Malta Football Association
Hibernians eliminated by Riga after extra time
Aug 13, 2021
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(c) Domenic Aquilina
(c) Domenic Aquilina

  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina
  • (c) Domenic Aquilina

UEFA Europa Conference League Qualification 3rd Round
Riga FC 0-1 Hibernians
Hibernians 1-4 Riga FC aet

Hibernians missed a golden opportunity to write club history, failing to qualify for the Play-Offs of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League at the last hurdle, despite a wonderful away result.

In Riga, Hibernians beat the Latvians 0-1, a fantastic result against the more quoted opponents. It was a hard-earned win with Stefano Sanderra’s tactics working out perfectly. The visitors created goalscoring opportunities with Jurgen Degabriele and Jake Grech being close to find the net on several occasions.  With twenty minutes left on the clock, Andrei Agius scored the only goal on the match, a wonderful first-time volley from the edge the box. 


The tensed return match at the Centenary Stadium was just two minutes old when Riga were awarded a penalty after a foul from Agius on lively centre-forward Jean-Baptiste Leo. However, captain Ivan Paurevic’ weak effort was saved by Ibrahim Kone. On 21 minutes, a golden Degabriele opportunity was blocked by Riga goalkeeper Ivan Brkic, while on the other side, seven minutes later, a shot from just outside the box by Felipe Brisola sailed inches wide. On 36 minutes, a header by Latvian international Antonijs Černomordijs just missed target from a corner action. 


Riga opened the score four minutes into the second half. Jean-Baptiste Leo pressed Andrei Agius in his own half and managed to fumble the ball from the international centre-back, beating Kone with a low shot. Just before the hour however, Hibernians drew level thanks to some good work on the left by Jake Grech, passing to Degabriele in the box, who beat Brkic with a wonderful curled shot in the far corner. Riga increased the pressure on the Hibernians’ rear-guard in the last twenty minutes, with Leo hitting the crossbar on 77 minutes. 


In the 85th minute, Degabriele was sent through on the left and scored to be a legitimate goal, but was flagged for offside, a doubtful decision. With three minutes on the clock, a free-kick by Mikael Soisalo sailed inches over the crossbar. In the 89th minute, Jake Grech received his second booking and received his marching orders. Deep into added time, when Hibernians were on the brink of a historic qualification, Riga managed to score the dramatic second goal, thanks to a Paurevic header, sending the game into extra time. The goal increased the already huge tension in the match, with three being sent off from the Hibernians bench, including coach Sanderra and the already substituted captain Bjorn Kristensen.


Against ten players, not surprisingly, the visitors dominated the extra 30 minutes. In the first half of extra time, Riga had two opportunities to score but Nigerian substitute Yunusa Muritala and Leo failed to find the net. However, in added time of the first half of extra time, Muritala’s header had the better of Kone, ending all hopes for the guests. In the 110th minute, Riga substitute Vladimirs Kamess received a straight red card from the Irish referee after an incident in the Hibernians penalty box. With numerical equilibrium restored, a tired-out Hibernians went all out for goal, trying to save the game. However, in one of the counter-attacks, Muritala scored a fourth goal, his second of the night, sending Riga into the Play-Offs of the UEFA Europa Conference League, setting up a double encounter with Gibraltar champions Lincoln Red Imps. The winner will qualify for the group stage in this competition.

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