The Malta Independent 25 September 2020, Friday

Floriana and Sliema Wanderers going for big finish to make European dreams come true

Silvio Vella Saturday, 20 May 2017, 06:42 Last update: about 4 years ago

Today’s FA Trophy final, between Floriana and Sliema Wanderers, the two clubs with the richest history in local football, is expected to be a fitting finale to a domestic season that has not been of the highest grade.

The two clubs renew their ‘old firm’ rivalry when they play in this 79th edition of the FA Trophy final at Ta’Qali National Stadium at 5pm with plenty at stake.

Today’s winner will not only add another piece of silverware and be the first to lay hands on the newly designed trophy, but also gain automatic participation in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League next season and the financial rewards that this brings with it.

Floriana and Sliema, occasionally exciting but equally unpredictable in this year’s league campaign, have proved themselves the best of the rest after the top four by some distance in fifth and sixth place respectively, but have made it successfully to this edition of the FA Trophy and one of them may end up winning the second best honour of the season.

While addressing the media at Ta’ Qali yesterday morning, both coaches were of the opinion that today’s final is a ‘stand-alone’ match, irrispective of their domestic form in the league.

Floriana coach Giovanni Tedesco, who most probably will be guiding the Greens for the last time, hinted that Sliema, as the holders of the competition, begin as slight favourites.

“But we are aware of  the quality and strength of our squad and we will give it our best. Winning the Trophy has great significance for a club like Floriana and it will guarantee us a place in Europe”.

Talking about the championship, one of Tedesco’s regrets was the failure to beat Sliema Wanderers in the three matches played so far this season.

“But it was a very difficult campaign and we have made mistakes that hindered the team from keeping up the pace with our opponents and make further progress. I take all the responsibility for that” admitted Tedesco.

Sliema coach John Buttigieg made it clear that his side’s objective this season was always to qualify for European competition.

“But that is not easy” emphasized Buttigieg, who only this week has signed a two-year extension to his contract with Sliema Wanderers.

“Winning a European berth is always very difficult, as it has proved this season, and it requires a top-three finish. We have reduced the gap with the teams above us but it is still not enough and we have to work harder in the coming years to reach the top”.

Despite Sliema beat Floriana three times this season, Buttigieg sees no favourite for today’s Trophy final.

“A final is always a final. This is a difficult match because we are facing very strong opponents who even finished above us in the league. But my players will do their best to win”.

John Buttigieg also highlighted the importance of the financial aspect when winning such a competition and hopes it will be a good attraction.

“I am looking forward to this final. We are two teams that can offer a spectacle for Maltese football and I expect a good attendance at Ta’ Qali tomorrow (today)” commented Buttigieg.

Sliema Wanderers have won the FA Trophy 21 times since 1935, when the British FA donated the silver trophy to the MFA to be played on the model of the FA Cup. They were the winners in that first edition, also beating Floriana 4-0. This will be the Wanderers’ fifth final in the last ten years. Floriana are next best with 19 wins and the last time they reached the final and won this competition was in 2011 after beating Valletta 1-0.

Also present for the media conference were the sides’ captains, Nicola Chiesa for Floriana and Alex Muscat for Sliema Wanderers.

Chiesa, who at 37 said he has still the verve to keep on playing for Floriana, thinks Sliema are a very strong side that have beaten Floriana three times already this season. But, while showing respect for their opponents, the Greens will not be intimidated.

“We know their strengths, but also their weaknesses” said Chiesa. “We have prepared ourselves well for this match. I believe we have the foreigners who can do the difference”.

Alex Muscat, who will lead his team to a second consecutive FA Trophy final, following last year’s win over Balzan, preferred to attribute Sliema’s success this season to team spirit and group ethics, thanks to the good work by their coach.

“On the day, we can win it if we stay joined up and work well as a unit. This final merits a good attendance which gives us extra motivation. It should be a very balanced match” predicted Muscat.

Team mate Denni Dos Santos agrees that this year’s Trophy final between two very good teams, offers great expectations and it could be a most memorable one.

Floriana goalkeeper Justin Haber is eagre to lay hands on this Trophy. The last time Floriana won it, six years ago, he was playing abroad. He is expecting all Floriana supporters to be behind the team today.

Today’s winners will be awarded a newly designed Trophy, which has been manufactured by the renowned silversmiths Thomas Lyte of London, to replace the old cup.

 

THE ROAD TO THE FINAL

FLORIANA

Round 3: v Birzebbuga   5-0

Round 4: v Ghajnsielem  4-1

Q/finals:  v Hamrun S      2-0

S/finals:  v SK Victoria W  3-1

 

 

SLIEMA WANDERERS

Round 3:  v Mosta        3-2

Round 4:  v Qrendi       5-0

Q/finals:   v Senglea A  0-0 (3-2 on pens)

S/finals:    v Tarxien R   3-0

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