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Heartbreak for Ħamrun Spartans as Levski strike at the death

Ħamrun Spartans striker Jonny (right) battles for the ball against Levski Sofia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS  0

LEVKSI SOFIA 1

Krastev 90

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS

H. Bonello, S. Borg, E. Marcelina, O. Bjelicic, J. Corbalan (87 K. Micallef), R. Camenzuli, R. Prsa (80 L. Montebello), M. Guillaumier, Jonny (68 M. Sowe), E. Mashike (68 I. Nedeljkovic), Dodo (80 Ederson).

LEVSKI SOFIA

N. Mihaylov, W. Tsunami, J. Cordoba, N. Sonko-Sundberg, J. Petris, G. Milanov (79 A. Kraev), K. Van Der Kaap, F. Krastev, W. Felipe, B. Bari (79 I. Stefanov), Ronaldo (78 M. Petkov).

Referee Willi Delayod (France).

Yellow cards Borg, Guillaumier, Cordoba.

Missed penalty Krastev (L) 11.

Ħamrun Spartans suffered a heartbreaking defeat when a Filip Krastev goal deep into stoppage time condemned them to a 1-0 defeat to Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia in the opening leg of the third qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League at the National Stadium.

It was a disappointing outcome for the Spartans who had managed to recover from a difficult start to the match, which saw them concede an early penalty, which however, was not converted by Krastev who hit the post.

But from then on, the Spartans grew in stature and managed to take control of the proceedings.

In fact, they created some good scoring opportunities but they lacked much-needed cutting edge in front of goal and looked set to secure a goalless draw. But it was not to be as Krastev’s late goal spoiled a positive night.

Despite the difficult task at hand now, the Spartans will surely head to Sofia next week with their minds firmly set to try and overturn the tie in their favour to continue to rewrite the club’s history books with qualification to the Play-off Round.

Ħamrun Spartans coach Branko Nisevic again kept faith with the same eleven players that starred in last week’s 1-0 win over Velez Mostar.

Goalkeeper Henry Bonello and defender Ognjen Bjelicic who picked up knocks against the Bosnian side declared themselves fit and were included in the starting formation.

New signing Luke Montebello was included among the substitutes.

Bonello was soon called into action as after eight minutes of play the Ħamrun no.1 charged out of his goal to block Welton Felipe who was through on goal.

Things got worse for the home side when Levksi were awarded a penalty when Matthew Guillaumier was sanctioned for pushing Bari inside the area.

From the spot, Filip Krastev sent Bonello the wrong way but his shot came off the upright.

That penalty miss seemed to inject more confidence among the Spartans players who finally started to inch their way forward on the pitch, although they were struggling to create danger to the Bulgarian defence.

Levski came close to an opener on 38 minutes when from a corner action, Wanderson Tsunami sent his firm header just wide.

On 44 minutes, Prsa sends curling free-kick towards goal with Mihajlov just managing to clear the danger with the ball hitting Borg before finishing wide.

The Spartans started the second half brightly and on 48 minutes Jonny sped clear but his angled drive was off target.

Ħamrun had a glorious chance to take the lead on the hour when Jonny sped clear on the right and served Dodo who was denied by a fine reflex save from Mihaijlov.

Nisevic tried to bring some fresh legs on 68 minute when he roped in Moussa Sowe and Igor Nedeljkovic for Jonny and Elvis Mashike.

The match was turning out to be a ragged affair with Levski finally threatening 13 minutes from time when Petris seeing his shot deflected into a corner.

Montebello was heading his first appearance for the Spartans with ten minutes to go when he replaced Roko Prsa.

When it looked as though that the Spartans would hold on to a goalless draw, Levski grabbed the winner when Krastev picked up a short rebound in stoppage time to beat Bonello with a firm drive.

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