Vittoriosa Stars 1
Naxxar Lions 2
After his double against Lija Athletic had helped Naxxar seal promotion the previous week, Anthony Ewurum again stole the limelight at the Tedesco Stadium yesterday. The Nigerian striker scored a stoppage-time winner for the Lions in their title decider against Vittoriosa Stars after both teams had finished the season on equal points.
It was sweet revenge for Naxxar who lost twice in the league to Vittoriosa this season. This time, however, Winston Muscat’s team deserved their victory.
This was not Vittoriosa’s day. Lydon Micallef was sent off late in the match after Vittoriosa had lost influential forward Marcelo Pereira to injury.
Naxxar coach Muscat decided to field the same formation that had the better of Lija, again leaving Daren Falzon and Anderson Mendes Ribeiro on the substitutes’ bench.
The Lions enjoyed more possession in the first 45 minutes but Vittoriosa, with Pereira and Micallef very active in attack, had their moments and also created scoring chances.
Inside the opening two minutes, the Stars put the Naxxar rearguard under pressure from a Gary Muir free-kick with Kurt Drago hesitating in his own box. Goalkeeper Julian Azzopardi came to Drago’s rescue by booting the ball away.
At the other end, Sunday Eboh saw his header saved by Jean Matthias Vella, the Vittoriosa Stars goalkeeper. Then, from a melee inside the Vittoriosa box, Eboh looked odds-on to score but delayed his conclusion and gave away possession.
Midway through the first half, Naxxar’s Andrea Rocha da Silva drove wide following a Pabo Doffo free-kick. On the half-hour Pereira outpaced keeper Azzopardi but Eboh averted the danger with a timely block.
Rocha Da Silva’s powerful drive from the edge of the area was kept out by Vella and a minute later, Vittoriosa produced a fine move between Samir Arab, Pereira and Muir, with the latter hitting a grounder that was stopped by Azzopardi.
Vittoriosa showed significant progress in the second half.
They pounced on the slow-moving Naxxar defence to take the lead on 58 minutes when Pereira sprinted down the right flank and crossed for the unmarked Micallef who slotted home.
On 63 minutes, it was Pereira again who found space on the flank but his delivery to Micallef was blocked by the alert Lions keeper Azzopardi.
Naxxar began to venture forward in the late stages but with very little success until the Stars’ hopes were jolted when Pereira had to leave with a muscle problem.
On 77 minutes, the scores became even when substitute Falzon headed home a Doffo corner.
Extra time was looming when Vittoriosa’s Micallef was sent off three minutes from time for dissent.
Naxxar profited from the situation to hit the winning goal four minutes into stoppage time when Ewurum tapped the ball home from a Doffo corner.
After the match, MFA treasurer Antoine Portelli presented the trophy to Naxxar captain Victor Bellia.
Vittoriosa: J.M. Vella, S. Grech, M. Pereira (E. Qordja), M. Buttigieg, G. Muir, L. Vella Critien, L. Micallef, R. Dos Santos, Siraj Arab, M. Tabone, Samir Arab.
Naxxar: J. Azzopardi, L. Micallef (D. Falzon), J. Vella, K. Drago (G. Camilleri), S. Eboh (M. Del Negro), V. Bellia, A. Rocha da Silva, M. Briffa, P. Doffo, A. Buhagiar, A. Ewurum.
Referee: Fyodor Zammit.
Man of the match: Pablo Doffo (Naxxar Lions).