Belfast shootout surpasses 2020 record of 26
GŻIRA UNITED 1
(aet; Gżira win 14-13 on penalties)
A.McCarey; L. McCullough, A. Wilson, R. Marshall, J. Singleton, R. Burns, F. Sule, N. McGinn (69 J. Donnelly), D. O’Conchubhair (97 L. Boyd), R. Donnelly (111 J. Jenkins), C. Uzokwe (79 R. Walsh).
D. Cassar; Z. Scerri, J. Mendoza, T. Espindola, M. Dias, C. Chaba, L. Macula (89 R. Essaka), F. Romero, W. Teixeira, B. Borg, Ewertton.
Referee Sigurd Kringstad (Norway FA).
Yellow cards Cassar, R. Donnelly, J. Donnelly, Mendoza, Romero, Wilson.
Missed penalty Burns (Glentoran) 17.
Gżira United secured a famous qualification in Belfast, beating Glentoran after a thrilling 28-penalty shootout to advance to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference.
The Maroons will now face Dudelange of Luxembourg in the second round of this competition.
Lucas Macula had given Gżira the lead but it was not enough to propel them into the next stage in regular time as Glentoran equalised at the death to force extra-time and penalties to determine the winner of this tie.
The penalty showdown at The Oval was the longest in European football, beating the previous record by two penalties set during a 2020/2021 qualifying tie in the Europa League between Shamrock Rovers and Ilves.
It has also surpassed other memorable shootouts such as the 22 penalties taken in the 2020/2021 Europa League final between Villarreal and Manchester United and the 24 recorded in a Europa League qualifier between Rio Ave and Milan, in the same season.
For this away trip, Gżira coach Abdilla made one change from last week’s starting formation with Zack Scerri, captain on the night, replacing youngster Andy Borg.
Upfront, Lucas Macula and Wilkson Teixeira formed the attacking duo in a bid to propel the Maroons to the next round of this European competition.
Glentoran tested Gżira United through Niall McGinn whose long-range effort was blocked by goalkeeper David Cassar.
The Northern Irish side were awarded a penalty on 17 minutes when Marcelo Dias floored McGinn.
Nonetheless, the hosts failed to capitalise on this golden opportunity when Robert Burns’ effort went wide.
Glentoran continued to keep the pressure on the Maroons but were still looking to create that clear-cut chance that could help them break the deadlock.
Gzira, on their part, were looking to remain disciplined at the back while waiting for that one moment to catch their opponents on the break.
After the change of ends, Gżira forward Lucas Macula tried his luck from outside the penalty area but his effort was saved by Glentoran’s goalkeeper.
The Brazilian forward was the one that broke the deadlock when Thiago Espindola’s shot hit the woodwork before Macula slotted the rebound home from point-blank range, with twenty minutes left.
Glentoran replied through Chukwuemeka Ozukwe who forced Cassar into action with a brilliant save from inside the small area.
Moments later, the Maltese goalkeeper denied Glentoran once again, pulling another crucial save on a Burns’ volley from outside the penalty box.
In the closing stages of the game, Glentoran tried to stage a late rally with the hosts also having a disallowed goal for an offside by substitute Jay Donnelly in stoppage time.
However, Lady Luck did not stay on Gżira’s side until the end as Glentoran managed to find a leveller through a Burns’s low drive deep into added time, forcing an additional 30 minutes to determine the qualifier of this tie.
Glentoran came agonisingly close to turn the score in their favour but neither Aidan Wilson nor Rory Donnelly could beat an inspired Cassar.
As the game wore on, fatigue started to prevail as both teams failed to spark themselves into life with a penalty shoot-out becoming a necessity to see who plays in the next round.
The two teams could not be separated from the penalty spot until goalkeeper Cassar, who had a superlative night between Gżira’s sticks, denied Leon Boyd from the spot in the 28th penalty of the shootout as Malta will now have three teams in the next round.
Wilkson (GŻ) scores 1-0; Donnelly (GL) scores 1-1; Mendoza (GZ) scores 2-1; McCullough (GL) scores 2-2; Scerri (GŻ) scores 3-2; Boyd (GL) scores 3-3; Essaka (GŻ) scores 4-3; Jenkins (scores) 4-4; B. Borg (GŻ) scores 5-4; Burns (GL) scores 5-5; Chaba (GŻ) scores 6-5; Walsh (GL) scores 6-6; Romero (GŻ) 7-6; Marshall (GL) scores 7-7; Espindola (GŻ) scores 8-7; Sule scores (GL) 8-8; A. Borg (GŻ) scores 9-8; Wilson (GL) 9-9; Dias (GŻ) scores 10-9; Singleton (GL) scores 10-10; Cassar (GŻ) scores 11-10; McCarey (GL) scores 11-11; Wilkson (GŻ) scores 12-11; Donnelly (GL) scores 12-12; Mendoza (GŻ) scores 13-12; McCullough (GL) scores 13-13; Scerri (GŻ) scores 14-13; Boyd (GL) misses 14-13.
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