Hamrun Spartans lost 0-4 to Maccabi Haifa in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Tuesday. A match which was marred by trouble from the Maccabi Haifa fans which led the game to being interrupted twice.
During the first half, the Spartans gave a good account of themselves but two goals before half-time handed Maccabi Haifa, who reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League last season, a comfortable lead. In fact, from then onwards, the visitors controlled without much pressure, adding another two goals to take home a most comfortable cushion ahead of the second leg which is scheduled for Tuesday 19 at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.
Apart from coach Luciano Zauri, the Spartans had five players making their debut – goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, Elionay, Nemanja Krstic, Uros Djuranovic together with Yuliyan Nenov who was included as a substitute.
The hosts went close early in the game with a cross shot by Tjaronn Chery which was saved by Marchetti and Hamrun replied with a shot from the edge of the area by Jonny which was turned into a corner by goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan.
The game had to be interrupted for a few minutes after fans of Maccabi Haifa threw flares on the field of play. Flares which ruined parts of the artificial turf.
The visitors managed to break the deadlock five minutes from the end of the first half when off a Diaa Sabia corner from the right, Frantzdy Pierrot headed home past Marchetti.
Maccabi Haifa doubled the score three minutes in the second half when Chery served Din David on the right and with a diagonal shot beat Marchetti with the ball hitting the upright before ending at the back of the net.
Eight minutes in the second half, Roko Prsa hit the upright direct from a corner and seconds later, it was Ognjen Bjelicic who hit the crossbar with a great volley from outside the area.
Hardly a minute later, the game was interrupted once again due to trouble from the Maccabi fans who lit and threw flares in the direction of Hamrun supporters and a few minutes later, the UEFA delegate suspended the game for around thirty eight minutes.
Fans were warned by public announcements that the match would be abandoned in case of further incidents.
Five minutes after the restart, Frantzdy Pierrot headed the ball home from close range following a cross from the right and a header by Abdoulaye Seck to make it 3-0.
With ten minutes to go, substitute Anan Khalaili scored Maccabi Haifa’s fourth goal with a diagonal shot from the right which beat the Hamrun goalkeeper.
The winning side of this two-legged clash will be facing the winner of the clash between Farul Costanta of Romania and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. On the other hand, the team which is eliminated will enter the UEFA Europa Conference League where they would face the loser of the clash between Astana of Kazakhstan and Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia.
HAMRUN Federico Marchetti, Steve Borg, Roko Prsa, Elionay (90+8’ Yulyan Nenov), Uros Djuranovic, Ognjen Bjelicic, Juan Corbalan (90+17’ Joseph Mbong), Nemanja Krstic (90+8’ Eder), Emerson Marcelina, Ryan Camenzuli, Jonny (90+17’ Luke Montebello).
MACCABI HAIFA Itamar Nitzan, Daniel Sundgren, Sean Goldberg, Ali Mohamed (90+14’ Mahmoud Jaber), Frantzdy Pierrot (90+14’ Erik Shuranov), Tjaronn Chery (90+26’ Hamza Shibli), Goni Naor, Din David (90+1’ Lior Rafaelov), Pierre Cornud, Abdoulaye Seck, Diaa Sabia (90+14’ Anan Khalili).
Referee: Donald Robertson SCO
Assistant Referees: Graeme Stewart, Ross Macleod SCO
Fourth Official: Kevin Clancy SCO
VAR: Nicholas Walsh SCO
Assistant VAR: Daniel McFarlane SCO