Birkirkara and Metalurg Skopje of Macedonia shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium.
Metalurg took an early lead but the Stripes were clearly the better side during the second half and definitely deserved a draw at least. A draw which keeps alive hopes of reaching the next stage.
Birkirkara lacked the injured Gareth Sciberras but Paul Fenech was back in the starting line-up after recovering from an injury. Brazilian striker Joselito dos Reis was making his debut for Paul Zammit’s side.
The visitors took just two minutes to break the deadlock when off a fine move by Alomerovic on the left, the ball reached Ilija Nestorivic who placed the ball at the back of the net from close range.
Birkirkara replied with a Rodrigo Pereira freekick which just missed the target on the 18th minute.
On 39 minutes, Jorge Santos Silva managed to steal the ball outside the area and his conclusion from the right was blocked by goalkeeper Pavlovic. Teo minutes later, a Ryan Camenzuli effort from outside the area was parried by the Macedonian goalkeeper.
The Stripes levelled matters on 53 minutes when Fenech served Jorge Sntos Silva who pulled to the right, rounded the goalkeeper and placed the ball at the back of the net.
However a minute later, Metalurg regained the lead thanks to Cvetan Curlinov who anticipated Gauci and Pereira following a cross by Blagoj?e Ljam?evski.
Birkirkara were showing greater determination and went close once again on the 55th minute with a Ryan Camenzuli effort, served by Shodiya, which was blocked by another Birkirkara player. On 73 minutes, Shola Shodiya sent an inviting cross from the right but there was no one to connect. A shot from outside the area by Joselito just missed the target.
Three minutes from time, the Stripes notched thenequaliser when off a cross by Ryan Camenzuli from the left, substitute Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza flicked the ball past Pavlovic.
Birkirkara kept pushing for more and went close with Shodiya Shodiya on the 89th minute.
The second leg will be played in Macedonia in a week’s time.
B’KARA Reuben Gauci, Rodrigo Frank Pereira, Nikola Vukanac, Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Camenzuli, Rowen Muscat, Paul Fenech, Ryan Scicluna (89′ Fabian Zammit), Haruna Shola Shodiya, Joselito dos Reis Santos (77′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Jorge Santos Silva.
METALURG SKOPJE Igor Pavlovi?, Kemal Alomerovi?, Igor Kralevski, Petar Ljam?evski (52’Aleksandar Tenekedžiev), Blagoj?e Ljam?evski, Ilija Nestorovski (65′ Blagoja Naumovski), Hristijan Dimoski, Mile Krstev, Mile Petkovski, Cvetan Curlinov (81′ Oliver Peev), Ljubomir Stevanovi?.
Referee: Ivaylo Stoyanov (BUL)
Assistant referees: Nikolay Angelov (BUL), Krum Stoilov (BUL)
Fourth official: Georgi Kabakov (BUL)
Yellow cards: Ljamcevski, Zerafa, Scicluna, Nestorovski, Dimoski, Pavlovic, Stevanov