Costa crashes out of Europa

Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE international Costa Nhamoinesu met his fate in the Europa Cup on Thursday night when his side AC Sparta Praha, commonly known as Sparta Prague, crashed out of the tournament at the hands of Serbian side Spartak Subotica on aggregate.

Nhamoinesu played 85 minutes as Praha beat the visiting Serbian side 2-1 at home on the night, but the result was not enough to overturn the 2-0 defeat they had suffered in the first leg of the second round qualifiers.

In the end, Praha, who are perennial campaigners in this competition, were eliminated on 3-2 scoreline by the Serbian upstarts.

This was the first time the teams have met, but Praha apparently blew it with a disastrous performance in the first leg.

History has it that they had never overturned a first leg defeat in knockout ties and pressure was immense on coach Pavel Hapal and his charges to go against the long standing records on Thursday night.

Despite missing some of their key players like Vaclav Kadlec, Praha seemed on course when skipper Josef Sural opened the scoring with a fantastic volley from Srdjan Plavsic with 28 minutes played.

Midfielder Plavsic then doubled the lead in the 66th minute with a goal of his own which went in via a deflection.

They still needed another goal to secure a safe passage, but with exactly 15 minutes of regulation time remaining, Praha suffered a heartbreak when they conceded a penalty.

Subotica’s Bojan CeCaric made no mistake from the spot and that signalled the end of the road for Nhamoinesu and his teammates.

Spartak Subotica, who progressed to the next round of the qualifiers, are not the sort of club with a great history in Europe. Their only previous entry at the competition was back in 2010/11 and they started off at the second stage before losing to Dnipro in the third round.

Interestingly, the Serbs were leading the tie 2-1 from the first leg before losing 2-0 in Ukraine. Last season, Subotica finished fourth in the Serbian Superliga and thus got direct entry to the second round of the qualifiers. They started off alright by beating Northern Ireland club Coleraine 3-1 on aggregate.

But Sparta Prague are a club with plenty of experience in Europa League and they made it to the first knockout round in 2016/17. They didn’t manage to qualify for the group stage last season, with their first qualifying fixture tipped against a strong Red Star Belgrade.

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