Birkirkara were held in a goalless draw by Ulisses FC of Armenia in the first leg of the UEFA
Europa League at the Hibernians Stadium on Thursday. A result which leaves wide open the chances of both sides, reaching the second qualifying round of the competition.
The Stripes had an edge over their opponents but it was only late in the game, especially following the inclusion of Murga and Miccoli, that they had a series of goal-scoring opportunities thanks to which they could have scored the winning goal.
With Edward Herrera, Ryan Scicluna, Gareth Sciberras, Rafael Ledesma and Shola Shodiya all missing, Birkirkara coach Giovanni Tedesco named a familiar line-up with the only new face being former Floriana striker Vito Plut. Edin Murga and Fabrizio Miccoli – the club’s other two new signings – started on the bench.
In the first half, the Stripes had an edge over their opponents but Ulisses goalkeeper was hardly tested apart from a Ryan Camenzuli effort on the 19th. Just before half-time, Mazzetti just failed to connect off an inviting freekick by Paul Fenech from the right.
On the 66th, Birkirkara went close to taking the lead with a close-range effort by Liliu, served by Murga, on the right but the Armenian goalkeeper turned the ball into a corner. From the resulting corner, Mazzetti headed just wide.
Seven minutes later, off a corner by Miccoli, Paul Fenech and Liliu had shots blocked by defenders. Nine minutes from time, Zach Muscat just missed the target with a good header from close range off a cross by Miccoli from the left.
Birkirkara will travel to Yerevan next week to face Ulisses FC at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium on July 9 with the winner of this clash probably facing West Ham United in the second qualifying round as they defeated Lusitans of Andorra 3-0 in the first leg.
A draw with goals would be enough for Birkirkara to reach the next round.
B’KARA Justin Haber (36′ Ini Etim Akpan), Mauricio Matias Latini Mazzetti, Paul Fenech, Edmond Agius (72′ Fabrzio Miccoli), Vito Plut (65′ Edin Murga), Nikola Vukanac, Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais, Joseph Zerafa, Zach Muscat, Rowen Muscat, Ryan Camenzuli.
ULISSES Arsen Beglaryan, Irakly Chezhia, David Khurtidze, Irakliy Geperidze (84′ Rustem Kalimullin), Nika Piliev (61′ Joel Tshibamba Omari), Artak Aleksanyan, Ivan Mamakhanov, Rade Dugalic, Konstantin Morozov, Levan Dzharkava, Giorgi Khubua (78′ Andrey Belomytssev).
Referee: Erez Papir (ISR)
Assistant Referees: Nissan Davidy, Dvir Shimon (ISR)
Fourth Official: Liran Wachsberger (ISR)
Yellow Cards: Chezia, Geperidze, Dugalic, Fenech, Mamakhanov