Birkirkara’s hopes of securing a place in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League were dashed as they lost 1-4 to Diósgyőr at the National Stadium on Thursday. Diósgyőr therefore qualify with a 6-2 aggregate score and will meet either Litex Lovech of Bulgaria or FC Veris Chisinau of Moldova whose second leg was postponed due to heavy rainfall.
Following a good performance in Debrecen last week, much more as expected from the Stripes although Coach Paul Zammit could not field his best formation due to the absence of Matheus Bissi da Silva, Gareth Sciberras and Zach Muscat.
During the first half, Diósgyőr held the initiative, having the lion’s share of ball possession. However after a quiet start, the Stripes had a first attempt at goal on the 23rd minute with Ryan Camenzuli testing Antal with a shot for outside the area.
On the half hour, the visitors managed to take the lead when Akos Elek surprised goalkeeper Adrian Murcia with a shot from a close angle which was not held by the Spanish keeper with the ball ending at the back of the net.
Birkirkara replied with a cross shot by Joseph Zerafa ending just over the bar on 34 minutes.
The Stripes managed to equalise one minute from the end of the first half when Paul Fenech sent Ryan Camenzuli through and the latter all alone in front of the goalkeeper, slotted the ball past Antal.
The equaliser filled Birkirkara with confidence as they started the second half in the driving seat with Diósgyőr mainly limiting themselves to controlling their opponents. In fact, the Diósgyőr goalkeeper neutralised a long-distance shot by Paul Fenech early in the second half and on the 58th minute, he performed a good save on a cross shot from the right by Leighton Grech.
However on the 61st minute, Diósgyőr regained the lead when Senad Husic’s effort from the left surprised goalkeeper Adrian Murcia Sanchez. A goal which almost ruled out the Stripes’ chances as they now needed to score three goals to qualify.
To make matters worse, on the 66th minute, the Hungarians scored the third goal which killed the Stripes’ hopes. Akos Elek released Andras Gosztonyi on the left and off the latter’s pass substitute David Barczi flicked the ball in style past the Birkirkara goalkeeper.
Ryan Camenzuli went close to reducing the gap on 71 minutes with a diagonal shot from the left which just missed the foot of the post.
Eight minutes from time, Terence Vella missed a good opportunity when served by Alejandro Mendoza. In a swift counter-attack for the visitors, Nikhazi hit just over the bar from outside the area.
One minute in added time, another substitute, Lazar Marjanovič, made it 4-1 with a low shot from inside the area after receiving an inviting pass by Nikhazi.
B’KARA Adrian Murcia Sanchez, Leighton Grech (64′ Lucky Omerou), Alejandro Mendoza Corujo, Nikola Vukanac, Terence Vella (84′ Kurt Zammit), Ryan Scicluna, Paul Fenech, Edmond Agius (46′ Rafael Ledesma), Ryan Camenzuli, Edward Herrera, Joseph Zerafa.
DIÓSGYŐR Botond Antal, Senad Husic, Tamas Kadari, William Rocha Alves, Drazen Okuka, Patrik Bacsa (60′ David Barczi), Andras Debreceni (71′ Lazar Marjanovič), Andras Gosztonyi, Miroslav Grumic, Gabor Bori (71′ Mark Nikhazi), Akos Elek.
Referee: Pavle Radovanovic (MNE)