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Gżira, Glentoran share four goals to leave Conference League tie wide open

Thiago Espindola (right) charges forward for Gżira United against Glentoran. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

GŻIRA UNITED           2

Wilkson 29; B. Borg 40

GLENTORAN                              2

Uzokwe 9

O’Conchubhair 49


D. Cassar; A. Borg, C. Chaba, F. Romero, M. Dias, B. Borg, L. Macula, Ewertton, J. Mendoza, T. Espindola, Wilkson (73 R. Essaka).


A. McCarey, R. Marshall, A. Wilson, L. McCullough, J. Singleton, D. O’Conchubhair, R. Burns, A. Wightman, S. McCartan (90 L. Boyd), N. McGinn, C. Uzokwe (68 J, Donnelly).

Referee: Stefan Ebner (Austria).

Yellow cards: T. Espindola, Dias, Macula, Donelly.

Penalty missed: C. Uzokwe (Glentoran) 2.

Gżira and Glentoran will head to Northern Ireland locked in a stalemate after the two teams produced a four-goal draw at the Centenary Stadium.

For most of the game, the Maroons were the better side but could not make their pressure count.

Despite the squad revamp they are going through this summer window, Darren Abdilla’s side still managed to stage a solid shift against the Northern Irish side.

Both teams face each other in the second leg of this tie next Thursday.

A much-changed Gżira took the field with David Cassar between the sticks. Abdilla opted to feature a three-man backline formed by Marcelo Dias and new arrivals Carlos Chaba and Farid Romero.

Youngster Andy Borg, who was part of the Malta U-19 squad in the ongoing European Championships, and Thiago Espindola were the wingbacks.

Jackson Mendoza captained the squad with Ewertton and Brooklyn Borg, also part of the Malta U-19 side, composing the midfield set-up.

Upfront, Wilkson Teixeira, also a summer signing, and Lucas Macula made up the attacking duo.

Gżira were almost one down inside the opening two minutes when Glentoran were awarded a penalty after Espindola handed the ball inside the small area.

However, the Northern Ireland side failed to convert the opportunity early on when Chukwuemeka Uzokwe saw his effort sail over the bar.

The Maroons replied through Lucas Macula whose close-range effort was blocked by the Glentoran goalkeeper. Moments later, the Brazilian had a similar opportunity but once again could not break the deadlock.

Glentoran finally broke the stalemate when Uzokwe redeemed himself from the missed penalty to head home from close-range.

Despite going down early, Gżira were still looking to impose their game plan and their efforts were rewarded when Wilkson managed to slot home from the penalty area after the Glentoran backline hesistated to clear the danger.

The Maroons managed to turn around the score with a well-engineered positive transition that concluded in a brilliant low drive by youngster Brooklyn Borg.

Glentoran’s reply came through Uzokwe’s header but David Cassar managed to avert the danger.

Macula almost extended Gżira’s lead just to see his fierce strike go wide as the Maroons led by two goals to one at half-time.

However, Gżira’s lead did not last long in the second half as Glentoran levelled terms on 47 minutes.  Daire O’Conchubhair capitalised on a rebound to head the ball past Gżira’s Cassar.

Glentoran’s Seamus McCartan had a good opportunity to put his side ahead through a long-range freekick just to be inches wide from Cassar’s goal.

In the final quarter of the game, coach Abdilla handed Ryan Essaka a club debut after the forward joined from Italian side Casteltermini in bid to spark the attack into life.

However, for all their efforts they could not find a winner as the stalemate prevailed.

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