GZIRA UNITED FC - THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MALTESE CLUB IN EUROPEAN CLUB COMPETITIONS IN RECENT SEASONS
After finishing third in the league last Season 2022/23, Gzira have qualified to participate in the UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24. This will be Gzira’s third consecutive participation in European Club Competitions, the fifth participation since their first Season 2016/2017 back in the top division of Maltese football and their sixth participation overall, since participating for the first time in Europe in 1973.
Gzira United’s five participations in European Club competitions since their return to the top elite football have resulted in an impressive five qualifications to successive rounds of the European competitions. This feat undoubtedly puts Gzira United FC as the most successful Maltese Club in European Club Competitions in recent Seasons.
In fact, if one had to compare Gzira United’s qualifications as a percentage of the number of participations, Gzira United has the highest success coefficient from all the other 13 Maltese Clubs who have been participating in the various European Club Competitions across the years, since the first participation by a Maltese Club in European Competitions for the first time in 1962.Gzira have achieved a 100% coefficient success rate with five qualifications from participation in five seasons of European football.
The top place finishes in recent seasons, heralded the return of Gzira United’s participation in European Club Competitions after an absence of nearly 45 years, after first debuting in the now defunct Cup Winners Cup. After Gzira’s return and first year in the top-flight of Maltese Football, Gzira United FC participated for successive seasons in European Competitions, first by debuting in the UEFA Europa League and in the past two seasons in the new UEFA Conference League competition. The only break in this sequence of successive European adventures was in Season 2019/2020 when the BOV Premier League was suspended due to the COVID 19 pandemic and at that time Gzira were occupying sixth position in the table with a run in of relatively easy matches on paper, which, if the League has concluded normally, could most probably have seen Gzira occupying one of the top three places in the League Final Standings and therefore guaranteeing European Football for yet another season.
Gzira’s European successes in recent seasons has also ensured that Gzira United continued to feature as one of the seeded teams for the first qualifying round draw of the UEFA Club competitions over the past years.
Gzira United have managed to establish a number of firsts with their participation in European Competitions in these recent seasons. For every European Club competition participation, the Maroons have managed to qualify at least one round every time and more than that, in the latest Season 2022/2023 they managed to qualify for two successive rounds to reach the Third Qualifying Round, for the first time.
Gzira United have also became the first Maltese Club to win and qualify from a European tie after extra time and after penalties. In fact, Gzira have a 100% record after qualification from two penalty shoot outs in European competitions.
Gzira United FC have played 20 matches in Europe, from which in 11 matches they have remained undefeated and obtained 4 wins in the process.
Gzira United FC have faced clubs in European Competitions from six different countries, which were, Norway, Andorra, Serbia, Croatia, Latvia, and Austria. The Maroons on 3 occasions faced Andorran opposition while on 2 occasions each, came up against teams from Serbia and Croatia. In the case of Andorra and Serbia, Gzira United played the same club twice in different seasons, that is, Sant Julià of Andorra and Radnički Niš of Serbia.
From the 20 matches played by Gzira United in Europe, The Maroons played 6 matches (30%) against Andorran clubs and 4 matches (20%) against clubs from Serbia and Croatia respectively.
Another curiosity is that abroad, Gzira United played twice in the same stadium on two occasions. These were the Estadio Nacional, in Andorra-La-Vella, Andorra and the Cair Stadium in Nis, Serbia.
Gzira United were involved in a number of memorable European matches over the past years, from their 20 matches played. The most notable were:
Gzira United FC 0 vs Brann Bergen (Norway) 2
19/9/1973-Gzira Empire Stadium- Cup Winners’ Cup First Round First Leg-Attendance 1,914
The winning of the FA Trophy after an epic Final against Birkirkara in Season 1972/73, gave the right to Gzira United Football Club to participate in European Club Competition football for the first ever time in their history. Therefore, Gzira United represented Malta in the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following season, playing against Brann Bergen of Norway. This was Gzira’s debut in Europe and the match against Brann Bergen of Norway, who were also debutants, was played on the notorious sandy pitch of the now defunct Gzira Empire Stadium. The general idea locally was that Gzira United and Brann Bergen were of the same level. However, on the day, the Maroons had an off day, with the Norwegians running out winners with two goals, one a soft goal after 23 minutes and the other thanks to a late penalty conceded in the 89th minute. This match eventually turned out to be the first and only match Gzira United ever played in European competitions at the Gzira Empire Stadium.
