Gzira United secured a place in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League after defeating UE Sant Julia of Andorra 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the end of the ninety minutes and extra-time.
In the next round, the Maroons will be facing HNK Rijeka of Croatia with the first leg scheduled at home.
The visitors managed to take the lead on the 20th minute when off a Izan Checa Cano corner from the left, Justin Haber punched the ball but Bedsente Gomis beat the Gzira goalkeeper with a fine volley.
Just before half-time, Sant Julia could have doubled the score but a diagonal shot by Gomis from the left ended just wide.
Eight minutes in the second half, Gżira levelled matters through Gabriel Bohrer Mentz who headed the ball home off a cross by Thiago Espindola from the left.
Towards the 90th Maxuell went close with a header ending wide and then with a close-range effort blocked by the goalkeeper.
The first half of extra-time was quite disappointing but in the second half, Gżira had some good chances, going close with an overhead by Maxuell Samurai. A header by Jefferson was neutralised by the Sant Julia goalkeeper and finally a freekick by Steve Pisani was blocked by Ignacio Zabal and off the rebound, Ricardo Correa’s low effort was deflected into a corner.
In the penalty shoot-out, Maxuell Maia da Silva scored the first penalty but Frederic Nimani’s penalty was parried by Haber, Jackson Mendoza, Steve Pisani, Gabriel Bohrer Mentz and Sant Julia’s Bedsente Gomis, Bubakar Kambi and Ion Echaide scoring as well with captain Steve Borg converting the decisive penalty to hand Gżira a place in the next round.
A clash between the two sets of players ensued with referee Vitalijs Spasjonnikovs handing another two yellow cards and a red card to Miguel Ruiz of Sant Julia after dishing out twelve yellow cards – three for Gżira and nine for Sant Julia throughout the game.
GŻIRA Justin Haber, Gabriel Bohrer Mentz, Steve Borg, Nikolai Muscat, Steve Pisani, Zachary Scerri, Martin Davis (69’ Jefferson de Assis), Ricardo Correa, Maxuell Maia da Silva, Thiago Espindola, Jackson Usuga Mendoza.
SANT JULIA Ignacio Zabal, Ion Echaide, Biel Rodriguez Perez, Bubacar Kambi, Oscar Garcia Gonzalez, Pau Cendros (74’ Miguel Ruiz), Izan Checa Cano (90’ Frederic Nimani), Bedsente Gomis, Albert Makoube Ebongue (60’ Valentin Rizzo), Jordan Tawaba, Fabrice Begeorgi.
Referee: Vitalijs Spasjonnikovs (LAT)
Assistant Referees: Raimonds Tatriks, Martins Svipsts (LAT)
Fourth Official: Andris Treimanis (LAT)