Four days after scoring four times only to end up on the losing side, MFK Košice striker Ján Novák again had reason to feel aggrieved despite registering twice to earn a 3-3 home draw with AS Roma.
Article top media content
Four days after scoring four times in MFK Košice's 5-4 loss to FC Spartak Trnava, Ján Novák plundered another two goals as the unfancied Slovakian side fought back to hold Italian visitors AS Roma to a 3-3 draw in their UEFA Europa League play-off round first leg – but once again the in-form striker left the pitch a frustrated man.
Having made it 3-2 with a 71st-minute penalty and equalised ten minutes later, the 24-year-old spurned a late chance to earn his young team a famous victory. Some excellent solo work left him well placed to complete his hat-trick, only for Roma goalkeeper Artur to intervene. "My regret is that it wasn't a goal," said Novák, top scorer in the Slovakian Superliga in 2007/08. "The ball got away from me. We should have won, but the draw is a good result for us. The coach said before the match that we needed to go into it with nothing to lose – he was right."
Roma playmaker Francesco Totti also scored twice on the night, yet it was Novák and his team-mates who received the adulation of the crowd at the final whistle, the 8,450 spectators giving them a standing ovation. Košice coach Ján Kozák was similarly pleased with his charges' endeavour. "My team's performance was a pleasant surprise," he said. "We were able to keep pace with a team as strong as AS Roma. We forced our opponents to play at a high level and I have to be satisfied. The Slovakian league is not as weak as people make out."
The result still favours Roma, given their three away goals, but Košice will not abandon their chances of reaching the UEFA Europa League group stage via an upset in the Italian capital next Thursday. If not, they will at least have given their fans plenty to cheer about against one of Europe's strongest outfits. "It was a good match and Košice put in an excellent performance," said Roma coach Luciano Spalletti. "They deserved the draw. I hope my players now know how to come out on top in the second leg."