Birkirkara and Heart of Midlothian shared the spoils in a goalless draw in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round at the Hibernians Stadium on Thursday.
Following last week’s comfortable win over Široki Brijeg, much more was expected from Birkirkara but they adopted a rather cautious approach and seemed more concerned in avoid conceding any goals rather than trying to score.
Birkirkara coach Drazen Besek was forced to make one change from the team which defeated Široki Brijeg last week as Matthew Guillaumier replaced the injured Predrag Jovic. Frank Temile and new recruits Bruno Marotti and Dejan Djordjevic were among the substitutes.
The Stripes had the first attempt at goal on the 8th as Srdjan Dimitrov’s freekick from the left was parried by Hamilton. At the other end, Atim Ozturk’s freekick was blocked by Kopric two minutes later. Joseph Zerafa tried his luck with a lob from the left but the Hearts goalkeeper neutralised. Following a cross from the right, a header by Jamie Walker from close range was parried by the Birkirkara custodian on the 37th.
The visitors almost managed to break the deadlock eighteen minutes in the second half when Alim Ozturk’s powerful drive hit the crossbar. Ozturk went close once again with a low shot from the edge of the area ten minutes from time ending just wide. A diagonal shot from the left by substitute Sam Nicholson scraped past the post n the 83rd and on the 90th, Kopric came to the rescue turning into a corner another corner by Nicholson.
B’KARA Miroslav Kopric, Christian Bubalovic, Gareth Sciberras, Marcelina Emerson, Srdjan Dimitrov (92′ Edison Bilbao Zarate), Vito Plut, Shaun Bajada (81′ Frank Temile), Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Scicluna (91′ Bruno Marotti), Cain Attard, Matthew Guillaumier.
HEARTS Jack Hamilton, Callum Paterson, Faycal Rherras, Igor Rossi Branco, Alim Orturk, Perry Kitchen (31′ Don Cowie), Jamie Walker. (82′ Sam Nicholson), Prince Buaben Abankwah, Arnaud Djoum, Conor Sammon (74′ Juan Manuel Delgado Lloria), Liam Smith.
Referee: Ivaylo Stoyanov (BUL)
Assistant Referees: Ivo Kolev, Georgi Doynov (BUL)
Fourth Official: Stefan Apostolov (BUL)