Sant Julià (Andorra) 0 vs Gzira United FC 2
26/6/2018-Estadi Comunal d'Andorra La Vella-UEFA Europa League-Prel. Round 1st Leg-Attend.380
Following their return to the top-flight of Maltese football, Gzira United FC finished third in the league championship in Season 2017/2018, heralding the return of Gzira United’s participation in European Club Competitions after an absence of nearly 45 years. Gzira’s first match in Europe after such a long period, was away in Andorra, in the capital Andorra-La-Vella, against Sant Julià of Andorra. Gzira United, backed by a significant number of Gzira Supporters, won this match by two goals through a 20th minute penalty by Amadou Samb and a late 87th minute goal by Jorge Da Silva Pereira. This win marked Gzira’s first ever goals and first ever win, away in European Club Competitions. The goal by Amadou Samb was the first ever goal scored by Gzira United in Europe.
Gzira United FC 2 vs Sant Julià (Andorra) 1
5/7/2018 -Centenary Stadium, Ta’Qali- UEFA Europa League-Prel. Round 2nd Leg-Attendance 649
This was the return match of the away match played the previous week in Andorra. It was Gzira’s first home match in Europe after nearly 45 years. Gzira won this match 2-1, with Edison Bilbao Zarate scoring the winning goal in the 93' .In the 65’ minute a penalty by Amadou Samb, equalized Sant Julià’s goal three minutes earlier. This win marked Gzira’s first ever goals scored, and the first ever win achieved in a European Competition match played in Malta. More importantly, this win led to Gzira United qualifying for the first time and progressing to the next round of a European Club Competition. It was the first qualification on home soil.
Hajduk Split (Croatia) 1 vs Gzira United FC 3
18/7/19-Stadion Poljud,Split,Croatia-UEFA Europa League-First Qualifying Round 2nd Leg- Attendance 18,236
Gzira United’s greatest scalp both in local and foreign circles, was the elimination of the famous Hajduk Split of Croatia. With Gzira three nil down at half time on aggregate at the Stadion Poljud in Split, the Maroons managed to stun Hajduk and score three spectacular goals in the second half, with the last goal, an amazing overhead kick euro goal, coming with practically the last kick of the match, in the 96’ minute, of additional time, through Hamed Kone. Kone also scored Gzira’s second goal in the 59th minute, while Jefferson de Assis started Gzira’s comeback scoring the first goal in the 57th minute. Gzira won this match 3-1 and with the score reading 3-3 on aggregate, Gzira qualified with the aways goal rule, to register one of the greatest victories and qualifications since Maltese Clubs started participating in European Club Competitions, in view of the caliber of Gzira’s opponents. After the match, the furious Split supporters invaded the pitch to show their disapproval against their team after this unexpected and shock elimination. The Gzira players and officials were ushered to the safety of their dressing room and only managed to leave the stadium hours later with a police escort. The 3-1 victory by Gzira was their highest score to date registered in European competitions, their second qualification and the first qualification to another round on foreign soil and the first qualification on the away goals rule. Moreover, Gzira had played in front of the largest attendance to date, more than 18,000 spectators, in their European participation history.
Gzira United FC 1 vs Sant Julià (Andorra)1 (5-3 after penalties)
15/7/21-Centenary Stadium, Ta’Qali-UEFA Europa Conference League-First Qualifying Round 2nd Leg- Att.195
For the second time Gzira United were drawn to face Sant Julià of Andorra. Also, for the second time Gzira eliminated the Andorran side. After attaining a scoreless draw, the previous week in Andorra, Gzira were expected to cruise through the second leg. However, Sant Julià managed to take a 1-0 lead into half time. Gzira came back in the second half to equalize with a 52nd minute goal by Gabriel Bohrer Mentz, putting the match into extra time, with eventually Gzira winning 5-3 on penalties. For the record, Gzira’s penalties were scored by Maxuell Maia, Jackson Mendoza, Steve Pisani, Gabriel Bohrer Mentz and with the fifth and decisive one being scored by Steve Borg.
