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Maccabi outclass Ħamrun Spartans in match marred by crowd trouble

Ħamrun Spartans' Jonny pushes towards goal against Maccabi Haifa. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Match suspended after Haifa fans throw flares in Spartans’ section

Maccabi Haifa are well on their way to reaching the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League when they secured a commanding 4-0 win over Ħamrun Spartans on Tuesday.

Two goals from Frantzdy Pierrot, one from Din David, and another by Anan Khalaili have turned next week’s second leg in Haifa into a mere formality for the Israeli side who showed all their class on the pitch with a fine performance.

However, the match will be remembered for some disappointing scenes in the stands. In fact, referee Donaldo Robertson was forced to halt the match twice due to crowd trouble initiated by the Maccabi fans.

In fact, midway through the first half, Haifa fans threw flares onto the pitch, forcing the officials to stop the match for a few minutes.

But things escalated further throughout the match when Maccabi fans lit up flares a second time, inevitably provoking the response of the Ħamrun fans who threw water bottles in the area of Maccabi fans.

The response from the Israeli fans was to throw flares in the Ħamrun section forcing the
referee to order players off the pitch and halt the match for 20 minutes until order was
restored and the match continued.

Ħamrun Spartans coach Luciano Zauri fielded his latest signing, Federico Marchetti, in goal in the absence of the injured Henry Bonello.

Forward Seth Paintsil was included in the squad after completing his rehabilitation from a muscle injury but was only fit enough to start on the bench.

As expected, it was Maccabi Haifa who dominated possession early on with the Spartans happy to soak up the pressure and try to hit their opponents with quick forays on their forward duo of Jonny and Uros Djuranovic.

The Montenegrin had an inviting opportunity after seven minutes when he was fed by a fine pass from Ryan Camenzuli but the forward was blocked as he was about to shoot by Abdoulaye Seck.

The Spartans came close on 20 minutes when Jonny was given space on the edge of the area and hit a rasping drive that was brilliantly tipped away to a corner by Itmar Nitzan.

Ħamrun Spartans goalkeeper Federico Marchetti picks up a flare thrown onto the pitch by Maccabi Haifa supporters. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Here the Maccabi fans threw some flairs near the Ħamrun Spartans box, forcing referee Donald Robertson to pause the match for a few minutes until calm was restored.

Maccabi finally threatened on 33 minutes when Tjaronn Chery’s cross was met by Frantzdy Pierrot but his header was blocked by Ognjen Bjelicic.

Five minutes from the break, Maccabi took the lead when from Chery corner kick, Pierrot was given time and space to head the ball into the net.

The goal hit hard the Spartans, and Maccabi went on to add a second goal in injury time when in a quick break, Chery released Din David who beat Marchetti with an angled drive.

Ħamrun immediately pushed men forward and came close to pull one back when Prsa ran to meet a cross inside the area but was denied by Nitzan.

The Croatian midfielder had another opportunity just before the final whistle but his effort from a free-kick finished just over.

Maccabi continued to press after the break and on 48 minutes, Pierrot hit a low drive that was well saved by Marchetti.

Ħamrun came close on 52 minutes when Prsa’s delivery from a corner almost surprised goalkeeper Nitzan who somehow kept out the ball.

The ball then fell into the path of Bjelicic who hit a rasping volley that came off the bar.

The match was stopped a second time when a section of the Maccabi fans lit up flairs, creating a tense commotion between both sets of fans.

In fact, the Spartans fans threw bottles of water towards the Israeli fans with police coming in to try and restore the order.

But things got even more heated when Maccabi fans launched two flares towards the Ħamrun section with referee Robertson and the UEFA delegate having no option but to order the players off the pitch to try and restore order.

As the match restarted, Maccabi were soon on the attack. Lior Refaelov, who had just replaced David, was set up by Pierrot but fired wide.

However, Maccabi did add a third goal on 64 minutes when from a corner action Abdoulaye Seck headed the ball into the path of Pierrot who headed home.

Ħamrun responded with an Elionay shot that was again pushed away by Nitzan.

But it was Maccabi who added a fourth goal when Khalaili dispossessed Ryan Camenzuli to fire the ball past Marchetti.

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