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Watch: Maccabi Haify rally to overcome Ħamrun Spartans in Champions League

MACCABI HAIFA           2

Shuranov 70

Pierrot 83


Mbong 35

(Maccabi Haifa win 6-1 on aggregate)


I. Nitzan, M. Kandil (60 D. Haziza), A. Seck, O. Dahan, P. Cornud, G. Naor (46 A. Mohammed), M. Jaber, D. Sabia, I. Hagag (46 D. Sundrad), E. Shuranov (73 F. Pierrot), L. Refaelov (60 T. Chery).


F. Marchetti, R. Camenzuli, O. Bjelicic, E. Marcelina, S. Borg (88 K. Bilic), J. Mbong (78 J. Corbalan), Y. Nenov (46 Eder), R. Prsa, Elionay (63 S. Paintsil), U. Duranovic, Jonny (78 M. Krstic).

Referee Igor Pajac (Croatia).

Yellow cards Prsa, Marchetti, Shuranov.

Ħamrun Spartans bowed out of the season’s UEFA Champions League when they suffered a 2-1 away defeat to Maccabi Haifa as the Israeli giants progressed 6-1 on aggregate.

Despite the defeat it was certainly a much-improved display by the Malta champions who managed to contain their more-quoted opponents for much of the match and even managed to take the lead through Joseph Mbong midway through the first half.

But after the break, Maccabi’s superior qualities came to the fore and inspired by substitute Dolev Haziza created the openings for Shuranov and substitute Pierrot to score the goals that handed the home side a 2-1 win.

Now, the Spartans will drop to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League where they will face the team that loses the Champions League tie between Kazakhstan’s Astana and Dinamo Tbilisi, of Georgia, who meet in the second leg today, with the tie level at 1-1.

Ħamrun Spartans coach Luciano Zauri made two changes to the team that lost last week’s first leg at the Centenary Stadium as Joseph Mbong started ahead of fellow Malta international Juan Corbalan while Yuri Nenov was preferred to Nemanja Krstic who started on the bench.

Ħamrun threatened after ten minutes when Ryan Camenzuli’s cross was not connected by the unmarked Jonny. Mbong picked up the rebound and his cross finished into the path of Camenzuli whose shot was deflected just over.

Maccabi had a better chance on 15 minutes when Sabia exchanged the ball with Refaelov but his low srive was saved by Federico Marchetti.

Ħamrun were showing no fear factor of their opponents and on 20 minutes Maccabi goalkeeper Nitzan did well to push away Duranovic’s shot from a free-kick.

Just past the half hour mark, Ħamrun Spartans take the lead.

Mahmoud Jaber, under pressure from Jonny, passed the ball towards goalkeeper Itzan but Joseph Mbong intercepted his pass and slotted the ball past the Maccabi goalkeeper.

The Israeli side almost draw level a minute later when Sabia profited from an indecision in the Ħamrun defence to turn past Marchetti but his shot was cleared off the line by Ognjen Bjelicic

Maccabi tried to hit back but their best opportunity came just before the half-time whistle when Sabia moved past two Ħamrun defenders but his angled drive flashed just past the upright.

On the restart, Zauri withdrew Yuri Nenov and roped in Eder as he looked to add more steel to his team’s engine room.

Maccabi started the second half strongly and they came close to an equaliser on 49 minutes when Shuranov intercepted a poor backpass from the Spartans defence, rounded Marchetti but was denied by the goal-line block Steve Borg.

As the minutes passed, Ħamrun looked to have settled down much to the frustration of Maccabi coach Dago who roped in his star duo Doel Haziza and Tjaronn Chery in a bid to turn the match around.

On 66 minutes, referee Igor Pajac awarded a penalty to Maccabi as he thought that Duranovic had handled Chery’s shot.

But the Video Assistant Referee intervened and asked the Croatian offical to look at the action on video which showed that the Ħamrun forward had blocked the ball with his foot and the penalty was revoked.

Still, the home side celebrated the equaliser on 68 minutes after a slick move that show Haziza burst inside the area and set up Shuranov to hit in an empty net.

From then on, Maccabi continued to push for the winner that arrived on 83 minutes when Haziza beat the Ħamrun Spartans’ offside trap and served substitute Pierrot to slot into an empty net.

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