Hamrun Spartans scored two late penalties but bowed out of the UEFA Europa Conference League following a 3-3 draw with FK Partizan of Serbia in the second leg of the play-off round at the National Stadium on Thursday.
FK Partizan will therefore be in Friday’s draw of the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage as they qualify with a 7-4 aggregate score. On the other hand, the Spartans’ run in the competition comes to an end after four wins and a draw in eight matches, being the first Maltese club to reach this stage of a European competition.
Knowing that they needed a win by three goals in order to force extra-time, the Spartans went in search of an early goal and were a better side in the early stages.
Matthew Guillaumier had a powerful drive turned into a corner by Popovic after just two minutes. A fierce shot by Roko Prsa ended just wide on the 10th. Hamrun retained the upper hand and tested Popovic once again with a Sowe first-time effort from the right.
The Spartans managed to take the lead on the 27th minute when Sowe’s cross from the right was blocked by a defender, Matthew Guillaumier released Roko Prsa inside the area and the Croat slotted the ball past the Partizan goalkeeper.
However seven minutes later, Partizan levelled matters when Zivkovic delivered a cross from the left which was blocked by Bonello and off the rebound, Ricardo Gomes placed the ball at the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Matthew Guillaumier was unlucky not to restore the lead but his powerful drive from outside the area scraped past the post.
During the second half, Partizan held the upper hand, going 2-1 ahead on the 72nd minute thanks to captain Slobodan Urosevic, served on the left by Diabate, who rounded a defender before pulling to a more central position before hitting low past Bonello.
Six minutes later, Ricardo Gomes scored a third goal, heading home off a Patrick Andrade cross from the right.
Eight minutes from time, Hamrun reduced the gap courtesy of a Vinicius Freitas penalty following a foul by Kristian Belic inside the area.
On the 90th, Hamrun were awarded another penalty after Ederson Bruno Domingos was floored on the edge of the area. Another substitute, Matteo Fedele, converted to equalise.
HAMRUN Henry Bonello, Matthew Guillaumier (79’ Matteo Fedele), Luke Montebello (63’ Jonny), Elvis Mashike (73’ Igor Nedeljkovic), Ailton Jorge Soares ‘Dodo’, Roko Prsa, Rodrigo Callegari Torre, Mousa Balla Sowe, Ognjen Bjelicic, Emerson Marcelina, Ryan Camenzuli (79’ Vinicius Freitas).
PARTIZAN Aleksandar Popovic, Sinisa Sanicanin, Igor Vujacic, Svetozar Markovic, Patrick Andrade, Queensy Menig (69’ Kristian Belic), Ricardo Gomes, Ljubomir Fejsa, Marko Zivkovic, Foussein Diabate (74’ Bibras Natcho), Slobodan Urosevic (79’ Zlatan Sehovic).
Referee: Jakob Kelhet DEN
Assistant Referees: Lars Hummelgaard, Viktor Skytte DEN
Fourth Official: Morten Krogh DEN