After losing 3-0 in the first leg, champions Hibernians face an uphill task as they host Shamrock Rovers of Ireland in the second leg of the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League first qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 20:00.
In Dublin, Shamrock Rovers took a deserved two-goal lead in the first half but on the restart, the Paolites fought back and were unlucky to hit the woodwork twice before the Hoops added a third goal late in the game to seal the issue.
On Friday, Hibernians were forced to appoint a new coach as Stefano Sanderra was appointed as coach of the SS Lazio primavera side. The choice fell on Andrea Pisanu who had earlier served as coach of Melita and Sliema Wanderers apart from a spell as assistant coach at Balzan.
When speaking to maltafootball.com on Monday, Pisanu said that this appointment for him was a big challenge. “Everything changed in a couple of hours. For me, this is a big challenge because I arrived in a big team. I arrived in a team which last season won the league but I am confident that during this year, we can do a good job.”
“I just managed to do two training sessions because everything moved fast. On Friday, I received a call from the president. We spoke and arranged everything and made two sessions on Saturday and Sunday.”
Regarding the game in Dublin, the new Hibernians coach said “It was a strange match. In the first half, they were better than us. They played good and scored but then in the second half, we had the chances to change the game but unfortunately nothing happened. Tomorrow is another game … an important game. We know that it will be very hard but as I say to myself ‘nothing is impossible’. We have to believe and we have to give a great performance. After a great performance, you go out with no regrets.”
“Our future is tomorrow as we have this game. We play this game and then after tomorrow, we leave everything behind on the pitch, we move to the next one. For sure, playing in Europe, playing in the Champions League is a dream for all the young players, all the players and even for me as a coach. I am very proud of this. The Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League are all a great experience. We are trying to do our best to move to the next round. We know that we are facing a good team but there is always a game to play and give our maximum effort.”
As regards the objectives for the domestic season, Pisanu said “We want to be there to compete. I think this will be an amazing season because a lot of teams made changes and improved and therefore will be competitive. We want to be there and compete till the end. Unfortunately in football, only one team wins but the important thing is the effort you put to be on top.”
When asked whether he plans to bring new additions to the squad, Andrea Pisanu praised the players at his disposal and said that it was still early to decide whether there will be new signings.
“The players are training with amazing spirit. They have the passion and winning mentality. To be honest, it is still early to think about what we need because in Malta, you play in Europe and then have one month to prepare for the league. We use these games to evaluate the players and then together with the club, we will see what we really need. We only need players who can help us to improve.”
Like the first leg, Pisanu would be unable to field his best formation due to the players who are still serving a suspension, namely Ferdinando Apap, Andrei Agius and Bjorn Kristensen.
The first qualifying round winners advance to the second qualifying round while defeated teams transfer to the UEFA Europa Conference League Champions Path second qualifying round.
The winner would face the winner of the clash between PFC Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria and FK Sutjeska Niksic of Montenegro in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round. Ludogorets won the first leg 2-0.
On the other hand, the eliminated side would enter the champions path of the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round where they would face Levadia Tallinn of Estonia who had been eliminated from the semi-finals of the Preliminary Round.