Jean Paul Farrugia and Johann Bezzina struck late to relegate Naxxar Lions from the premier league.

Naxxar Lions looked set for a remarkable escape after coming back from Denni’s early opener for Sliema. Edu Vallecillo put his side temporarily in front with a brace on either side of the half-time.

If Naxxar had an interest in winning to make sure of keeping alive their hopes of saving their status, Sliema were only there to honour the fixture as they have shifted their focus on the Trophy competition.

The first opportunity fell to Naxxar within the first ten minutes. Vallecillo ran to a cross-service from Angus Buhagiar but Entonjo Elezaj pulled off a great save.

After Alex Muscat’s humdinger was spectacularly tipped over the bar by Alberto Gallinetta, Sliema’s pressure paid dividends in the shape of a penalty after Debono’s clumsy attempt at blocking Denni’s run into the box. The Brazilian striker broke the deadlock from the rebound after having his penalty saved by the Italian goalkeeper.

The Lions were shell-shocked. They could have been muted to death had not Gallinetta blocked Farrugia’s effort. But Mizzi’s troops soon created a chance of their own. Andrew Scicluna could only deflect a Vallecillo corner wide off Elezaj’s far post.

However four minutes from half-time, Naxxar levelled after being awarded a penalty. The referee spotted a handsball by the sliding Clifford Gatt Baldacchino who tried to block Vallecillo’s run into the box. The Spaniard made no mistake from the spot to make it 1-1.

It was all Naxxar now. The second half was just over a minute old when Naxxar put their noses in front. An exquisite ball by Debono landed at the feet of Valecillo who burst clear to hit a low drive past Elezaj.

The game was being played at a good tempo and Naxxar could have grabbed another when Elezaj stopped Tourè getting on the end of a Vallecillo cross.

But Sliema always looked dangerous and past the hour mark, they got their equaliser when Farrugia bustled his way into the box and arrowed his effort behind Gallinetta.

Naxxar knew that another Sliema goal could plunge them back into the mire and Sliema deservedly surged ahead on 64 minutes. And it was a fine goal as Johann Bezzina’s dipping shot soared above a host of players and into the net.

Vallecillo had one last chance to save the day but he headed into the side-netting as Farrugia ended Naxxar’s hopes of another season in the top flight with a close-range shot from Peter Xuereb’s back-heel pass.

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