Ħamrun Spartans have taken their UEFA Europa Conference League experience by storm. They have dispatched Armenia’s Alashkert, Velez Mostar of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria’s Levski Sofia.
Led by Branko Nisevic, they are now on the cusp of history as a group stage berth will be at stake when they face Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade in a two-legged tie.
While the Spartans’ run is showing that Maltese players and clubs can be competitive at international level, at the same time no one was expecting them to get this far.
Already in the first round, Ħamrun’s journey looked all but over when they were trailing by two goals on aggregate against Alashkert.
Yet, as true Spartan warriors, the Maltese club sparked into life thanks to a 55th-minute goal scored by Roko Prsa. From then onwards, the Spartans scored eight goals and conceded just twice.
Prsa’s goal was Ħamrun’s breakthrough in Europe and the Croatian midfielder could not be happier with his impact at the Spartans having joined them during the summer transfer window.
“Playing in front of these amazing Ħamrun Spartans’ supporters was incredible for me,” Prsa told the Times of Malta.
“From the first round, we showed a lot of courage and enthusiasm, and when we went two goals down, our character emerged and that helped us to progress this far.
“On a personal note, I am also pleased for having contributed with a goal as well.”
Prsa has started five of Ħamrun’s six games in Europe after making a short appearance in the away leg at Alashkert.
The Croatian player, who played also in the United States, has already established himself as a key player at the heart of the midfield alongside Matthew Guillaumier and Emerson Marcelina.
In the second round against Velez Mostar of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ħamrun managed to score twice without a reply while dominating the away game in a hostile environment. A relentless performance that is not usually accustomed to Maltese clubs at this stage.
“First of all, it is important that we all believe in each other and that is something which is very clear in our dressing room,” Prsa explained.
“There is a good harmony between the players and the staff, and we keep improving game after game.
“What we have achieved in the last three rounds is just the beginning of what are capable to do.”
Ħamrun have already shifted their focus on their next opponents, Partizan Belgrade. Despite the Serbian giants going through a difficult period, they remain a very difficult team to beat and they are at the back of a last 16 appearance in this competition last season.
“We will go to Serbia to show what we can do,” Prsa pointed out.
“We showed in Bulgaria that we do not play just defensively in our away games.
“But at the same time, it is better for us to remain as underdogs because we won’t have any pressure and they won’t expect us to be this good.”