Ħamrun Spartans 0
Qormi 2

Farrugia 43 pen.; Effiong 82

Qormi have ensured another season in the Premier League after they eased past Ħamrun 2-0 in a nailbiting encounter at the National Stadium yesterday, in the process condemning the Spartans to relegation.

Jesmond Zerafa's men delivered a diligent performance as they soaked the Spartans' pressure for the whole 90 minutes. The Spartans' hopes were dealt a setback when Joseph Farrugia put Qormi ahead from a penalty late in the first half and Alfred Effiong killed off his former team with a late goal.

Ħamrun finished level with Msida and Tarxien on 16 points but they have been relegated due to their inferior head-to-head record against the Saints and the Rainbows who will play each other in a relegation decider.

The Spartans' sadness at losing their Premier League status was compounded by the realisation that veteran striker Stefan Sultana, the Premier League's all-time top scorer, ended his extraordinay playing career on a very low note.

Ħamrun coach Stephen D'Amato had no fewer than four key players missing yesterday as Sylvano Comvalius, Steve Meilaq, Mark Anthony Bonnici and Gaetan Spiteri were all serving a one-match ban.

Sultana, Neville Galea, and Diego Armando Cucciardi were handed a starting berth while Aaron Attard was preferred to the not-fully-fit Jonathan Bondin.

Qormi coach Zerafa kept faith with the same team that beat Msida St Joseph last week.

A huge roar greeted the two teams as they ran onto the pitch for kick-off.

Ryan Fenech should have given the Spartans a headstart after seven minutes. The Malta international elegantly swept past two Qormi defenders but shot wide with only Matthew Farrugia to beat.

At the other end, Joseph Chetcuti muscled his way past Roderick Fenech but his low shot was too weak to trouble Ivan Casha, the Ħamrun goalkeeper.

The Spartans fans shouted 'goal' after 16 minutes when Ryan Fenech free-kick's was deflected into the net by Sultana but referee Kevin Azzopardi disallowed the 'goal' after ruling that the striker had touched the ball with his hand. Sultana also received a yellow card for his offence.

The game remained balanced with the Spartans seeing more of the ball and Qormi happy to sit back and try to hit their opponents with swift breaks by Effiong.

Scoring chances were few and far between and we had to wait until the 38th minute to witness a noteworthy opportunity. Ryan Fenech produced a fierce drive but the ball whizzed past the far post.

Qormi's optimism increased when, three minutes from the end of the first half, Effiong burst into the area and was upended by Casha. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Farrugia scored to give Qormi a 1-0 half-time lead.

The Spartans had a glorious chance to pull level on the stroke of half-time when Matthew Farrugia mistimed his sortie on Florin Anton's long cross but Sultana incredibly blasted wide in front of a gaping goal.

Thirteen minutes into the second half, the Spartans were forced to make their first change when Attard limped off injured. He was replaced by Bondin.

The expected fightback by the Spartans failed to materialise at the start of the second half as they looked short of ideas.

It was Qormi who almost made it 2-0 on the hour when Effiong served Chetcuti whose low shot was well saved by Casha.

Two minutes later, Cucciardi finally threatened for the Spartans but his half-volley was blocked by the diving Farrugia.

The Qormi goalkeeper again distinguished himself on 67 minutes when he dived full stretch to push away Sultana's volley from a Galea cross.

Twenty minutes from time, Cucciardi came close for the Spartans but his long-range drive was pushed away by the excellent Farrugia. From the resultant corner, the Qormi no.1 was again at his best to punch away Zoran Levnaic's header.

As the Spartans increased the pressure, Zerafa looked to bolster his defensive lines when he withdrew Josivan Da Silva and roped in Stephen Wellman.

Ten minutes from time, Ryan Fenech centred another dangerous cross towards Mano Micallef who headed just wide.

However, any hopes the Spartans had of saving the game were extinguished eight minutes from time when Casha and Roderick Fenech failed to deal with a long pass towards the sprinting Effiong.

The ball fell kindly to the Nigerian who had little difficulty depositing the ball into an empty net, much to the delight of the Qormi fans who can look forward to another season among the big boys of Maltese football.

Ħamrun Spartans
I. Casha-5, D.A. Cucciardi-6, Z. Levnaic-6.5, Rod. Fenech-6, S. Sultana-5, Ryan Fenech-7.5, R. Mangion-6.5, N. Galea-6, F. Anton-6, M. Micallef-6, A. Attard-5.5 ('58 J. Bondin-6).

Qormi
M. Farrugia-8, R. Dos Santos-7, M. Grima-6.5 ('79 A. Ciantar), K. Fenech-7 ('87 S. Tellus), A. Effiong-7, J. Chetcuti-6, J. Farrugia-7, R. Sammut-6.5, M. Borg-6, J. Da Silva-5 ('74 S. Wellman), P. Camilleri-6.

Referee: Kevin Azzopardi.

Yellow cards: Sultana; Farrugia; Mangion; Anton; Ryan Fenech; Effiong; Chetcuti.

BoV player of the match: Ryan Fenech (Ħamrun).

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