Birkirkara maintained alive hopes of reaching the next stage of the UEFA Champions League following a goalless draw in the first leg of the first qualifying round at the National Stadium.
It was a fine performance by Paul Zammit’s side who never looked inferior to their opponents who reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa League in the past two years. In Maribor, Birkirkara need a draw with goals to qualify.
Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina
Coach Paul Zammit had faith in the team which led the club to the championship last season including only one new signing – Nigerian striker Frank Temile. On the other hand, Demba Toure was included as a substitute.
The Stripes had the first real goal scoring opportunity on the 28th minute when Shola Shodiya tried to serve Rowen Muscat but the pass was too strong. Eleven minutes later, Edward Herrera went close with a powerful shot which just missed the target.
Late in the first half, the visitors had a shot by Cvijanovic deflected into a corner and a few seconds later, a powerful shot by Milec ended just over the bar.
Maribor kept the Birkirkara defence under pressure early in the second half but on the 57th minute, Temile managed to find a way into the area from the left and had a low shot blocked by Handanovic. Seven minutes later, Temile released Shola Shodiya on the right but the latter’s shot ended wide.
Substitute Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza almost notched the winner one minute from time when he managed to steal the ball off a defender but his conclusion from the edge of the area hit the foot of the upright.
B’KARA Justin Haber, Zach Muscat, Nikola Vukanac, Alejandro Mendoza, Edward Herrera, Ryan Camenzuli, Gareth Sciberras, Paul Fenech, Rowen Muscat (83′ Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Haruna Shola Shodiya (68′ Demba Toure), Frank Temile (80′ Joselh Zerafa).
MARIBOR Jasmin Handanovic, Zeljko Filipovic, Martin Milec, Ales Mejic, Dejan Mezga, Marcos Morales Tavares (84′ Nusmir Fajic), Agim Ibrahimi, Goran Cvijanovic, Aleksander Rajcevic, Arghus Soares Boradignon, Ales Mertelj (69′ Damjan Bohar).
Referee: Radu Marian Petrescu (ROM)
Assistant Referees: Cristian Nica, Vladimir Urzica (ROM)
Fourth Official: Dragos Istrate (ROM)
Yellow Cards: Camenzuli, Sciberras, Fenech, Filipovic