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Luxol extent unbeaten run to save their season

Published: Tue 07 May 2024, 14:18
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CHALLENGE LEAGUE RELEGATION DECIDER 2023/24
05.05.2024, Centenary Stadium

St Andrews 1 Luqa St Andrew’s 0 aet

Last Sunday, St Andrews managed to defeat their near namesakes from Luqa thanks to a late extra time goal, to remain for another season in the National Challenge League. With five victories and five draws, the team of coach Vesko Petrovic remained undefeated in the Play-Out group, finishing off their great escape in this additional match, a Decider which brought with the usual tension. It was a match which lacked goalmouth action, with Luqa showing the better ideas but ‘Luxol’ who managed to win the match, despite creating very few opportunities throughout the game.

While St Andrews could field their best XI, Luqa were seriously hampered by the one-match suspension Camilo Sanchez, who accumulated his fourth yellow card last weekend and had to sit this crucial match out. The Colombian striker had an excellent season and knocked in 11 league goals for the original St Andrew’s and was duly missed as the team lacked punch up front. Furthermore, coach Edmond Lufi was watching his team from the stands as the Albanian-born mentor had to sit out a suspension as well. Assistant coach Nicolai Slavchev was leading the team from the side-lines. In the league, the two kept each other in perfect balance with two 2-2 draws.

The opening fifteen minutes most certainly belonged to Luqa, who threatened several times through Alan Abdel Rahman, Emmanuel Bio and Collins Gyamfi. It was however Luxol who came close on the half hour when goalkeeper Miguel Spiteri blocked a Wagner header from a precise Yanis Tonna cross from the right flank. It was one of the few highlights during the first half, as goalmouth action was limited. St Andrews received a setback when Ghanese centre-back Asante Agyeman had to be replaced injured on 38 minutes.

Luxol came gradually better into the match after the break, with substitute Samuel Nyetam nearly capitalizing on a Fabien Lufi error in defence, but the grounder of the Cameroon forward missed direction and did not trouble Spiteri. On 73 minutes on the other side, Jake Pisani did well to save a Bio grounder from the edge of the area, from an attack being set-up by Gyamfi on the left flank from a long throw-in. Luxol escaped in stoppage time when Abdel Rahman missed a sitter from close-range with only Pisani to beat. Play remained scrappy until the very end of the 90 minutes, with the match going into extra time.

Six minutes into extra time, Fabien Lufi received a straight red card after an incident on the goal-line with Timothy Cassar-Torreggiani while waiting for a corner to be delivered, with the Luqa captain appeared to have knocked down the Luxol youngster. On 112 minutes, Nathan Sultana drilled against the crossbar for Luxol, with Spiteri beaten. But even against ten, quite disappointingly, St Andrews failed to threaten the opposite goal with Luqa continuing to press forward whenever it could. However, with two minutes regular time left, Nyetam scored the decisive goal from close-range when the Luqa rear-guard failed to clear the danger from a Luxol attack. Luqa were stunned and return to Amateur League football after just one season, certainly a relegation which could have been avoided.