Birkirkara strike back twice to hold Metalurg

by Ayrton Galea - 6th July 2012
Birkirkara FC
UEFA Europa League

Hibernians Stadium

05/07/2012 - 19:00
FK Metalurg Skopje

Birkirkara showed a great attitude coming twice from behind to hold FK Metalurg Skopje in a respectable 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League qualifying round match at the Hibernians Stadium.

Despite an early shock goal, Birkirkara gave a great performance and a win would have been the deserved result for their efforts, but they kept fighting till the end and at least achieved a draw in front of the home crowd.

Without any doubt, the determination by the Birkirkara players was encouraged by the numerous and loud Birkirkara supporters led by the Birkirkara Ultras who not only produced a superb choreography at the beginning of the match but they supported the players in the difficult moments of the match and they were truly the 12th player. The Supporters Sub-committee did an excellent job in co-ordinating with the ground stewards and the rest of the supporters.

Birkirkara started with a 3-5-2 formation with Shola Shodiya and the latest signing Joselito Dos Reis Santos forming the attacking department. The latter was making his debut and it was a very positive one.

Paul Fenech managed to recover in time for this match but Gareth Sciberras was missing for Mr. Zammit's side.

The First Half

Birkirkara could not have had a worse start to the match. Following Birkirkara losing the ball in the middle of the field, Metalurg made a fast counter attack and Blagojce Ljamcevski ran inside the box before his low cross found the unmarked Ilija Nestorovski who made no mistake with his close range effort.

Following this goal, Metalurg's aim was clear to notice as they tried to frustrate their opponents by reducing the tempo of the match and to avoid any scoring chances by Birkirkara.

In the first scoring opportunity for Birkirkara, Rodrigo Pereira tried his luck with a fine direct free-kick on the 18th minute which ended wide.

Bulgarian referee Ivaylo Stoyanov gave the players the first water break on the 21st minute and Mr. Zammit took this opportunity to encourage his players while giving them fresh instructions.

A diagonal shot by Ryan Camenzuli on the 23rd minute ended wide of the left post. Birkirkara continued to try their luck and Jorge Santos Silva, following a fine solo action, had his shot flying over the bar on the 34th minute.

Birkirkara missed a great opportunity seven minutes from half time when Jorge Santos Silva made the best of Mile Krstev's mistake, advanced with the ball but his low shot was well blocked by Igor Pavlovic, the Metalurg's goalkeeper.

Ryan Camenzuli had a long distance shot saved by Pavlovic on the 40th minute as Birkirkara continued their domination and their search for the equalising goal.

Paul Fenech sent a perfect cross towards Ryan Scicluna on the 42nd minute with the latter trying to lob over the goalkeeper but his effort was deflected by the defender into a corner kick.

The first half ended with Birkirkara dominating for long stretches but still in the 1-0 disadvantage.

The Second Half

The Metalurg Head Coach made his first substitution as on the 52nd minute, when Aleksandar Tenekedzievr replaced Blagojce Ljamcevski, who had provided the assist for Metalurg's goal.

Birkirkara scored the equalising goal on the 52nd minute when Ryan Camenzuli sent a fine through ball towards Jorge Santos Silva who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into an empty net. The Birkirkara supporters erupted in joy.

However, this did not last long as hardly had a minute passed when Birkirkara conceded the second goal. Blagojce Ljamcevski sent a dangerous cross with Cvetan Churlinov anticipating the rushing Rueben Gauci to regain Metalurg's lead.

Managing to recover from a first minute goal is hard, but recovering from a second goal conceded just few seconds after equalising is much harder but the Birkirkara players did not display any signs of giving up.

Birkirkara began their search for the equalising goal once again. Shola Shodiya served Ryan Camenzuli whose powerful shot was unfortunately blocked by his teammate Joselito Dos Reis Santos, who was lying on the floor.

A direct free-kick by Ryan Scicluna on the 61st minute ended over. Ryan Scicluna was in action once again on the 65th minute, producing a good action before being served by Rowen Muscat whose powerful shot fired over the bar.

In the second substitution for Metalurg, Ilija Nestorovski was replaced with Blagoja Naumovski on the 65th minute.

Referee Stoyanov gave the second water break to the players on the 68th minute with the Birkirkara supporters continuing to encourage their players for the remaining time while both coaches gave their last instructions.

On the 73rd minute, Shola Shodiya made a fine solo run, sending an inviting cross lobbing over the goalkeeper from the right but no one managed to connect.

Joselito Dos Reis Santos made a fine solo action on the 75th minute, going past two players and trying his powerful long distance shot which scratched past the crossbar.

Mr. Zammit decided to give a fresh new push in the attacking department by replacing Joselito Dos Reis Santos who had a fine match with central striker Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza on the 76th minute.

Metalurg utilised their third and last substitution on the 80th minute, as Head Coach Mr. Gjorgii Hristov replaced Cvetan Curlinov with Oliver Peev.

Finally, on the 86th minute, Birkirkara were awarded for their continuous attacks and domination and they found the equalising goal. Ryan Camenzuli sent another fine pass which was not connected by Jorge Santos Silva but was kicked home by Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza who beat goalkeeper Pavlovic with the Birkirkara supporters once again erupting in joy.

In the second substitution for Birkirkara on the 88th minute, Fabian Zammit replaced Ryan Scicluna who received a standing ovation by the Birkirkara supporters for his determined performance.

The Birkirkara players were clearly not satisfied with a draw as in the dying minutes of the game they kept searching for the third goal. Shola Shodiya made a fine solo run, beating two defenders and firing a fierce shot from outside the box but it was well blocked although with some difficulty Igor Pavlovic. Scorer Mifsud Triganza also tried his luck to turn the result in Birkirkara's favour as in the second minute of added had another effort on goal.

On the other side of the pitch, on the 92nd minute, in an isolated attack for Metalurg, Hristijan Dimoski tried a long distance shot which flew over the bar.

Just before the full time whistle, the Birkirkara supporters appealed for a hands ball inside Metalurg's box but the Bulgarian referee saw nothing wrong.

The full time whistle found the vociferous Birkirkara supporters applauding their players for their never give up attitude and their positive performance. The players replied by applauding back to supporters for their support.

The second leg will be played on Thursday, 12 July at Bashkimi Stadium in Kumanovo, Macedonia, kicking off at 17:00.

Birkirkara: Reuben Gauci, Rodrigo Pereira, Nikola Vukanac, Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Camenzuli, Paul Fenech, Rowen Muscat, Ryan Scicluna (88' Fabian Zammit), Jorge Santos Silva, Joselito Dos Reis Santos (76' Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza), Shola Shodiya.

Metalurg Skopje: Igor Pavlovic, Kemal Alomerovic, Igor Kralevski, Petar Ljamčevski (52' Aleksandar Tenekedžiev), Blagojče Ljamčevski, Ilija Nestorovski (65' Blagoja Naumovski), Hristijan Dimoski, Mile Krstev, Mile Petkovski, Cvetan Curlinov (81' Oliver Peev), Ljubomir Stevanović.

Scorers: 1' Ilija Nestorovski, 53' Cvetan Churlinov (Metalurg Skopje), 52' Jorge Santos Silva, 86' Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza.

Yellow Cards: Joseph Zerafa, Ryan Scicluna (Birkirkara), Igor Pavolovic, Blagojce Ljamcevski, Ilija Nestorovski, Hristijan Dimoski, Ljubomir Stevanovic

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