Sliema Wanderers FC wrapped up their 24th Maltese title win after they beat Pietà Hotspurs FC 2-1 on Tuesday and nearest rivals Birkirkara FC fell to a 2-0 defeat against Valletta FC on Wednesday.
The results mean that Sliema have an unassailable eleven-point lead at the top of the table and will enter the UEFA Champions League in the first qualifying round next season. However Sliema had to fight all the way against Pietà, who were reduced to nine men for the last half an hour, after Malcolm Licari and Digger Okonkwo were both shown red cards.
Sliema take the lead
Sliema took the lead after eleven minutes. Rupert Mangion, given a starting berth by coach Edward Aquilina, raced past Pierre Aquilina and the entire Hotspurs defence to beat Saviour Darmanin with a precise effort.
Three minutes before the break Licari was dismissed for abusive language and on 59 minutes it was the turn of Okonkwo to receive his marching orders after a crunching tackle on Rupert Mangion. Nevertheless Pietà clawed their way back into the match when Giacomo Paniccia unleashed a powerful drive which spun off Murphy Akanji's usually safe hands and into the net.
Eight minutes from time though, international defender Brian Said drove in the winner after Kevin Sammut's first effort rebounded off the Pietà woodwork. The goal ensured a ninth consecutive win for Sliema who were crowned champions 24 hours later when Valletta avenged their 7-2 thrashing by Birkirkara in the previous round by surprising the Stripes 2-0. Two well-taken goals from Chris Oretan in the 32nd and 69th minutes killed off Birkirkara's title hopes.
There were two other midweek games. In the championship pool outgoing title holders Hibernians FC beat Marsaxlokk FC thanks to a penalty from Andrew Cohen and a header from Adrian Mifsud.
Relegation issues alive
Meanwhile, in the relegation pool, Floriana FC and Hamrun Spartans FC played out a drab goalless draw which leaves the demotion issues very much alive. Floriana are now just a point ahead of Marsa FC who still have to face bottom club Mosta FC.
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