SK Victoria Wanderers won the 30th edition of the Independence Cup thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win over holders Victoria Hotspurs. The Wanderers were much in control of play for 85 minutes of play but the Hotspurs produced a determined reaction during the final stages and the match went through exciting and controversial moments, ending only after nine minutes of stoppage time.
The Wanderers had a player sent off two minutes from regular time and in the second minute of stoppage time the Hotspurs scored the equalizer during an action where a Wanderers player, Joseph Vella who came in as a substitute during the first period, was walking out of the pitch following arguments with his colleagues. The Wanderers were allowed to make a substitution for the player after conceding the goal and eventually scored the decisive goal in the sixth minute of injury time.
It is understood that the Hotspurs are claiming a technical error on this decision and are expected to submit a formal protest against the result of the match.
The Hotspurs held territorial supremacy during the early stages of the match and in the 5th minute goalie Franklin Vella turned in corner with difficulty a corner kick by Justin Azzopardi. However, the Wanderers opened the score in their first approach in the Hotspurs area. A free kick by Brian Meilak arrived to an unmarked Akande Williams who headed in goal from close distance.
On 87 minutes, the Wanderers were reduced to ten players when skipper Joseph Refalo committed a second bookable offence.
In the second minute of stoppage time the Wanderers player went through a moment of panic between them following a free kick just outside their area, and Joseph Vella walked out of the pitch. During this episode the Wanderers failed to clear the danger from their area and the ball arrived to an unmarked Kalin Ganchev at the far post who leveled the score with a low drive.
Play took some time to resume due to the substitution and protests for various reasons. The situation became exciting with the two sides going through various risks in an attempt to take the lead. In the sixth minute of stoppage time the Wanderers managed to find a gap through the Hotspurs rearguard by means of Ige Adesina, who released Lauran Dimech and the latter placed in goal with a low shot. One minute later that Hotspurs also ended with ten players on the field as substitute Michael Bongailas was sent off for foul language.
After the final whistle, Mr Vincent Grech, chairman of the Festivities Committee at the Ministry for Gozo, presented the Independence Cup and other trophies to SK Victoria Wanderers vice-captain Chris Sciortino in the presence of the GFA President Mr. Alvin Grech and the GFA General Secretary Mr. Joe Bajada.
VICTORIA H. M. Grima, M. Mifsud (J. Farrugia), A. Zammit (M. Vella), J. Agius, J. Emanche, R. Grech, J. Xerri, J. Azzopardi, R. Mercieca (M. Bongailas), D. Farrugia, K. Ganchev.
SK VICTORIA W. F. Vella, J. Attard, B.Meilak, D.U. Monday, A. Williams, J. Refalo, C. Sciortino, M. Zammit (J. Vella, S. Gatt), L. Dimech (S. Dimech), I. Adesina,A. Adesina.
Referee: Andre Arciola
Scorers: 10′ A. Williams (SKV); 90+2′ K. Ganchev 90+2’ (VH); 90+6′ L. Dimech (SKV)
Meanwhile Xaghra United won the first honour of the season for the lower category by obtaining a close victory with the odd goal from five in their final match against Kercem Ajax. The match lived up to the expectations and confirmed that both Xaghra United and Kercem Ajax have the strength to be among the main protagonists of the second division this season.
Xaghra opened the score on the 9th minute through a close ranged shot by Daniel Bartolo who concluded an inviting cross from the right flank by Michael Bezzina.
Kercem leveled the score on 34 minutes through a close ranged shot by Josef Debrincat following a corner kick by Karol Mifsud.
In the second minute of play of the second period Xaghra regained the lead through an excellent goal by Michael Bezzina who dribbled two direct opponents and placed in the lower corner of the first post with a low shot.
Kercem equalised on 56 minutes through a fine shot by Marlon Mamo who entered the area after receiving a through pass from the midfield.
Xaghra made it 3-2 on 68 minutes when Kercem’s rearguard failed to clear a cross from the right flank by Daniel Attard and from the resultant melee John Attard netted with a low shot.
After the match Mr. Mario Camilleri, representative of Sportika, presented the trophies and medals to Xaghra captain Joseph Bartolo and the players in the presence of GFA President Mr. Alvin Grech and GFA General Secretary Mr. Joe Bajada.
Kercem A. D. Gauci, A. Buttigieg, M.Tabone, F. Camilleri, D. Mercieca, J.P. Mizzi, M. Mamo, M. Zammit, S. Rais, K. Mifsud (L. Camilleri), J. Debrincat (M. Vella).
Xaghra U. M. Vella, D. Attard, J. Attard (J. Galea), S.F. Bajada, D. Bartolo, J. Bartolo, M. Bezzina, M. Buhagiar, A. Farrugia (E. Scerri), E. Grima, S. Sultana.
Referee: Pierre Azzopardi