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April 22, 2023

Hotspurs lose Play Out/Play Off

GFA Gozo Football Leagues Play Out/Play Off – Sat 22 Apr 2023 – Gozo Stadium
Victoria Hotspurs FC – FT (1-2) – Xaghra United FC
Referee: Darryl Agius

40’ (1-2) Andrea Debrincat

Victoria H:
K. Barbara, D.C. Kassekar, O.G. Fernandes, B. Said, L. Farrugia (C. Caruana), N. Inguanez, L. Mancuso Lemos Santos Ferreira, S. Sillato (O. Cremona), A. Debrincat, R. Silva Faria, E. Xiberras (J. Azzopardi).

In the Play Out/Play-Off match between Victoria Hotspurs, who ended the first division championship in second place from the bottom of the table, and the runners-up of the second division league Xaghra United, the latter registered a surprise 2-1 win so that Xaghra United won promotion to the first division next season while Victoria Hotspurs were relegated to play in the lower category in the season 2023/2024.

This result undoubtedly rewards Xaghra for their determination to achieve their main target established at the beginning of this season. Xaghra was disappointed during the second division campaign despite their strong potential mainly during a negative patch between the end of the first round and the first matches of the second round when they compromised their chances to win direct promotion. However, Xaghra came out of the difficult period and achieve their best form near the end of the season as they defended their runners-up position, won the Knock Out competition for the second division and also won the promotion from this Play Out/Play-Off match. On the other hand, the Hotspurs ended a very difficult season in the worst manner as they failed to impose their experience and the potential of playing this encounter with four foreign players against the one foreign player used by the second division side, and ended up trailing their less quoted opponents until the final whistle. As a result the Hotspurs never managed to overcome the crises and their performance in this delicate match was typical of the matches which saw them struggling in the red zone throughout the championship.

Xaghra paved the way to the win over Victoria Hotspurs with a pragmatic performance, as they capitalised from two chances during the first half hour of play and opened a cushion which allowed them to strengthen their defence department for the last hour to neutralise Victoria’s efforts to recover the score and force the match in extra time.

Play during the opening minutes took place in the midfield as the two sides had a prudent approach in an attempt to avoid any risks in their respective defensive departments. As time passed by the Hotspurs tried to push forward but Xaghra resisted well and also managed to take the driving seat by scoring the opening goal of the encounter. The match, therefore, became much more exciting
11’ (protests for penalty) The Hotspurs protested for a penalty alleging handing when Xaghra’s defence was trying to clear the ball from the danger area.
18’ (0-1) Xaghra opened the score when a fine cross from the right flank by substitute Luke Meilak arrived to an unmarked Kenneth Mercieca who headed beyond the read of the goalkeeper and the ball ended in the net.
23’ The Hotspurs replied with a header by Lucas Mancuso from a free kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes that ended wide.
25’ (0-2) Xaghra doubled their lead with a fine strike by Michael Bezzina from outside the area following a personal initiative.
28’ Xaghra’s keeper was well placed and punched away a free kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes.

45+3’ Victoria missed their last opportunity to force extra time when a shot from close distance by Brandon Said was well saved by goalie Lorjean Xuereb.

FT (VH 1 – XU 2)

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