ĦAMRUN SPARTANS 1
VELEZ MOSTAR 0
(Ħamrun Spartans win 2-0 on aggregate)
H. Bonello, J. Corbalan, S. Borg, E. Marcelina, O. Bjelicic (80 R. Callegari), R. Camenzuli, R. Prsa, M. Guillaumier (80 M. Fedele), Jonny (62 I. Nedeljkovic), E. Mashike (62 M. Sowe), Dodo.
S. Bogdanovic, A. Bajric, F. Ikic, S. Zeljkovic, E. Halilovic (38 A. Pavic), O. Prses (69 E. Vehabovic), S. Radovac (57 N. Andusic), D. Hasanovic, M. Cosic (69 A. Dejanovic), N. Haskic, D. Pantelic (68 A. Dznakovic).
Referee: Juri Frischer (Estonia).
Yellow cards Prsa, Bajric, Marcelina, Borg, Jonny, Dodo.
Ħamrun Spartans completed an historic night for Maltese football when they edged past Velez Mostar to secure a 1-0 win at the Centenary Stadium to become the third Maltese team to reach the third qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League.
A goal by Brazilian striker Jonny was enough for the Spartans to secure a second successive 1-0 win over their Bosnian opponents to progress to the next round 2-0 on aggregate.
It was another commanding performance from the Spartans who after taking the lead they managed to administer their advantage despite Velez Mostar’s efforts to claw themselves back into the match.
But it was the Spartans who could have added to their tally and there were huge celebrations at the final whistle as the Reds joined Hibernians and Gżira United in the third qualifying round – a first for Maltese football.
The reward for the Spartans is a clash against Levski Sofia, with the first leg scheduled for Bulgaria next week.
Branko Nisevic, as expected kept faith with the same starting formation that procured the 1-0 win in Bosnia with Jonny, Dodo and Elvis Mashike forming their three-pronged attack.
The Spartans started the match brightly as they pressed their opponents right from the outset in their bid to clinch an early goal that would give them a good advantage in the tie.
The first chance of the match came Ħamrun’s way after ten minutes when Elvis Mashike made space for Dodo who burst through but was anticipated by goalkeeper Bogdanovic.
The Spartans took the lead on 16 minutes. Mashike uses his power to send a perfect throughball towards Jonny and the Brazilian forward kept his cool to slot the ball past the onrushing Bogdanovic.
Velez almost grabbed an equaliser minutes later when Djorde Pantelic burst inside the area and hit a rasping drive that came off the bar.
The Spartans threatened again on 32 minutes when Dodo won a free-kick on the edge of the area and Bjelicic’s shot was turned to a corner by Bogdanovic.
A minute later, Jonny’s cross finished into the path of Dodo who fired over.
Velez Mostar effect their first change on 38 minutes when Antonio Pavic, who last season was on the books of Gżira United, replaces Emir Halilovic.
Five minutes from the break, Mashike connects to Dodo’s cross but his header finishes over.
Ħamrun were unlucky not to double their lead on the stroke of half-time when Mashike put Dodo in space and his curling drive cannoned off the upright.
Velez Mostar continue to press forward and on 53 minutes Pantelic was denied by a fine one-handed save from Bonello and then Hasanovic headed over the bar from close in.
Nisevic effected a double change just past the hour as Igor Nedljkovic replaced Jonny while Mashike was replaced by Moussa Sowe.
Ħamrun were looking to administer their advantage as Velez Mostar were pushing more men forward but struggled to create any chances.
Velez Mostar only threatened two minutes from time when they were denied by a splendid save from Bonello on a long-range shot by Andusic.
In stoppage time, Sowe should have killed off Velez Mostar when in a quick break he stormed inside the area but was denied by Bogdanovic.
Sowe had another huge chance at the death and again was denied by the Velez goalkeeper, but that little mattered as the final whistle soon arrive to kickstart the Spartans party.