CSKA-Sofia came from behind to beat Sirens 2-1 in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League at the Bulgarska Armia Stadion in Sofia on Thursday.
Despite making their first ever appearance in a European competition, the St. Pauls’ Bay side gave an excellent account of themselves. Despite missing a penalty, they still managed to take the lead but the hosts managed to turn the score in their favour, notching the winner in added time.
Sirens had new recruits Ryan Scicluna, Terence Agius, Maxuell Samurai and Wilfried Domoraud making their debut. The other new signings – Jonathan Pearson, Jacob Walker and Michael Mifsud – started the game on the bench with the latter two being included as substitutes.
During the first half, Sirens went close after just three minutes with a Maxuell Maia da Silva effort which was blocked by Busatto. Sowe was the most dangerous man for CSKA-Sofia, testing goalkeeper David Cassar with fine shots on the 23rd and 38th.
Two minutes in the second half, Sirens had an excellent opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty after Jurgen Mattheij floored Maxuell Maia da Silva inside the area but from the penalty spot, the Brazilian’s effort was neutralised by Busatto.
Maxuell Maia da Silva, however, redeemed himself on the 69th minute when off a swift counter-attack for Sirens, Wellington de Oliveira served the former Santa Lucia striker just outside the area and the latter controlled before hitting past the CSKA goalkeeper.
The hosts equalised on the 75th minute when off a cross from the left by substitute Sankhare, another substitute Ahmed Ahmedov beat Cassar with a great first time effort.
One minute in added time, a perfect assist by Yomov for Ali Sowe who avoided the Sirens rear-guard and placed the ball at the back of the net with an angled shot from the right.
CSKA Gustavo Busatto, Jurgen Mattheij, Henrique, Graham Carey (57′ Yomov), Stefano Beltrame (65′ Younousse Sankharé), Bradley Mazikou, Tiago Rodrigues, Amos Youga (71′ Ahmed Ahmedov), Ali Sowe, Valentin Antov, Plamen Galabov.
SIRENS David Cassar, Wellington de Oliveira (79′ Michael Mifsud), Sergio Raphael dos Anjos, Maxuell Maia da Silva, Wilfried Domoraud, Adrian Borg, Ryan Scicluna, Terence Agius (82′ Ryan Grech), Angel Manuel Bustos, Romeu Pericles Romao (30′ Jacob Walker), Thiago Espindola de Paula.
Referee: Krzysztof Jakubik (POL)