Gzira United’s never-say-die attitude enabled them to level matters three times to force extra-time and eventually the penalty shoot-out in the second leg of the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League at the Stadion Cair in Nis on Thursday, eliminating FK Radnicki Nis of Serbia 3-1 on penalties following a 3-3 draw.
It was a historic night for Darren Abdilla’s side as Gzira United had never reached the third round of a European competition. In the next round, Gzira will be facing Wolfsberger of Austria with the first leg being played away from home.
Despite going a goal down early in the game, the Maroons were quick to equalise and although late in the game, they conceded another goal, Gzira notched a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time. In extra-time, the Serbians were awarded a penalty but once again, the Maroons equalised until the penalty shoot-out handed Gzira a spot in the next round.
Radnicki therefore progress to the third qualifying round where they will be facing Wolfsberger of Austria.
The hosts took the lead on the 15th minute when Jovicic delivered a corner from the left and Anton Tolordava hit home from close range.
However the Maroons levelled matters hardly a minute later when Jefferson received a through pass by Bohrer Mentz and with a powerful rising shot from the edge of the area, he gave goalkeeper Filip Dujmovic no chance.
Radnicki regained the lead thanks to Sava Petrov with a low shot from inside the area on the 77th minute but twelve minutes in added time, Jefferson restored equilibrium with a powerful shot from the right to force extra-time.
Twelve minutes in the first half of extra-time, Radnicki were awarded a penalty and Aleksandar Pejovic duly converted.
The Maroons, however, hit back with a goal by Maxuell Maia twelve minutes in the second half of extra-time when he entered the area and beat the Radnicki goalkeeper with a diagonal shot which hit the foot of the upright before ending at the back of the net to level matters once again.
The penalty shoot-out therefore had to determine the winner.
Aleksandar Pejovic hit the woodwork for Radnicki but Maxuell Maia scored, Aleksandar Mesarovic scored for Radnicki and Jackson Mendoza scored a second penalty for Gzira. Ryohei Michibuchi also hit the crossbar for Radnicki and Steve Pisani scored. Finally Sava Petrov had his penalty neutralised by goalkeeper Darijan Radelic Zarkov.
RADNICKI Filip Dujmovic, Nikola Stulic (62’ Branislav Tomic), Aleksandar Pejovic, Lazar Arsic (62’ Aleksandar Mesaro), Stefan Dimic (62’ Ryohei Michibuchi), Nemanja Jovicic, Anton Tolordava, Lazar Jovanovic, Maka Gakou (91’ Nikola Stajic), Sava Petrov, Nikola Aksentijevic.
GZIRA Darijan Radelic Zarkov, Gabriel Boihrer Mentz, Luke Tabone (89’ Brooklyn Borg), Nikolai Muscat (90+5’ Steve Pisani), Zach Scerri (90+5’ Emmanuel Mbong) (120’ Andrew Borg), Marcelo Dias, Clive Gauci (66’ Jackson Mendoza), Toni Kolega (66’ Maxuell Maia), Ricardo Correa Duarte, Marko Cosic, Jefferson de Assis.
Referee: Andrei Chivulete ROM
Assistant Referees: Andrei Gabriel Costantinescu, Sebastian Gheorghe ROM
Fourth Official: Iulian Calin ROM