Birkirkara FC made history by becoming the first team to reach a third round in a UEFA competition as they defeated Heart of Midlothian 2-1 at Tynecastle Stadium in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round to set-up a clash with FC Krasnodar of Russia in the third qualifying round.
Following a goalless draw in the first leg, the Stripes needed at least a draw with goals to make it to the next round but they managed to go two goals ahead mid-way through the second half and held on well in the remaining minutes to win 2-1.
Birkirkara coach Drazen Besek made one change to the team which drew at the Hibernians Stadium as Edward Herrera replaced Matthew Guillaumier.
The hosts went close on the 26th minute but Jamie Walker hit the crossbar with the ball bouncing just off the goal kick. Nine minutes later, Hearts had an excellent opportunity to equalise when they were awarded a penalty after Nicholson was brought down inside the area. However from the penalty spot, Prince Buaben’s effort from the penalty spot was neutralised by Kopric.
Birkirkara managed to take the lead nine minutes in the second half through Christian Bubalovic whose rising shot from outside the area gave goalkeeper Jack Hamilton no chance.
Sam Nicholson went close to equalising a minute later but his powerful drive hit the woodwork.
However the Stripes doubled the score on the 67th minute when Vito Plut sent Edward Herrera through and the latter slotted the ball past the onrushing Hamilton.
At this point, Birkirkara could afford conceding two goals but still qualify.
Hearts pulled one back on the 73rd minute when off a cross by Arnoud Djoum, Connor Sammon headed home past Kopric.
But in the remaining minutes, the Stripes controlled the hosts’ pressure to take home a precious victory and a historic place in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
HEARTS Jack Hamilton, Liam Smith (57′ Juanma), Alim Ozturk, Igor Rossi (74′ Robbie Muirhead), Faycal Rherras, Callum Paterson, Prince Buaben (80′ Don Cowie), Arnaud Djoum, Sam Nicholson, Jamie Walker, Connor Sammon.
B’KARA Miroslav Kopric, Edward Herrera, Christian Bubalovic, Gareth Sciberras, Emerson Marcellina, Srdjan Dimitrov (72′ Matthew Guillaumier), Vito Plut, Shaun Bajada (64′ Predrag Jovic), Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Scicluna (90′ Ryan Camenzuli), Cain Attard.
Referee: Ville Nevalainen (FIN)
Assistant Referees: Ville Koskiniemi (FIN), Sami Nykänen (FIN)
Fourth official: Mattias Gestranius (FIN)