A remarkable season ended in the perfect way for Floriana with the conquest of the 21st FA Trophy in their history at the expense of arch-rivals Valletta.
Jan Busuttil had given Floriana an early in lead in Sunday’s final but the Citizens managed to level matters with a Mario Fontanella penalty that sent the match into extra-time.
Here, Floriana looked set for a frustrating afternoon when Busuttil missed a penalty in extra-time but substitute Andrei Ciolacu produced a stunning finish to give the Greens a 2-1 win to the delight of their fans.
Under the guidance of Italian tactician Gianluca Atzori, boasting Serie A experience as a coach, the Greens thrived against the odds and produced some of the best football in the domestic scene.
After tasting league success a couple of years ago after an absence of over three decades, Floriana were lurking in the relegation battle in the 2020-21 campaign before it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Johann Said behind the new project, the president who brought the FA Trophy at the Granaries back in 2011, Floriana entered into unchartered territories.
Atzori was depicted as a gamble and then the transfer market started to see an ambitious Greens set-up looking to upgrade their deficiencies.
“It is a huge satisfaction for me because when I embarked on this project, I was not familiar with Maltese football,” Atzori told the Times of Malta.
“I was enthusiastic in taking over this club and I found a splendid group of players that listened to me on a daily basis, managing to produce a fantastic season and this is a huge prize for us.”
The former Sampdoria and Reggina coach lauded the players for their humility which allowed them to improve week after week.
Atzori pointed out that his team was one of the youngest in the Premier League with an average age of 25.8 years, hinting at more improvement for the Greens under his guidance having confirmed to the Times of Malta that he will be still in charge in the 2022-23 season.
“If I am staying here next season? Absolutely, I will be the coach,” Atzori insisted.
One player who has made a further upgrade in his level of play is Maltese youngster Jan Busuttil.
The 23-year-old was an integral part of the Floriana season, making 29 appearances. The seven goals and five assists he tallied do not make justice with his excellent performances upfront, often orchestrating Floriana’s attacks in tandem with Jose Arias.
“I feel that I have matured and improved as a player during this season,” the Floriana forward said.
“All this improvement is down to my team-mates and the coaching staff that have believed in me.
“In this final, we have showcased our abilities and we are pleased to have delivered this success to our fans that are constantly behind us.
“We beat Birkirkara, Hibernians and Valletta en route to this success and this is a bold statement from our end.”
Another fundamental piece in Atzori’s puzzle was hard-working midfielder Matias Garcia, captain of the team and whose displays have caught the eye of Malta national team coach Devis Mangia.
The Malta FA has already filed an application for Garcia to receive his passport and they are hoping that the player will receive the necessary paperwork to feature for the national team for June’s UEFA Nations League qualifiers.
“I am very happy to be part of the Malta national team,” Garcia explained.
“This is thanks to my team-mates and staff of the teams with whom I played that have helped me to grow as a person and as a player.”
For the players that will strive to take Floriana into the next level in 2022-23, there is another one that has bid farewell to the Greens in this special way.
Wingback Ryan Camenzuli will be featuring for Ħamrun Spartans in the upcoming season.
But the wingback has been a formidable player for Floriana until the end and he heaped praise on the supporters who have supported him.
“As everyone knows, this was my final game for Floriana as I will start a new chapter in my career,” Camenzuli said.
“However, I am grateful that we have managed to win this cup and repay the support of our fans with a fantastic success.
“Our primary target was making it into the Top Six before challenging for Europe and we eventually managed to lift the FA Trophy as well – humility and commitment have pushed us forward towards the finishing line.”
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