Following the early promotion to the BOV Premier League of Group A side Pembroke Athleta last month, after a crushing 6-0 win over St George’s, Group B now has its own winner – Żebbuġ Rangers.
The Rangers return to the Premier League for the first time since their stint back in the 2014/15 season. This comes as a result of a productive season which saw them lead their group with 42 points after 19 matches, their final match holding no importance with their top spot confirmed after a 2-1 win over Qrendi over the weekend.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, coach Brian Spiteri said the atmosphere around the club is great.
“I can’t say that the atmosphere has ever been bad even when results weren’t coming our way,” Spiteri said, “there were difficult moments but we’ve had a great second round.”
Spiteri admits their win over Qrendi was close and conceding the first goal was a bit of a shock but scoring the equaliser immediately helped to galvanise the team.
“A draw would have been enough (when we scored) but of course, we tried to get the win as we were so close to winning the section after being at the top for such a long time,” he explained.
Asked about their final fixture against Marsa, Spiteri said the team will have to remain focused as this will be “a preparation for the championship decider”.
“This is not only a team success but the success for the whole squad,” he remarked.
“It makes sense to give space to those who are part of the squad who have not played as regularly. We don’t have a very deep squad, three of whom are also minors. We need to see that everybody feels a part of this success. They have been crucial to us as well.”
The battle for the second spot will be a tight affair after both second-and third-placed sides Pietà Hotspurs and Tarxien Rainbows’ direct encounter ended in a 2-2 draw.
Pietà are the closest of the two to secure a place in the top division of Maltese football with Żebbug, but they will need a win against Swieqi United on Sunday to make sure of this.
For Tarxien, the climb is steeper as they will need to beat Fgura United and hope for dropped points from the
Marsa, the side many predicted to be the frontrunner of the division after last season’s heartbreak, will be ruing the end of the rollercoaster of a season they’ve had that saw administrative problems within the club tarnishing both the
club’s success and team morale – and eventually a spot for promotion.
Added to this was an incident in their match against Pietà which saw them get two points deducted by the Malta FA’s Control, Disciplinary and Ethics Committee as well as a three-year ban to goalkeeper Dorian Bugeja after he assaulted match official Mitchell Scerri.
At the other end of the group, Senglea Athletic as well as newcomers Mġarr United and Luqa St Andrew’s have been relegated after all three having gone through a tough season.
For Senglea, this will be the second successive relegation after having dropped from the Premier League last season.
For Mġarr, the season had started out well but lack of experience, as was also the case with Luqa, proved costly as they could not recover throughout the season.
Żejtun close in on promotion
In Group A, where the top spot has been confirmed for a while – an indisputable success for Pembroke who won the group with a number of matches to spare after an unbeaten season so far – the runner’s up position has been the most exciting battle this season.
While Naxxar Lions spent around half of the season in first place, a shaky run saw them drop down to fourth place, particularly after their latest 3-1 loss to Marsaxlokk over the weekend.
With one game to go, the Lions need to inflict the first loss for Pembroke and will hope that the same southsiders fail to beat Vittoriosa Stars if they are to achieve promotion.
One team on its toes this weekend will be Żejtun Corinthians. Orosco Anonam’s clan have ended their season on 40 points and now rely on both Marsaxlokk and Naxxar to drop points after beating St George’s 2-0 last weekend in their 20th and last match of the season.
Once again, Group A’s relegated teams have also been confirmed ahead of the final matchday as St George’s, Vittoriosa Stars and newly promoted Rabat Ajax will be heading to the National Amateur League next season. This also means that while the Stars were close to holding onto their place in the Challenge League, there will be no Cottonera sides in the division next season.
San Gwann vs Pembroke 2-2
Żejtun vs St. George’s 2-0
Lija Athletic vs Mqabba 4-3
Naxxar vs Marsaxlokk 1-3
Vittoriosa vs Rabat Ajax 3-2
Swieqi United vs Marsa 2-1
Zebbug Rangers vs Qrendi 2-1
St. Andrews vs Mgarr 2-0
Senglea vs Fgura United 2-3
Tarxien vs Pietà Hotspurs 2-2
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