UE SANT JULIA          0

GŻIRA UNITED           2

Gżira United enjoyed a winning return to European football when they scored a goal in each half to see off UE Sant Julia, in the Europa League preliminary round first leg, in La Vella yesterday.

It was an encouraging performance from the Maroons who after taking an early lead through Amadou Samb they kept control of proceedings until the interval. 

On the restart, the hosts tried to push more men forward but it was Gżira who struck the killer blow late on when debutant Jorginho drilled the ball home to hand the Maroons a solid lead ahead of next week’s second leg.

Gżira coach Darren Abdilla handed a start to close-season signings, Brazilian defender Rodolfo Soares, and Thomas Veronese, the Italian wingback. 

The Maroons dominated possession for much of the opening 45 minutes with the home side trying to operate with long balls on their lone striker Vincent Ramael. 

It was Gżira who drew first blood after 20 minutes when Samb was floored inside the area by Pedro Munoz and the referee pointed to the spot.

Samb picked himself up to send Sant Julia goalkeeper Nico Ratti the wrong way.

One here expected the Andorrans to step up their game but scoring chances remained few and far between.

Samb could have doubled Gżira’s lead six minutes from half-time but fired wide from an inviting position. 

The Maroons were almost made to pay for that miss as  a minute from the break Soares fouled Ramael inside the area with the referee ordering a second penalty. 

However, from the spot, the Sant Julia forward blasted the ball wide.

In the second half, Sant Julia started to threaten more with Jose Antonio Aguilar twice hitting wide from outside the area. 

Gżira finally threatened on the hour when Samb was denied by a one-handed save by Ratti.

On 68 minutes, Haber distinguished himself when tipping away Aguilar’s firm drive.

Eleven minutes from time, Pi almost drew level but his shot just missed the upright.

But it was Gżira who sealed the win when three minutes from time, Andrew Cohen played in Jorginho and the Brazilian drilled the ball past the onrushing Ratti.

Sant Julia: N. Ratti, P. Munoz, V. Ramael, F. Girau, A. Molina, E. Pi, Jonny, N. Vasile, W. Lee, J. Mendez, J.A. Aguilar.

Gżira: J. Haber, D. Mambouana, N. Muscat, R. Soares, A. Cohen, C. Gatt Baldacchino, E. Bilbao, R. Briffa, E. Okoye, T. Veronese, A. Samb.

Referee: Denys Shurman (Ukraine).


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