Ħamrun Spartans are in action in the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round, first leg ties on Thursday. The Paolites held Latvian champions FK RFS while the Spartans are hosting Levski Sofia at the National Stadium…
9.28pm We conclude this blog with an update from Northern Ireland as Linfield are trailing 1-0 to Zurich in the Europa League.
The loser of this tie could potentially face Maltese champions Hibernians in the play-off round of the Europa Conference League.
9.27pm FULL-TIME! No chance for Ħamrun Spartans to try and restore parity as Levski Sofia’s last-gasp winner puts daylight between the two teams.
9.26pm GOAL! Heartbreak for Ħamrun Spartans as Levski score deep in stoppage time…
9.18pm Ħamrun Spartans have introduced their latest signing Luke Montebello as he replaces Dodo in the final stages of this encounter.
9.17pm With only five minutes of play remaining can the Spartans find the breakthrough. They certainly have been the better side in the second half but have lacked the required lucidity in front of goal.
9.10pm Meanwhile in Norway, Molde eased past Hungary’s Kisvarda 3-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
A reminder that should Gżira upset Wolfsberger AC, they could face Molde in the play-off round.
9.05pm With 17 minutes left, Ħamrun Spartans are pushing forward in search of a winner.
8.59pm Nisevic tried to bring some fresh legs on 68 minute when he roped in Moussa Sowe and Igor Nedeljkovic for Jonny and Elvis Mashike.
8.51pm 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.
8.44pm The Spartans started the second half brightly and on 48 minutes Jonny sped clear but his angled drive was off target.
8.20pm Half-time… Ħamrun Spartans and Levski Sofia head into the interval locked in a goalless draw.
8.14pm 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.
8.09pm Levski come close to an opener on 38 minutes when from a corner action, Wanderson Tsunami sends his firm header just wide.
8.06pm In Norway, Molde and Kisvarda of Hungary are goalless at half-time.
Should Gżira United manage to overcome Wolfsberger AC of Austria, they would face the winner of this tie. The Maroons held Wolfsberger AC to a 0-0 draw in Wednesday’s first leg.
8.05pm Meanwhile in Cyprus, AEK Larnaca defeated Partizan Belgrade of Serbia 2-1. We remind you that the loser of this tie could potentially face Ħamrun Spartans if the Maltese side beat Levski Sofia.
8.02pm Ħamrun come close to an opener when Dodo hits a dipping header that is tipped over by Mihaylov.
8pm FULL-TIME! Ten-man Hibernians manage to secure a vital 1-1 draw in Latvia. The Paolites will host FK RFS in next week’s second leg. Stay tuned to our website for the full breakdown of the game.
7.55pm At Ta’ Qali, Ħamrun Spartans are finally coming out of their half and starting to create danger to the Levski defence but they have yet to have a shot on target.
7.53pm WHAT A SAVE! Hibernians’ goalkeeper Kone denied FK RFS once again as the Guinea international blocked an Elvis Stugli’s effort from point-blank range on the goal line.
7.51pm Ilic almost doubled the score for FK RFS but his low drive went inches wide.
7.48pm GOAL! FK RFS find a leveller with five minutes left. A long throw-in from Jatta was flicked by Stefan Panic onto the feet of Ilic whose alertness enabled him to beat his marker and struck the ball into the net.
7.44pm Hibernians captain Bjorn Kristensen makes his return to the field as he comes on with seven minutes left on the clock. The midfielder was sidelined with an ACL injury since January and could not take part in the opening four games in Europe due to his suspension.
7.42pm Penalty missed… Filip Krastev sends Henry Bonello the wrong way but his shot hits the upright to the delight of the Spartans fans.
7.40pm PENALTY LEVSKI… Matthew Guillaumier is sanctioned for pushing Bari.
7.35pm In these early exchanges Levski Sofia have immediately made their intentions clear with their high pressing and the pace of their forward trio.
7.30pm Second cooling break of the game on the 68th minute as Hibernians are still leading by one goal. FK RFS are trying to stage a reaction but since missing the penalty, they have failed to create more goal scoring chances.
7.28pm At the National Stadium, Ħamrun Spartans and Levski Sofia are taking the pith. No doubt the Spartans starts as the underdogs against the Bulgarian giants but they will hope the huge crowd present will roar the team to another stunning result.
7.24pm RFS are looking to pile up the pressure on Hibernians, who one has to remember that they are playing with ten men, but are holding firm.
7.10pm PENALTY MISSED! The hosts were given the opportunity to restore parity when Emerson was floored by Soares inside the penalty area. Nonetheless, left back Mares failed to convert from the spot as he was denied by Guinea international Kone.
7.08pm PENALTY FOR FK RFS
7.05pm FK RFS so close to level terms through Ilic but he could not divert the ball into the net from inside the small area.
7.01pm Second half is underway in Latvia with no changes from either side.
7pm Meanwhile we are 30 minutes away from the kick off of the match between Ħamrun Spartans and Levski Sofia.
Coach Branko Nisevic has kept faith with the same XI players that started last week’s 1-0 win over Bosnian side Velez Mostar.
