Gzira United turn defeat into victory as they secure first qualifying round spot

Gzira United came from behind to beat UE Sant Julia of Andorra in the second leg of the Preliminary Round at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday to secure a place in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League with a 4-1 aggregate score.

The Maroons therefore set up a clash with Radnicki Nis with the first leg being played in Nis, Serbia on Thursday 12 and the second leg a week later at Ta’ Qali.

Coach Darren Abdilla made just one change from the team which defeated Sant Julia in the first leg as Zach Scerri replaced Nikolai Muscat.

Gzira had the first shot at goal on the 10th minute when Zach Scerri’s effort from outside the area was turned into a corner. Andrew Cohen and Emmanuel Okoye had shots neutralised by goalkeeper Kevin Nicolas Ratti.

The visitors however managed to take the lead on the 62nd minute thanks to a diagonal shot by Joel Mendez del Rio which beat goalkeeper Justin Haber.

However their joy was short-lived as the Maroons were awarded a penalty after Edison Bilbao Zarate was brought down by the Andorran goalkeeper; from the penalty spot, Amadou Samb converted.

Luis Blanco almost restored the lead for Sant Julia but Clifford Gatt Baldacchino cleared the ball into safety on the 68th minute.

Two minutes from time, Luis Blanco was sent off by referee Juxhin Xhaja after receiving a second yellow card.

Two minutes in added time, the Maroons notched the winner as Jorginho concluded a good move on the right flank with an assist for Edison Bilbao Zarate who placed the ball in the bottom right corner.

Nikolai Muscat could have added another two minutes later but his effort hit the foot of the upright.

GZIRA Justin Haber, Destin Prince Loic Mambouana, Zachary Scerri (87′ Juan Corbalan), Rodolfo Soares, Andrew Cohen, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Edison Bilbao Zarate, Roderick Briffa, Emmanuel Okoye (70’ Nikola Muscat), Thomas Veronese, Amadou Samb (73’ Jorginho).

SANT JULIA Kevin Nicolas Ratti, Jamal Zarioh, Pedro Munoz (76′ Daniel Linarez Gonzalez), Vincent Ramael, Luis Blanco, Enric Pi Sola (57’ Diego Alejandro Najera Quintero), Jhonattan Vinasco Lopez, Nicolae Vasile, Walter Lee, Joel Mendez Del Rio, Jose Antonio Aguilar (48’ Francisco Girau).

Referee: Juxhin Xhaja (ALB)
Assistant Referees: Denis Retha, Ilias Tartaraj (ALB)
Fourth Official: Klajdi Kola (ALB)
Attendance: 694