Spartak Trnava practically secured a place in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League after beating ten-man Hibernians 4-2 at the National Stadium on Thursday.
The Paolites had a player sent off and conceded a penalty on the 10th minute and by the end of first half, the visitors went three goals ahead. Hibs scored twice early in the second half but this was not enough to earn something from the game and Spartak added a fourth goal in the dying minutes.
Photo: Copyright © Joe Borg
Hibernians coach Branko Nisevic adopted a cautious approach with Jean Paul Farrugia as the only striker. Andrew Cohen who was retained on the bench for most of the time in the latter part of last season was named in the starting line-up along with new recruit Rui da Gracia and the returning Marcelo Dias and Rodolfo Soares but Edison Luis dos Santos and Jackson Lima were both missing from the squad.
The Paolites had the first attempt at goal on the 8th minute with a rising shot by Bjorn Kristensen ending just over the bar.
Two minutes later, Jonathan Pearson tackled Martin Mikovič inside the area. Referee Mark Whitby ordered a penalty and sent off the Hibernians defender. Erik Sabo made no mistake from the penalty spot to out Spartak ahead.
Two minutes later, the visitors doubled the score when off a Kamel Kuzma corner from the left, Erik Sabo’s time effort gave the Hibs custodian no chance.
With two goals down and one man down, it was an even more uphill struggle for the Paolites who tried their luck with a shot by Cohen which was parried by Strapák and a long-distance effort by Failla which ended just wide.
Spartak Trnava scored the third goal on 36 minutes thanks to Ján Vlasko who beat Daniel Balzan with a shot from outside the area.
Three minutes in the second half, the Paolites pulled one back through Andrew Cohen.
Two minutes later, Clayton Failla reduced the gap even further with a direct freekick which gave goalkeeper Matej Strapák no chance.
The visitors threatened once again on 55 minutes with a shot from the edge of the area by Ján Vlasko ending just over the bar.
A Vlasko effort was turned into a corner by the Hibernians goalkeeper on 83 minutes and off the resulting corner, substitute Tomàš Mikinič went close to increasing the lead for Spartak Trnava.
However Tomàš Mikinič was not to be denied two minutes from time when he received a perfect assist by Ivan Schranz and alone in front of the goalkeeper, slotted the ball past Daniel Balzan.
The second leg will be played in Trnava next Thursday.
The winner of the two-legged clash between Hibernians and Spartak Trnava will be meeting FC Zestafoni of Georgia.
HIBS Daniel Balzan, Rui Fernando da Gracia Gomes, Jonathan Pearson, Rodolfo dos Santos Soares, Marcelo Mariano Dias (65′ Brandon Muscat), Andrew Cohen, Clayton Failla (80′ Jurgen Degabriele), Jean Paul Farrugia (92′ Joseph Mbong), Timothy Tabone Desira, Bjorn Kristensen, Johann Bezzina.
SPARTAK TRNAVA Matej Strapák, Matej Siva (58′ Milan Bortel), Marek Janečka, Martin Mikovič (74′ Tomáš Mikinič), Ján Vlasko, Jan Chovanec, Martin Toth, Matùš Čonka, Erik Sabo, Kamil Kuzma, Nikolas Špalek (54′ Ivan Schranz).
Referee: Mark Whitby (WAL)