Two goals in the second half handed HNK Rijeka a 2-0 win over Gzira United in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday.
A comfortable lead ahead of the second leg which will be played at the Stadion HNK Rijeka Stadion on Thursday 29. A clash with the winner of Hibernian of Scotland vs Santa Coloma of Andorra awaits Gzira or Rijeka in the third qualifying round.
The Maroons gave a good account of themselves during the first half, trying their luck with a Ricardo Correa freekick from the left which was parried by Labrovic on the 24th minute. Three minutes later, Rijeka created their best goal scoring opportunity with Prince Ampem concluding a good move with a shot from outside the area which was saved in style by Haber.
Twelve minutes in the second half, Rijeka took the lead courtesy of substitute Denis Busnja who controlled a cross from the right by Ivan Tomecak and slotted past goalkeeper Justin Haber.
The Maroons replied with a great effort by Ricardo Correa which was neutralised by Labrovic on 64 minutes. Eleven minutes later, the Rijeka goalkeeper turned into another corner an angled shot by Maxuell. From the resulting corner, Jefferson headed the ball wide.
However the visitors doubled the score on 77 minutes thanks to a goal which could have been avoided. Justin Haber got out of the area to receive a back pass and tried to shield the ball off Jorge Obregon who managed to steal the ball and serve Prince Ampem who placed the ball inside the empty net.
Four minutes from time, Ivan Lepinjica was sent off for Rijeka after receiving a second yellow card by referee Neil Doyle.
GZIRA Justin Haber, Gabriel Bohrer Mentz, Steve Borg (85′ Luke Tabone), Steve Pisani (88′ Judivan), Zach Scerri, Dexter Xuereb, Martin Davis, Ricardo Correa (68’ Jefferson de Assis), Maxuell Samurai, Thiago Espindola, Jackson Mendoza.
RIJEKA Nediljko Labrovic, Nino Galovic, Robert Muric (67’ Matej Vuk), Adrian LIber (46’ Denis Busnja), Domagoj Pavicic, Prince Ampem (90+2′ Niko Galesic), Andrija Vukcevic, Ivan Lepinjica, Josip Drmic (56’ Jorge Obregon), Joao Escoval, Ivan Tomecak.
Referee: Neil Doyle (IRL)
Assistant referees: Wayne McDonnell, Darragh Keegan (IRL)
Fourth official: Graham Kelly (IRL)