Gzira into Semis after shoot-out
25th February 2023, Centenary Stadium, Ta’ Qali
Gzira United 5 Gudja United 4 (after penalties)
Gzira United qualified for the semi-finals of the IZIBET FA Trophy after beating Gudja United 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out, after the game ended 1-1 after normal and extra time.
It Is the third time that Gzira have qualified for the semi-finals of the FA Trophy in recent seasons and also the third successive time that they have triumphed on penalties, after the previous two successful penalty shoot-outs in European competitions.
It was the first time Gzira beat Gudja this season, after the two draws in the league. This game despite also ending in a draw, had all the ingredients of a classic cup tie and at the end had to be decided by penalties, with Gzira edging out Gudja.
Gzira dominated possession for most of the match but found it difficult to find enough space to create further scoring opportunities to close the match early. Most of the time, Gudja defended with 10 men, in a 5-5-0 formation and rarely ventured out of their penalty area. Gudja’s goal helped them barricade their defence earlier than expected in the match and this complicated matters further for Gzira.
However, despite these setbacks, Gzira still created enough scoring chances to settle the match in normal time. At the end, it had to be the heroics of Gzira United Captain Nikolai Muscat, who first equalised in additional time, right at the end, with a beauty stunner of a goal and then scored the decisive penalty of the shoot-out, to see Gzira United meritedly through to the last four of the competition, joining Birkirkara, Mosta and Marsaxlokk.
Gzira started the match with a cross by Dias, with Maia failing to connect after a flying header. However, it was Gudja who struck first. After having an earlier shot well saved by Gzira keeper Zarkov, in the 29th minute Plut scored from close range, to continue his scoring trend against Gzira.
Gzira responded in the 30th minute with a cross by Scerri from the right, which found Maia’s header from within the opponent’s penalty area sailing just wide over the cross bar.
Gzira had more attempts. In the 32’ minute, a cross by Ribeiro De Oliveira went wide. In the 36th minute, Maia headed wide after a Dias cross. In the 41st minute, a cross by Scerri was saved. Gzira ended the half when in the 43’ minute, Gzira’s De Assis clashed with Gudja’s keeper Zammit for a long cross by Gzira’s Kolega.
The start of the second half was delayed after the net of one of the goal posts had to be repaired.
Gzira started mounting the pressure from the initial stages of the second half. In the 47th minute, a cross by Riascos flew over the bar. In the 49th minute, a freekick by Bohrer was saved by Gudja’s goalkeeper just on the goal line. In the 52nd minute, a shot from Dias outside the penalty area went wide after a series of Gzira’s passes.
Gzira’s best chance up till then, came in the 55th minute, when a one two between Maia and De Assis, found De Assis’s close range shot from just outside the six-yard box being blocked by Gudja’s Zammit.
Gzira continued trying to break the Gudja defence, with further attempts. Gzira came close again, when substitute and captain Nikolai Muscat had his freekick well saved to a corner by Gudja’s custodian.
This was a prelude to Gzira’s goal. In the 4th minute of additional time, a corner by Toni Kolega from the left, flew over a number of players crowding the Gudja penalty area, to find Nikolai Muscat right at the edge of the area, who with a turn, drove a hard volley into the net, with the ball bouncing down from the cross bar, past Glenn Zammit who could do nothing.
While the Gzira clan were still exuberant after the goal, Maxuell Maia could have sealed victory within normal time, when his hard drive from within Gudja’s penalty area, flew just wide over the bar.
The match went into extra time and Gzira continued to try to settle the match as early as possible. Their notable chance to do this came in the 103’ minute when a long through ball from Gzira’s half by Bohrer, found De Assis beating a Gudja defender to enter the penalty area with the ball, but only to see his low shot being saved by Gudja’s Zammit at point-blank range. Moreover, in the 109th minute a freekick by Bohrer was deviated by a defender to safety.
The referee’s final whistle sent the match into the drama of a penalty shoot-out. In the sequence of penalties, Gudja scored three penalties and missed two, with their last penalty by Arther being well saved by Gzira’s Darijan Zarkov to put Gzira in a favourable position. Gzira had Maxuell Maia’s penalty saved and their other four penalties were scored by Gabriel Bohrer, Jefferson De Assis, Marko Cosic, with Nikolai Muscat scoring the crucial penalty to send Gzira into the semi-finals and all the Gzira squad and their supporters into celebration mode.
This was the second time in successive seasons that Gzira had eliminated Gudja from the FA Trophy. Gzira now look forward to the semi-final draw after the conclusion of the league championship, with the possibility still on the cards, of a repeat of the epic 1973 FA Trophy Final between Gzira and Birkirkara, in which the Maroons triumphed to win their first major honour in the Club’s history.