Joe Brincat's added-time free-kick took Maltese title-holders Sliema Wanderers FC through to the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round on away goals after a dramatic away leg against Skonto FC of Latvia.
Skonto lost the first leg 2-0, but seemed set to complete a fine comeback when they moved into a 3-0 lead tonight with just 20 minutes to go. However, Brincat then stepped up to earn his side a meeting with Danish champions FC København in the next round.
The home side began in determined mood and hit the crossbar through Igors Semjonov's deflected shot on five minutes. It took only ten more minutes for them to score as Lithuanian international Orestas Buitkus met Maris Verpakovskis's cross from the right and beat Murphy Akanji from point-blank range.
Akanji forced off
Verpakovskis himself then headed narrowly wide, and Akanji saved from Semjonovs soon after, but the Nigerian was forced off injured, 18-year-old Matthew Farrugia coming on in his place.
There was no let up for Sliema in the second half as Skonto again pressed forward. And on 64 minutes Farrugia was only able to parry an Audrius Ksanacivius shot, allowing Verpakovskis to tap in the rebound.
Ten men ahead
Sliema were given hope 20 minutes from time when Skonto midfield player Viktors Morozs was dismissed for a second bookable offence. Not long afterwards, though, Skonto moved ahead on aggregate as Ignas Dedura beat the offside trap to turn in a Semjonovs cross.
Home goalkeeper Andrejs Piedels then did well to save a long-range Kristian Laferla effort as Sliema pushed forward. Time was running out, but then Aaron Nguimbat conceded a free-kick 22 metres from goal and Brincat kept his cool to convert.
'I believed we could score'
After the game, victorious coach Edward Aquilina said: "
It is a huge success for us, which came against a very strong side. However, I believed that we could score even when we were 3-0 down."
'The result looks terrible'
His opposite number, Aleksandrs Starkovs, said: "
The goal in injury time was a complete shock for us. I was happy with all we did before this strike. Now the result looks terrible and the outcome could not be worse."
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