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FK Partizan’s first-half flurry shatters Ħamrun Spartans’ dream

Photo: Domenic Aquilina/Hamrun Spartans

FK PARTIZAN     4

Ricardo 15; Urosevic 25

Diabate 33; Andrade 78

ĦAMRUN SPARTANS     1

Guillaumier

FK Partizan

A. Popovic, S. Markovic, I. Vujacic, S. Sanicanin, S. Urosevic, L. Fejsa, P. Andrade (81 N. Jovic), F. Diabate, M. Zivkovic, Q. Menig (58 K. Belig), Ricardo.

H. Bonello, O.Bjelicic, S. Borg, R. Camenzuli, J. Corbalan (78 M. Sowe), E. Marcelina, R. Prsa, M. Guillaumier, Eder (72 L. Montebello), Jonny (72 Dodo), I. Nedeljkovic (46 E. Mashike).

Referee Filip Glova (Slovakia).

Yellow cards Zivkovic, Belic, Borg.

Three goals in the first half put FK Partizan in charge of their UEFA Conference League tie against Ħamrun Spartans at the Serbian capital on Thursday night.

It was always going to be a tall order for the Maltese outfit against Serbia’s most successful football club even though FK Partizan are passing through a difficult spell in their domestic season.

Although the final scoreline might suggest that the Serbia enjoyed a field day, in reality, the Spartans did put on a very commendable showing as they enjoyed long spells of possession and created several scoring opportunities.

However, FK Partizan’s efficiency in front of goal turned out to be the main difference between the two sides as the Serbian side’s forward trio of Diabate, Ricardo and Andrade punished the visitors’ with lightning attacking play to put the home side as firm favourites to book their place in the group stages.

For Ħamrun, their hopes of an historic qualification are hanging by a thread as they need a miracle to overturn a three-goal deficit in next week’s second leg at the National Stadium.

Ħamrun Spartans coach Branko Nisevic has made just one change from the team that beat Levski Sofia in a penalty shoot-out last week. Steve Borg, who skipped the match in Bulgaria for family reasons, was back in the starting XI at the expense of Rodrigo Callegari.

The Spartans started the match brightly as they managed to dominate possession, giving little chance to the home side to venture forward

It was the visitors who came close after five minutes of play when Borg found Jonny in space on the right and the Brazilian sped past his marker only to see his effort deflected just wide.

A poor back pass from Bjelicic almost handed Partizan the opener as the ball fell to Ricardo who was denied by the diving Henry Bonello.

Ħamrun failed to heed the warning signs as they conceded the opener after 15 minutes of play.

Zivkovic’s throughball was diverted by Queensy Menig into the path of Ricardo who rounded Bonello and deposited the ball into an empty net.

Things got worse for the Spartans as Partizan double their lead on 25 minutes.

From a corner action, Vujacic nodded the ball into the path of Slobodan Urosevic who headed into the net.

Ħamrun tried to fight back but Partizan were looking too deadly on the night and on 33 minutes they added a third goal.

The home side seized possession following a Ħamrun corner kick and embarked on a lightning counter attack that saw Patrick Andrade finding Diabate in space and the Partizan attacking midfielder hit the ball past Bonello.

Ħamrun thought they pulled a goal back just before half-time when goalkeeper Popovic failed to block Prsa’s shot, Jonny challenged the goalkeeper to flick the ball towards Corbalan who fired home.

But the referee annulled the goal for a foul on the Partizan goalkeeper.

On the restart, Nisevic withdrew Nedeljkovic and roped in Elvis Mashike as they looked to pull a goal back to reopen the match.

On 47 minutes, Matthew Guillaumier connected to Prsa’s delivery from a corner but his header finished just over.

Elvis almost made an instant impact when on 49 minutes the forward was put in space by Jonny but his first touch was too heavy when clear on goal and somehow Partizan cleared the danger.

But the Spartans do manage to pull a goal back on 53 minutes. From a Prsa corner kick, Guillaumier rose past his marker to head past Popovic.

Ħamrun almost grabbed a second goal… again from Guillaumier who connected to Prsa’s delivery from a free-kick but this time Popovic somehow kept the ball out.

Partizan finally threatened and it was Diabate who again raced into space but Camenzuli was on hand to shut down his attempt.

Eighteen minutes from time, Nisevic withdrew Jonny and Eder and roped in Dodo and Luke Montebello as the visitors tried to add more firepower in search of a second goal.

However, it was Partizan who all but killed off the Spartans 14 minutes from time when Bjelicic’s poor pass was intercepted by the hosts with Ricardo quickly setting up Andrade who sped clear and rifled the ball past Bonello.

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