Goals from Fede Villar and Juanfri saw St Joseph’s beat a remarkably bad-tempered Prishtina 2-0 and set up a dream tie against Scottish side Rangers.
Photo © Rough and Ready
A mad minute just after half time from Prishtina saw both Leotrim Bekteshi and captain Armend Dallku sent off, and St Joseph’s, who had soaked up the pressure in the first half, took full advantage by scoring twice in the second half – although they had Ezequiel Rojas sent off late on for a foul.
From the off, Prishtina looked like a team more interested in harassing the officials than playing football and trying to get a goal – as early as the fourth minute Dallku, who as captain set the negative tone for his teammates, went off in a tirade of abuse at the Sammarinese linesman after he hadn’t given the Albanian a foul. The first half in truth saw little in the way of major chances – Francisco Mateo made a couple of good saves but wasn’t overly troubled.
Early in the second half was the turning point though. Leotrim Bekteshi, earlier booked, hauled down Boro as he was advancing up the pitch, and was shown a second yellow card. This clearly infuriated Prishtina, as their players surrounded the ref, led by their captain Dallku, who, although he had also been booked, was shown a straight red presumably for foul and abusive language. Suddenly, Saints had a two-man advantage and knew that Rangers were in sight.
It took until the 75th minute for Saints to make the advantage count, as a free kick whipped into the box found the head of Fede Villar – the former Mons man making no mistake to give Saints the lead. In the build up to that, Prishtina had picked up two additional bookings for dissent, and then managed a third booking for the same offence – they were lucky to end with nine men on the field.
The gaps on the pitch for Saints to expose became clear for all to see, and five minutes later, Pedrito’s cross was turned in by Juanfri to secure the win and the tie in Glasow. Raul Procopio, who will have angered local fans again by starting zero Gibraltarians, will understandably point to the result as vindication for his team choices – although Ryan Casciaro may have to come into defence after Rojas late red.
The final whistle sounded, and despite the best efforts of the Prishtina players and match officials to argue some of the decisions they felt went against them, St Joseph’s could celebrate a first ever European victory, and now have to prepare for Steven Gerrard’s side next week.