Hamrun Spartans made history by becoming the first Maltese team to reach the play-off round of the UEFA Europa Conference League after eliminating PFC Levski Sofia of Bulgaria at the Vivacom Arena – Stadion Georgi Asparuhov in Sofia on Thursday.
Following the 0-1 defeat in the first leg, Hamrun needed a win to make it to the next stage. They managed to beat Levski 2-1 at the end of the ninety minutes to force extra-time and with no goals being scored in extra-time, the penalty shoot-out had to determine which team would be facing FK Partizan of Serbia in the play-off round.
The Spartans scored four penalties while Levski had two penalties neutralised by goalkeeper Henry Bonello.
Levski held the initiative during the first half and were unlucky not to take the lead on the 34th when Wanderson Tsunami’s header on the 34th minute hit the crossbar following a deflection by Bonello.
Twelve minutes from time, the Spartans took the lead when off a cross by Ryan Camenzuli, a shot from close range by Matthew Guillaumier was not held by goalkeeper Mihaylov and Guillaumier placed the ball at the back of the net.
Levski levelled matters one minute in added time when off a corner from the right, Wanderson Tsunami hit home from close range.
However one minute later, the Spartans regained the lead when off a good run by Dodo, he rounded the goalkeeper and passed the ball back to Ryan Camenzuli who hit hard in the top right corner past Mihaylov.
In extra-time, Bonello came to the rescue with a great save on a Filip Krastev freekick early in the second half but Hamrun went close through Dodo and Guillaumier.
With the aggregate score still 2-2, the penalty shoot-out had to determine the winner.
Vinicius scored the first penalty for Hamrun, Marin Plamenov Petkov equalised for Levski. Luke Montebello made no mistake for the Spartans but Wanderson Tsunami’s penalty was neutralised by Bonello. Matthew Guillaumier converted but Krastev had his penalty saved by Bonello. Matteo Fedele’s penalty was blocked by Mihaylov but the referee ordered a retake and this time the Swiss midfielder made no mistake.
LEVSKI Nikolay Mihaylov, Jeremy Arnaud Petris (89′ Patrik Gabriel Galchev), Kilian Van Der Kaap, Wanderson Tsunami, Andrian Kraev, Welton Felipe (115′ Marin Plamenov Petkov), Ronaldo (89′ Iliyan Stefanov), Bilal Bari, Noah Sonko-Sundberg, Filip Krastev, Jose Cordoba.
HAMRUN Henry Bonello, Ederson Bruno Domingos (85’ Ailton Jorge Soares), Matthew Guillaumier, Roko Prsa (118′ Matteo Fedele), Rodrigo Callegari Torre, Ognjen Bjelicic (120′ Vinicius Freitas), Juan Carlos Corbalan (106′ Luke Montebello), Igor Nedeljkovic (72’ Elvis Mashike), Jonny Roberto do Nascimento (72’ Mousa Balla Sowe), Emerson Marcelina, Ryan Camenzuli.
Referee: István Kovács ROU
Assistant referees: Vasile Florin Marinescu, Ovidiu Artene ROU
Fourth official: Andrei Chivulete ROU