Pieta Hotspurs on Friday became the first team in the Premier League to lose their top-flight status following their 3-2 defeat to Birkirkara at the National Stadium.
Goals from Yannick Yankam, Osvaldo Iorio and Alex Alves handed all three points for Birkirkara and ensured they would finish in the runners-up spot in the Premier League standings as well as booking a return to European football this summer.
However, on the other hand, the result had serious ramifications for the Hotspurs, who have been relegated to the Challenge League with one match to spare.
The defeat to Birkirkara left Pieta at the bottom of the standings with 11 points, three points adrift of Sta Lucia and Żebbuġ Rangers who are in action on Saturday against Ħamrun Spartans and Mosta respectively.
The Hotspurs’ failure of picking up at least a point against Birkirkara, has automatically condemned them to relegation. This is because should Żebbuġ Rangers and Sta Lucia lose both their final two league matches and Pieta beat Sirens, it would still be not enough for them, despite finishing level on points with their rivals.
According to the MFA rules, when three teams finish level on points, the direct confrontations between the three sides are taken into consideration and the two teams with the highest number of points from these matches proceed to a decider while the other drops out, and in this case is automatically relegated.
Looking at this year’s results, Pieta have only won one match against their rivals, a 1-0 win over Żebbuġ in the first round, while Żebbuġ has two wins – 2-0 against Pieta and 2-0 against Santa Lucia.
On the other hand, Sta Lucia also have two wins in this ‘mini-tournament’ after defeating Pieta Hotspurs 2-1 and overcoming Żebbuġ Rangers 2-1.
Thus the Hotspurs have now become the first team to lose their top-flight status and will be playing in the Challenge League next season.
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