia created the first opportunity of the match on the 6th minute. Walter Lee’s low shot from distance sailed wide.

The Maroons responded on the 10th minute. Zachary Scerri received the ball inside the penalty and hit a low shot that forced a good save from Kevin Nicolas Ratti.

Ratti denied Gżira once more on the 16th minute. Andrew Cohen went on a great run before sending a shot from inside the penalty area that was neutralised by the Argentinian goalkeeper.

Gżira kept on insisting and created another excellent chance on the 34th  minute. Roderick Briffa served Okoye inside the penalty area, but the latter saw his effort being parried by Sant Julia’s custodian.

During the additional time given by the referee prior to half-time, Okoye of Gżira saw his shot from distance going off target.

Gżira remained on the offensive during the second half and went close again on the 53rd minute. Briffa’s cross from a corner was met by Amadou Samb whose header ended up marginally over.

Sant Julia replied on the 59th minute. Joel Mendez Del Rio fired a powerful drive that failed to hit the target.

Two minutes later, Sant Julia forged ahead. Del Rio went past a defender and placed the ball past Justin Haber.

However, Gżira hit back and equalised on the 65th minute. Ratti floored Edison Balbao inside the penalty area and the referee pointed towards the spot. From the eleven metres mark, Samb made no mistake.

Two minutes from time, Veronese received the ball from Bilbao and fired a shot from the edge of the penalty area that was saved by Ratti.

Sant Julia ended up with ten men a minute later as Luis Blanco was sent off after being shown his second yellow card.

Gżira made sure of the win inside the additional time. Bilbao sent a low shot from distance that gave Ratti no chance.

Abdilla’s men kept on going and nearly added another goal. First, it was Nikolai Muscat who saw his shot hitting the post after taking a touch from Ratti. Sant Julia’s shot stopper remained on the alert as he pushed away Bilbao’s powerful shot from the rebound.

Following this result, the Maroons will now play against Radnicki Nis of Serbia.

Gżira United starting line-up: Justin Haber, Destin Prince Loic Mambouana, Zachary Scerri, Rodolfo Soares, Andrew Cohen, Clifford Baldacchino, Edison Bilbao, Roderick Briffa, Emmanuel Okoye, Thomas Veronese, Amadou Samb

UE Sant Julia starting line-up: Kevin Nicolas Ratti, Jamal Zarioh, Pedro Munoz, Vincent Ramael, Luis Blanco, Enric Pi Sola, Jhonattan Vinasco Lopez, Nicolae Vasile, Walter Lee, Joel Mendez Del Rio, Jose Antonio Aguilar

Referee: Juxhin Xhaja (Albania)

Assistant Referees: Denis Rexha, Llir Tartaraj

Fourth Official: Klajdi Kola

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