Sliema Wanderers maintained alive hopes of securing a place in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League following a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the first qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium.
Khazar showed better ideas early in the game, taking the lead during the first half. However the Wanderers never gave up and managed to equalise just past the hour.
Coach Alfonso Greco had only one ‘new’ player at his disposal – Trevor Cilia who returned with the club after being on loan with Floriana.
The visitors managed to take the lead on the 13th minute when off a cross by Tounkara from the right, Nildo França Junior beat Glenn Zammit with a first-time effort.
On the 33rd, in a counter-attack for Khazar, Nildo Franca released Sadio Tounkara on the right but the latter’s low shot was neutralised by Glenn Zammit. Four minutes later, Zammit was superb in performing a great save at point blank on Vanderson Scarduelli following another cross by Tounkara.
Just before half-time, Mathias Muchardi concluded a good move for Sliema with a low shot from inside the area ending just wide.
Trevor Cilia tried his luck with an overhead kick five minutes in the second half but goalkeeper Antonio Doblas saved without any difficulty.
On the hour, the Blues appealed for a penalty after Doblas seemed to foul Ohawuchi but the Estonian referee waved play on.
Two minutes later, Sliema equalised by Stanley Nka Ohawuchi, served by John Mintoff, managed to place the ball at the back of the net despite the desperate attempt of a defender to clear the ball into safety.
A powerful shot by Alex Muscat was parried by the Khazar goalkeeper on 76 minutes.
Seven minutes from time, Khazar were reduced to ten men after Elnur Allahverdiyev picked a second yellow card for a foul on Alex Muscat and was therefore sent off by referee Elko Saar.
Three minutes in added time, Khazar almost notched the winner but Alvaro Silva’s header off a freekick by Adrian Pit ended just wide.
The second leg will be played at the City Stadium in Lankaran on Thursday 11.
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SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Beppe Muscat (94′ Branislav Timotic), Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Stefano Bianciardi, Alex Muscat, Paltemio Barbetti, Matias Muchardi, Mark Scerri, Stanley Nka Ohawuchi, John Mintoff (83′ Luca Martinelli), Trevor Cilia (53′ Ariel Laudisi).
KHAZAR Antonio Doblas, Vanderson Scarduelli (59′ Adrian Pit), Alvaro Silva, Elnur Allahverdiyev, Sadio Tounkara, Elnur Abdullayev, Zoahir Benuahi, Radomir Todorov, Adrian Scarlatache, Marin Orsulic (67′ Rasim Ramaldanov), Nildo Franca Junior (50′ Nicola Gligorov).
Referee: Eiko Saar (EST)
Assistant referees: Silver Koiv (EST), Jaanus Mutli (EST)
Fourth official: Jaan Roos (EST)
Yellow Cards: Allahverdiyev, Marin, B. Muscat, Silva, Scerri, Ohawuchi, Barbetti
Red Cards: Allahverdiyev