Xaghra United win promotion to the top flight through the Play Out/Play-Off

by | Apr 24, 2023 | GFL 1st Div, GFL 2nd Div, Match Report, News

22 April 2023

GFA Gozo Football Leagues Play Out/Play Off Gozo Stadium

Victoria Hotspurs FC : 1

Xaghra United FC: 2

18’ (0-1) Kenneth Mercieca

25’ (0-2) Michael Bezzina

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).

Xaghra U:

L. Xuereb, J. Bajada (E. Galea), S. Galea, L. Sultana (L. Meilak), M. Cordina, M. Mamo (J. Xuereb), D. Azzopardi, K. Mercieca, F.J. Xuereb, M. Bezzina, L. Garcia Panesso.

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.

Timeline:

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.

34’ (goal disallowed) Victoria’s Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes received the ball from behind Xaghra’s defence and placed it in the net with a low drive but the goal was disallowed for an offside infringement.

36’ The Hotspurs could have reduced the deficit when the defence cleared a free kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes badly but the shot by Ricardo Silva Faria was deflected to a corner.  From the same corner action, a header by Lucas Mancuso ended wide.

40’ (1-2) Hotspurs re-opened the issue when a free kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes hit the crossbar and from the rebound, Andrea Debrincat headed in a goal from close distance.

44’ (protests for penalty) The Hotspurs claimed a penalty following a challenge between Xaghra’s Luke Meilak and Victoria’s Ricardo Silva Faria.

45’ Xaghra’s goalie Lorjean Xuereb was called to make a good intervention to block a strike from a good position by a good shot by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes / Ricardo Silva Faria.

HT (1-2)

Second Half

The Hotspurs increased their efforts in an attempt to recover the deficit from the early stages of the second period but they failed to capitalise on some early chances and as time passed by Xaghra grew in confidence and made it very difficult for the Hotspurs to create danger.

1’ (post) The Hotspurs almost clinched the equaliser in their first attempt of the second half but the effort by Lucas Mancuso, from a corner kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes that was prolonged towards the goalmouth by the defence, hit the post.

2’ Xaghra replied with a strike by Leiner Garcia Panesso that ended away from goal.

5’ (crossbar) The Hotspurs were again unlucky when an effort by Brandon Said following another corner kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes was cleared within the area by goalie Lorjean Xuereb and Brandon Said stretched to take the ball but the attempt of the striker hit the crossbar.

19’ Xaghra’s goalie Lorjean Xuereb was called to make a difficult save to turn to a corner a shot from outside the area by Lucas Mancuso.

30’ Xaghra missed a golden opportunity to seal the win when Kenneth Mercieca received the ball at an unmarked position inside Victoria’s area but the striker saw his shot that ended wide.

36’ Victoria was denied from scoring the equaliser with a fine save by Lorjean Xuereb who managed to deflect an attempt directly from a free kick by Olimpio Gabriel Fernandes and the defence cleared the ball from the danger area with difficulty.

45+2’ Xaghra were again dangerous through a shot from a long distance by Leiner Garcia Panesso that ended away from the goal

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)

Referee: Darryl Agius

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