Sliema Wanderers came back from one goal down to beat Rabat Ajax 2-1.
This fourth consecutive win for the Wanderers enables them to start the second phase on 22 points, two behind third-placed Hibernians and six behind leaders Birkirkara. The Magpies, on the other hand, will start the Relegation Pool with just three points.
Rabat lacked Aidan Azzopardi, Adam Smeir and Dani Pelaez while Sliema coach Alfonso Greco could not count on the suspended Paltemio Barbetti, Mark Scerri and John Mintoff and the injured Abubakar Bello-Osagie.
The Wanderers had the first attempt at goal with an Admir Vladavic effort ending just wide on the 10th minute. Eight minutes later, a header by Stefano Bianciardi was neutralised by Velimirovic aided by the crossbar.
Rabat took the lead on the 40th when off a cross from the right, Diego Carrillo controlled the ball and rounded a defender before hitting hard past Glenn Zammit.
Two minutes later, Velimirovic came to the rescue blocking into a corner a shot from the left by Admir Vladavic.
Ryan Micallef concluded a fine solo effort with a shot from outside the area hitting the foot of the upright on the hour.
Ten minutes later, Sliema levelled matters when off an assist by Ivan Woods from the left, Matias Muchardi’s first-time effort gave the Rabat goalkeeper no chance.
Nine minutes from time, Pavle Velimirovic came to the rescue for Rabat turning into a corner a fine shot by Woods from outside the area. From the resulting corner, Stanley Ohawuchi’s low shot ended at the back of the net.
RABAT Pavle Velimirovic, Shaun Gauci, David Azzopardi, Dylan Falzon, Ivan Carapic, Joseph Caruana, Diego Carrillo Pendas, Sorin Oproiescu (87′ Chris Vella), Ryan Micallef (75′ Patrick Borg),, Malcolm Licari, Jonathan Bajada.
Subs not used: Jonathan Azzopardi, Zachary Tanti, Stefan Cortis, Etienne Scicluna, Darren Borg.
Coach: Steve D’Amato
SLIEMA Glenn Zammit, Alex Muscat, Jacob Borg, Stanley Ohawuchi, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Ivan Woods (86′ Kane Farrugia), Trevor Cilia, Matias Muchardi, Beppe Muscat (63′ Axl Xuereb), Stefano Bianciardi, Admir Vladavic.
Subs not used: Henry Bonello, Clive Psaila, Alex Podda, Liam Cachia, Gabriel Aquilina.
Coach: Alfonso Greco
Referee: Trustin Farrugia Cann
Assistant Referees: Luke Portelli, David Castillo
Fourth Official: Chris Lautier
Yellow Cards: Oproiescu, Carrillo, Carapic, Falzon, Bajada, G. Zammit
Scorers: 40′ Diego Carrillo Pendas, 70′ Matias Muchardi, 82′ Stanley Ohawuchi
BOV Player of the Match: Stanley Ohawuchi
Attendance at the Victor Tedesco Stadium: 862
Photo: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
At the Hibernians Stadium, Birkirkara returned to winning ways as they beat Vittoriosa Stars 4-1.
The Stripes will therefore start the Championship Pool on the 28-point mark while Vittoriosa Stars will start their Relegation Pool commitments on nine points.
Ronaille Calheira Seara made his debut for Birkirkara when he was included as a substitute. They welcomed back Joseph Zerafa but lacked Edward Herrera and Nikola Vukanac. Vittoriosa, on the other hand, lacked Siraj Arab.
The Stripes took the lead on the 12th minute when off a Frank Temile freekick, a header by Matheus Bissi da Silva was partially saved by the goalkeeper and Alejandro Mendoza’s header off the rebound beat Mario Muscat.
Birkirkara doubled the score on the 35th when a Jhonnattann effort hit the upright and Haruna Shola Shodiya entered the area and fired a low shot which ended at the back of the net.
Haruna Shola Shodiya made it 3-0 on 59 minutes with a powerful shot from outside the penalty area.
Four minutes later, Marcelo Pereira pulled one back for Vittoriosa with a rising shot from inside the area which beat Haber.
Ronaille went close for Birkirkara with a shot from outside the area ending just past the upright on 76 minutes and then a Frank Temile effort was turned into a corner by Mario Muscat.
However on the 90th, an assist by Zach Muscat put Frank Temile in an ideal position to score and the Birkirkara striker beat Muscat with a low shot to make it 4-1.
VITTORIOSA Mario Muscat, Clive Brincat, Samir Arab (55′ Luke Vella Critien), Michael Camilleri, Ousmane Sidibe, Malcolm Buttigieg, Oscar Guerrero, Federico Santaguida (46′ David Mitogo Garcia), Marcelo Pereira, Francisco Arriagada Mella (85′ Carl Sammut), Clive Spiteri.
Subs not used: Sean Cini, Ryan Mifsud, Sheldon Grech, Liam Gauci.
Coach: Oliver Spiteri
B’KARA Justin Haber, Paul Fenech, Alejando Mendoza Corujo, Matheus Bissi da Silva (64′ Daniel Zerafa), Frank Temile, Gareth Sciberras (89′ Antoine Borg), Ryan Scicluna, Joseph Zerafa, Haruna Shola Shodiya, Zach Muscat, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao (62′ Ronaille Calheira Seara).
Subs not used: Reuben Gauci, Rowen Muscat, Ryan Camenzuli, Terence Vella.
Coach: Paul Zammit
Referee: Philip Farrugia.
Assistant Referees: Edward Spiteri, Sammy Attard
Fourth Official: Marco Borg
Yellow Cards: F. Arriagada Mella, C.Brincat, R. Scicluna, M. Buttigieg
Scorers: 12’ Alejandro Mendoza, 35’ Shodiya Haruna Shola, 59’ Shodiya Haruna Shola(B), 63’ Marcelo Pereira (V), 90’ Frank Temile (B)
BOV Player of the Match: Shodiya Haruna Shola (Birkirkara)
Attendance at the Hibernians Stadium: 1,029