Goalkeeper Henry Bonello and defender Ognjen Bjelicic who picked up knocks last week have recovered and are included in the starting formation.
New signing Luke Montebello, who joined the club from Birkirkara, starts on the bench.
6.53pm In other news, AEK Larnaca and Partizan Belgrade are sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw at half-time.
The loser of the this UEFA Europa League tie will face the winner of Ħamrun Spartans and Levski Sofia who will rub shoulders this evening, at 19.30.
6.50pm HALF TIME! Hibernians survive a late scare when Andrej Ilic met a cross with a towering header just to be denied by inches.
The Paolites enter the dressing room leading by one goal thanks to Dunstan Vella’s goal midway into the first half.
A reminder that Hibernians are playing with 10 men after Thaylor was sent off in the 28th minute.
6.47pm On the brink of half-time, Riga’s Alfusainey Jatta struck a volley from inside the penalty area but sailed over the bar.
6.41pm GOOOAAALLL… Hibernians take the lead
Vella puts Hibernians ahead with a brilliant volley that ended straight into the far post following a set piece situation.
6.40pm Hibernians continue to be dangerous. FK Rigas’ goalkeeper Pavels Steinbors is forced into action after another brilliant header from Dunstan Vella.
6.33pm Despite being a man down, Hibernians almost strike ahead with a Rodolfo Soares header that went inches wide.
6.30pm Hibernians suffer a blow as Thaylor Aldama is dismissed. The Brazilian is shown a second yellow card for retaliation.
6.25pm Just before the first cooling break of the game, Hibernians’ forward Jurgen Degabriele let fly a brilliant strike from outside the area but failed to hit the target.
6.20pm Hibernians are trying to put some pressure on the FK RFS defence but their delivery in the final third is leaving much to be desired, making it easy for the home side to clear the danger.
6.15pm FK RFS continue to pile the pressure on Hibernians with Ziga Lipuscek trying his luck from long-range just to see his effort deflected into corner.
6.07pm Riga have started the match very strongly and after six minutes of play Ferdinando Apap comes to Hibernians’ rescue as he clears a Deniss Rakels’ header on goal-line. FK RFS have come out from the blocks looking to find an early lead in this first leg tie.
6.01pm The match is under way.
6pm Hibernians and RFS are on the pitch at the Daugala Stadium as they prepare to kick off the match.
Incidentally, the stadium is a familiar venue for Hibernians as last season they face FC Riga in the same stage of the competition and on that occasion an Andrei Agius goal handed the Paolites a 1-0 win.
5.58pm Speaking of the Ħamrun Spartans vs Levski Sofia tie, at 6pm Cypriot side Larnaca host Partizan Belgrade in an Europa League tie. The team who loses the tie will be up against either the Spartans or the Bulgarian side. We will try and keep you updated on what is happening in Larnaca.
5.55pm Apart from Hibernians, Ħamrun Spartans are also in action in the UEFA Conference League. The 2021 champions have a tough task on their hands as they face Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia.
In the build-up to the match, Ħamrun Spartans published a video where coach Branko Nisevic appealed to the club’s leagion of fans to head to the National Stadium and support the team in this difficult tie.
5.50pm FK RFS (Futbola klubs RFS) are representing Latvia as the country’s champion after winning their maiden domestic title in 2021. They paired their championship with a success in the domestic cup as well, their second after their 2019 triumph.
The Latvian side are in the midst of their season having already played 23 games. They trail leaders Valmiera with seven points and are at the back of a 2-0 victory against Tukums away from home.
However, their goal in Europe is to reach the group stages of the UEFA Conference League.
5.45pm In his pre-match comments to the match Hibernians coach Andrea Pisanu has urged his team to adopt a positive approach in what he expects to be a tough tie for his team.
The Italian coach said that he expects his team to be put under pressure by FK RFS but urged his players to seize their chance when they are in possession to try and make the most of the chances that come their way.
Read full interview here.
5.40pm We start with some team news from Hibernians FC.
One major change in Andrea Pisanu’s selection as newcomer Yunusa Muritala has been given the nod ahead of Terence Groothusen.
Muritala, who scored against Levadia Tallinn in the previous round, will face a familiar foe in FK RFS. The Nigerian forward was on the books of Latvian clubs FK Metta and Riga FC as he scored 10 goals in 27 top-flight games.
Pisanu also welcomes back in the fray skipper Bjorn Kristensen who is included among the substitutes. The Malta midfielder missed the Paolites’ first four matches in Europe due to suspension.
FK RFS, who will be hosting this first leg, will start with a 4-2-3-1 formation which includes Brazilian left winger Emerson and Serbian forward Andrej Ilic as their key players.
5.30pm Welcome to our live blog. It’s another exciting day of European action for Maltese clubs as Hibernians and Ħamrun Spartans face challenging ties against Latvia’s RFS and Levski Sofia, of Bulgaria, respectively.
Both teams will be looking to follow on the footsteps of Gżira United who on Wednesday produced another fine showing to hold Wolfsberger to a goalless draw in the first leg in Austria, keeping themselves still with a fighting chance to reach an historic berth in the Play-off Round.