This was Gzira’s third qualification in total to another round in European Club Competitions, the second on home soil and the first time in the new inaugural competition of the UEFA Europa Conference League. Also, it was the first time that Gzira had experienced playing extra time and penalties in a European match, with Gzira qualifying for the first time with a penalty shoot-out. Gzira became the first Maltese side to win a European tie, on penalties.
Atlètic Club d' Escaldes (Andorra) 0 vs Gzira United FC 1 (after extra time)
14.7.22-Estadi Nacional d'Andorra La Vella-UEFA Europa Conference League-First Qual. Rd. 2nd Leg-Attend.200
After the 1-1 draw in Malta the previous week, the return leg in Andorra was also a close encounter. The match was decided with an extra time goal in the 105th minute by Jefferson de Assis. This enabled Gzira to qualify to the next round, for the fourth time, with a 2-1 aggregate score-line, becoming the first Maltese Team to win a European Cup competition tie in extra time. This qualification against Athletic Escaldes of Andorra, ensured that Gzira United maintained their maximum record of successes, after facing Andorran teams three times in recent years, qualifying three times on each occasion.
Radnički Niš (Serbia) 3 vs Gzira United FC 3 (1-3 after penalties
28.7.22-Cair Stadium,Niš,Serbia-UEFA Europa Conference League-Second Qualifying Round 2nd Leg- Att. 3929
For the second time Gzira United were drawn to face Radnički Niš of Serbia. In season 2018/2019 Radnički overcame Gzira with a 5-0 aggregate score, however this time round Gzira were determined to seek a sporting revenge. In fact, the 2-2 draw with the Serbian heavy weights in Malta the previous week, provided the basis for another famous qualification attained by Gzira. Gzira United drew 3-3 in Serbia in an exciting encounter, against the strong Radnicki Nis team and on three occasions managed to come back from behind to level the score with two of the equalizers coming in the 12th minute of additional time at the end of 90 minutes, through Jefferson de Assis and the other equalizer coming at the end of extra time in the 117th minute by Maxuell Maia.
De Assis had previously attained Gzira’s first equalizer in the 15th minute immediately after Radnicki had taken the lead. Gzira eventually won the tie 3 -1 on penalties. Gzira’s penalty scorers were Steve Pisani, Jackson Mendoza and Maxuell Maia. Gzira’s goalkeeper Darijan Zarkov saves in the penalty-shoot out contributed towards Gzira’s latest qualification, the third on foreign territory. This was the second time that Gzira won a penalty shoot-out in European competitions, maintaining their 100% success rate in this regard. Also, with this fifth qualification in recent seasons acquired by Gzira, the Maroons have become the most successful Maltese club in European Competitions in recent times.
Wolfsberger AC (Austria) 0 vs Gzira United FC 0
3/8/2022-28 Black Arena,Klagenfurt,Austria-UEFA Europa Conference League-Third Qual.Rd.1st Leg-Att.3000
Season 2022/23 resulted in the most successful one for Gzira United in European competitions. After two successive qualifications against Athletic Escaldes of Andorra and Radnički Niš of Serbia, Gzira qualified and progressed for the first time to play in the Third Round of a European Club competition. The was the most advanced stage Gzira played in a European competition. Gzira’s opponents in the Third Round were Wolfsberger AC of Austria who in the past seasons participated in the group and later stages of the UEFA Europa League. In the match played at the 28 Black Arena Stadium (previously known as the Wörthersee Stadium) in Klagenfurt, which was one of the stadiums used for the Euro 2008 finals, Gzira United managed to hold their more illustrious opponents to a goalless and prestigious draw, with the Maroons playing out a well organised and tactical match, having also their moments in the match.
One now looks forward to the Maroons next opponents in this seasons UEFA Europa Conference League with the hope of more memorable matches and successes to add to Gzira United’s impressive record in Europe.
Overall European record
1–1 (5–3 p)
5–5 (3–1 p)
Gzira United FC
Penalty shootouts Played
PENALTY SHOOTOUTS FAVOUR
PENALTY SHOOTOUTS AGAINST