To face FC Zurich in final on Saturday
BIRKIRKARA J. Xuereb; A. Said, C. Zammit, S. Farrugia, V. Rapa (70 A. Del Moral), G. Zahra (70 E. Garcia), C. Rodgers, V. Mifsud (90 F. Chircop), A. Sultana, R. Giusti (75 M. Cardona), M. Grosso.
BREZNICA S. Milicic; A. Simonovic (90 M. Baturan), J. Vucinic, M. Sebek (90 A. Savovic), A. Grujic, A. Bulic, T. Osmajic, J. Petrovic, M. Dresevic, K. Cadenovic (72 S. Nedovic), S. Becic.
Referee Frederikke Lydia Sokjaer (Denmark FA).
Yellow cards Simonovic, Mifsud, Sultana.
Red card Alishia Sultana (Birkirkara) 72.
A stoppage-time goal from newcomer Edith Garcia secured Birkirkara a narrow victory over Breznica, of Montenegro, in the UEFA Women’s Champions League to set up a stern test against Switzerland champions FC Zurich in the final game of this preliminary group.
For Birkirkara, this was their second victory in this competition after last season’s historic win over Glentoran, of Northern Ireland.
The Stripes will face Zurich at the Centenary Stadium on Saturday, with kick-off set at 6pm.
Coach Jose Borg welcomed back captain Stephania Farrugia in the defensive department with summer signing Caitlin Rodgers given the nod in midfield.
In the early stages of the game, Birkirkara and Breznica were testing each other with the game going end to end but without any noteworthy goalscoring chances.
While Birkirkara’s idea of football was to be more proactive, they could not muster any serious threat inside the final third as Breznica’s organisation helped them keep the Stripes at bay.
On the other hand, Breznica’s first chance came after the half-hour mark through Anastasija Bulic whose long-range freekick glanced past Janice Xuereb’s goal.
Birkirkara replied through Italian midfielder Marta Grosso but her effort from a tight angle was smothered by Svetlana Milicic.
Nonetheless, there were no goals in the first half with Breznica probably more pleased with how the first 45 minutes went.
After the change of ends, the teams made no changes as Birkirkara stepped out stronger from the blocks in search of an early goal in the second half.
Midfielder Veronique Mifsud came close to put Birkirkara ahead but her shot from inside the small area went wide.
Moments later, winger Raina Giusti tried her luck from outside the area but once again Birkirkara could not find a way to beat Milicic.
On 70 minutes, Birkirkara’s coach Jose Borg introduced two other summer signings in American midfielder Arianna Del Moral and Uruguayan playmaker Edith Garcia.
A couple of minutes later, Birkirkara were dealt a heavy blow when winger Alishia Sultana was given the marching orders in bizarre circumstances.
The Malta international was issued a yellow card after a foul with Sultana complaining with an irregular gesture towards the referee, leaving no option for the Danish official to send off the Birkirkara player.
Breznica almost capitalised on Birkirkara’s numerical disadvantage when Tatjana Osmanic made her way into the box but failed to beat Xuereb.
There was no doubt that Sultana’s sending-off swung the momentum of the game towards Breznica with captain Milica Sebek forcing Xuereb into a brilliant save seven minutes from time.
Majda Dresevic followed up with another serious threat but failed to beat Xuereb as the goalless stalemate continued to prevail.
However, Birkirkara’s winning mentality which sees them on a run of 88 unbeaten matches in the domestic league, kept them in the match and allowed them to snatch a late winner through Garcia who latched onto Del Moral’s through ball and slotted past Milicic from inside the small area to the delight of the Birkirara clan.
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