Sliema Wanderers secured a place in the Championship Pool thanks to a 3-1 win over Qormi in a direct clash at the Hibernians Stadium.
The Wanderers join Birkirkara in fourth place on 32 points. Qormi, on the other hand, stay seventh on 26 points, two behind Balzan. The first phase comes to an end in two weeks’ time as Qormi take on Marsaxlokk and Balzan Youths face Tarxien Rainbows.
Following a goalless first half, Sliema took the lead ten minutes in the second half when Emiliano Lattes took advantage of a defensive blunder and chipped the ball over goalkeeper Matthew Farrugia.
The Blues doubled the score on 67 minutes thanks to Nikola Bogdanovic who concluded a solo run with a low shot that beat the Qormi custodian.
Qormi pulled one back three minutes later after Joseph Farrugia converted a penalty following a foul on Jorge Pereira da Silva inside the area.
Three minutes from time, Beppe Muscat received a second yellow card and was therefore sent off by referee Fyodor Zammit. Three minutes later, Qormi also had a player sent off – Roderick Sammut.
Eyenga Anicet sealed the issue with a third goal for the Wanderers one minute in added time when he received a pass by Ryan Fenech, hitting home from close range.
Emiliano Lattes was voted BOV Player of the Match.
QORMI Matthew Farrugia, Roderick Sammut, Matthew Bartolo, Joseph Chetcuti, Joseph Farrugia, Jonathan Bondin, Jorge Pereira da Silva, Kris Thackray, Triston Caruana, Abubakar Bello Osagie (46′ Caio Garcia Suguino), Vincent Koaudio Adioumani (66′ Federico Mirarchi).
Subs not used: Steve Sultana, Luke Sciberras, Kenneth Scicluna, Stephen Wellman, Ranier Buhagiar.
Coach: Stephen Azzopardi
SLIEMA Henry Bonello, Alex Muscat, Nikola Bogdanovic, Josef Mifsud, Danial Mitev (72′ Eyenga Anicet), Steve Bezzina, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (46′ Beppe Muscat), Trevor Cilia (80′ Ryan Grech), Ryan Fenech, Rumen Galabov, Emiliano Lattes.
Subs not used: Anthony Curmi, Ryan Dalli, Cleavon Frendo, Jeremiah Ani.
Referee: Fyodor Zammit
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Thomas Debono
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: A. Muscat, K. Thackray, R. Fenech, B. Muscat, J. Mifsud, J. Chetcuti, R. Galabov
Red Cards: 88′ Beppe Muscat, 89′ Roderick Sammut
Scorers: 55′ Emiliano Lattes (S); 67′ Nikola Bogdanovic (S); 71′ Joseph Farrugia pen (Q); 90+1′ Anicet Eyenga (S)
Hamrun Spartans scored five in the second half to turn defeat into victory, beating Marsaxlokk 6-2.
Ironically the Southseasiders managed to take the lead on the 13th minute when Peter Taiye Oladotun served Jean Paul Farrugia who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Omar Borg.
Hamrun levelled matters ten minutes later when Gaetan Spiteri served Kevin Sammut who headed the ball in the direction of Gianluca Calabretta who placed the ball at the back of the net.
Eight minutes from the end of the first half, Marsaxlokk regained the lead when Alex Cesar Pedrozo released Peter Taiye Oladotun who entered the penalty area before slotting past the Hamrun custodian.
The Spartans restored equilibrium two minutes in the second half when Massimo Grima headed the ball home off a Matthew Gauci corner.
Hamrun forged ahead on 69 minutes thanks to a goal by Gianluca Calabretta, when served by Kevin Sammut.
Two minutes later, a direct freekick by Massimo Grima made it 4-2 for the Spartans.
Stefan Sultana’s side was now comfortably in control, increasing the lead on 74 minutes through Dene Shields who took the rebound after a Gaetan Spiteri effort hit the woodwork.
Eight minutes from time, the Spartans scored the sixth goal through Ronni Hartvig who headed the ball home off a cross by David Camilleri.
Massimo Grima was voted BOV Player of the Match.
HAMRUN Omar Borg, Steve Bonnici, Gianluca Calabretta, Ronni Hartvig, Matthew Gauci, Massimo Grima (83′ Luke Grech), Lee James Agius (60′ Rupert Mangion), Kevin Sammut, David Camilleri, Dene Shields, Gaetan Spiteri (75′ Daniel Zerafa).
Subs not used: Andrea Cassar, Glenn Azzopardi, Diego Cucciardi, Ryan Spiteri.
Coach: Stefan Sultana
M’XLOKK Christian Cassar, Patrick Borg, Clive Brincat, Trevor Templeman, Nemanja Stoskovic (83′ Sacha Borg), Craig Debattista (79′ Modesto Valeriani), Luke Agius (62′ Sunday Eboh), Jean Paul Farrugia, Gary Caruana, Peter Taiye Oladotun, Alex Cesar Pedrozo.
Subs not used: Jurgen Muscat, Gabriel Buttigieg, Jermain Brincat, Darrel Grech.
Coach: Anton Cremona
Asst. Coach: Louis Cutajar
Referee: Glenn Tonna
Assistant Referees: Konrad Borg, Alex Grech
Fourth Official: Malcolm Spiteri
Yellow Cards: Agius, Hartvig, Stoskovic, Grima
Scorers: 11′ Jean Paul Farrrugia (M); 22′ Gianluca Calabretta (H); 36′ Peter Taiye Oladotun (M); 47′ Massimo Grima (H); 69′ Gianluca Calabretta (H); 72′ Massimo Grima (H); 75′ Dene Shields (H); 82′ Ronni Hartvig