A goal by new signing Michael Mifsud was not enough for Birkirkara as they were held in a 1-1 draw by KI Klaksvík in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Preliminary Round at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday.
With no less than five players ruled out injured, namely Kurt Zammit, Ryan Scicluna, Matthew Guillaumier, Terence Agius and new recruit Paul Fenech, coach Paul Zammit handed six players their debut – defenders Arian Mrsulja and Eduardo Mancha, Uchenna Umeh, Fabiano and Marcelinho together with Michael Mifsud. Another new signing, Serbian striker Stanimir Miloskovic, was included as a substitute.
The hosts had a slight edge over their opponents in terms of ball possession but shots at goal from either side were few and far in between. Birkirkara custodian Kristijan Naumovski and Klaksvík custodian Kristian Joensen had in fact a quiet evening.
Former Valletta striker Uchenna Umeh was the most active player for the Stripes testing the Faroese goalkeeper with two low shots on the 51st and 61st but his attempts were parried by Joensen.
Birkirkara finally managed to break the deadlock on the 72nd minute thanks to a diagonal shot from the right by Michael Mifsud after a Jake Grech effort from outside the area was blocked by a defender.
However two minutes from time, Klaksvík levelled matters thanks to a header by Deni Pavlovic following a corner by Jakup Andreasen.
A minute later, substitute Ronni Moller Iversen went close to scoring a shock winner but his rising shot scraped past the post.
The second leg will be played at the Gundadalur Stadium in Torshavn on Thursday 5th July.
B’KARA Kristijan Naumovski, Edward Herrera, Arian Mrsulja, Mislav Andjelkovic, Jake Grech, Eduardo Mancha, Michael Mifsud, Fabiano, Cain Attard, Marcelinho (80′ Stanimir Miloskovic), Uchenna Umeh.
KI KLAKSVÍK Kristian Joensen, Marko Dusak (71’ Steinbjorn Olsen), Deni Pavlovic, Joannes Bjartalio (82′ Ronni Moller-Iversen), Pall Klettskard, Hordur Askham, Olavur Niclasen (87′ Mikkjal A Bergi), Jakup Andreasen, Boris Dosljak, Semir Hadzibulic, Joannes Kalso Danielsen.
Referee: Besfort Kasumi (KOS)
Assistant Referees: Edmond Zeqiri, Fatmir Sekiraqa (KOS)
Fourth Official: Genc Nuba (KOS)