ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 4
Prsa 55; Guillaumier 63
Jonny 73; Dodo 75
(Ħamrun Spartans win 4-2 on aggregate)
H. Bonello, S. Borg, E. Marcelina, O. Bjelicic, J. Corbalan, R. Prsa, M. Guillaumier, R. Camenzuli, Jonny, E. Mashike (56 I. Nedljkovic), Dodo (78 Ederson).
O. Cancarevic, D. Kadio, T. Cameta, T. Voskanyan, James, D. Khurtsidze, A. Yedigaryan (76 F. Burbano), T. Galvao (76 A. Karapetyan), A. Grigoryan, B. Diaz (46 I. Fofana), B. Hovhannisyan.
Referee: Milos Savovic (Montenegro).
Yellow cards Khurtsidze, Voskanyan, Jonny.
Ħamrun Spartans capped their return to European club football in some style when they came from a goal down to see off Alashkert, of Armenia, 4-1 at the Centenary Stadium to book their place into the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League.
It was a remarkable performance from the Spartans who, trailing 1-0 after last week’s first leg, looked down and out when Artak Yedigaryan put the Armenians ahead to double their lead on aggregate.
But it was here that the Spartans charachter came to the fore when they produced a stunning comeback which saw them score four goals without reply in the space of 20 minutes to turn the tie in their favour and secure their second ever qualification in a UEFA club competition in the club’s history.
The reward for the Spartans is a clash in the second qualifying round against Bosnian side Velez Mostar, with the first leg in Bosnia scheduled for next week.
Ħamrun Spartans coach Branko Nisevic effected one change from the team that played the opening leg in Yerevan last week as Croatian midfielder Roko Prsa was preferred to Ederson Domingos.
The Spartans threatened after nine minutes when Juan Corbalan burst inside the area but took too much time to conclude and was blocked by an Alashkert defender.
Ħamrun started the match pressing high their opponents, giving little time to Alashkert to settle down.
Ħamrun’s best chance arrived on 29 minutes when Prsa showed great skill to meet Camenzuli’s through ball and the Croatian quickly sent a low cross towards Mashike but the Congolese forward was anticipated by his marker.
The Sprtans had another good opportunity on 34 minutes when Guillaumier found Camenzuli in space on the left and the winger sent a fine cross towards Jonny who, however, headed wide.
Alashkert look rattled as they were simply finding it hard to come out of their half.
Ħamrun on the other hand were continuing to dominate possession but they were rushing too much, with the result that they were throwing away inviting openings.
The Spartans suffered a blow at the start of the second half when Alashkert took the lead. And it was again Artak Yedigaryan who punished them.
David Khurtsidze moved past Marcelina on the right and quickly set up Artak Yedigaryan who directed the ball past Bonello. For the Alashkert midfielder it was his second goal in the tie after netting the winner in the first leg.
Ħamrun tried to hit back and on 53 minutes when Corbalan picked Guillaumier in space inside the area but the Malta midfielder headed wide in front of a gaping goal.
The Spartans efforts were rewarded two minutes later when Jonny’s cross was deflected into the path of Prsa who headed past Cancarevic.
Here, Nisevic withdrew Mashike and roped in Nedeljkovic in their bid to find a second goal that would send the tie into the extra-time.
That second goal duly arrived on 61 minutes when from a Camenzuli corner kick, Bjelicic nodded the ball into the path of Guillaumier who headed home.
The Spartans were now on top and six minutes later Jonny made space for himself on the right and hit a rasping drive that was pushed over by Cancarevic.
On 72 minutes, Ħamrun turned the tie in their favour when Ryan Camenzuli was left in space on the left and sent a low cross into the path of Jonny who fired the ball into an empty net.
Alashkert looked rattled and the Spartans all but sealed qualification when they added a fourth goal three minutes later.
Prsa picked Steve Borg inside the area and the Malta defender headed the ball into the path of Dodo who diverted the ball past Cancarevic.
From then on, Ħamrun easily administered their advantage and it was only natural that at the final whistle a huge roar rocked the Centenary Stadium from the Spartans fans who celebrated a historic night for the club.
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