Spartans to face Partizan for place in group stages
LEVSKI SOFIA 1
ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 2
(agg: 2-2. Ħamrun win 4-1 on penalties)
N. Mihaylov, J. Petris (89 P. Galchev), N. Sonko- Sundberg, Jose Cordoba, W. Tsunami, A. Kraev, K. Van Der Kaap, F. Krastev, Ronaldo (89 I. Stefanov), B. Bari, W. Felipe (114 M. Petkov).
H. Bonello, O. Bjelicic (119 Vinicius), E. Marcelina, R. Callegari, R. Camenzuli, J. Corbalan (106 L. Montebello), Eder (85 Dodo), R. Prsa, M. Guillaumier, I. Nedeljkovic (72 E. Mashike), Jonny (72 M. Sowe).
Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania)
Yellow cards Corbalan, Bjelicic, Callegari, Felipe, Dodo, Sowe.
PENALTY SEQUENCE Vinicius (Ħ) scores 1-0; Petkov (LS) scores 1-1; Montebello (Ħ) 2-1; Tsunami (LS) saved 2-1; Guillaumier (Ħ) scores 3-1; Krastev (LS) saved 3-1; Fedele (Ħ) scores 4-1.
Ħamrun Spartans wrote a new chapter in the history of Maltese football as the Reds put on a heroic performance to knock out Levski Sofia 4-1 in a penalty shoot-out after winning the match 2-1.
Goalkeeper Henry Bonello emerged as the Spartans hero as the Malta no.1 saved two penalties in the shoot-out to ensure his side became the first team Maltese club to progress to the Play Off round of the UEFA Conference.
It was a heroic performance from the Spartans who, despite, playing in front of a sell-out crowd in Sofia managed to control their opponents for much of the match.
Matthew Guillaumier had levelled the tie when netting the opener with 16 minutes to go but Levski Sofia’s Tsunami seemed to have shattered the Spartans’ hopes with an injury-time equaliser.
But the Spartans kept fighting and 60 seconds later they managed to send the tie into extra-time with a fine strike from Ryan Camenzuli.
The Spartans remained the better side in extra-time but could not add to their lead despite having two excellent opportunities through Elvis Mashike and Dodo.
But they were not to be denied as in the penalty shoot-out, the Spartans kept their poise to knock out Levski Sofia to complete a historic night for Maltese football and set up a Play Off tie against Partizan Belgrade, with the first leg in Serbia next week.
Spartans coach Branko Nisevic made three changes from the team that lost last week’s first leg at the National Stadium.
Argentine defender Rodrigo Callegari replaced Steve Borg who did not make the trip to Sofia for family reasons while Eder started in a three-pronged midfield alongside Roko Prsa and Matthew Guillaumier with Dodo forced to settle with a place on the bench.
Upfront, Igor Nedeljlkovic started ahead of Elvis Mashike who was included among the substitutes.
Levski almost scored at their first time of asking when Emerson Marcelina failed to clear the ball and Welton Felipe storms through and tees up Ronaldo who incredibly fails to make contact with the ball and the Spartans can clear.
Ħamrun responded on seven minutes when Igor Nedeljkovic fired wide from a Roko Prsa’s corner kick.
The Spartans started to share the exchanges with their opponents, giving little time to the home side to threaten.
It was a mistake from Corbalan that handed Levski a chance on 24 minutes when he was dispossessed by Kraev but Bonello was alert to block his effort.
Levski were close to take an opener on 34 minutes when Kraev nodded the ball into the path of Tsunami who saw his header pushed onto the crossbar by Bonello.
Ħamrun finally threatened through Corbalan three minutes from the break but his effort finishes over.
After the break, the Spartans tried to inch their way up the field in their bid to find the goal that would level the tie but they struggled to threaten Mihajlov’s goal.
On 64 minutes, Matthew Guillaumier picks Jonny at the far post but the Brazilian headed the ball over.
The Spartans finally got the breakthrough on 74 minutes when Ryan Camenzuli’s cross found Guillaumier who saw his first shot blocked by Mihajlov but the Malta midfielder made no mistake from the rebound.
However, Levski fought back and looked set to shatter the Spartans hearts again when Tsunami headed home from close in in the first minute of stoppage time to level matters.
But the Ħamrun players refused to throw in the towel and straight from kick off they restored their lead.
Guillaumier found substitue Dodo who pulled the ball back into the path of Camenzuli who rifled the ball into the net and force extra-time.
Elvis Mashike has an early chance for Ħamrun in extra-time but the forward fires over.
The Spartans threatened again on 111 minutes when in a quick break, Luke Montebello picks Dodo who is denied by Mihajlov.
A penalty shoot-out ensued and Bonello took centre stage when he saved two penalties to send his team through with Matteo Fedele netting the all-important spot-kick to the delight of the Spartans clan.
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