Emerson Marcelina has warned his Ħamrun Spartans team-mates not to get carried away by their five-star showing against Hibernians on Monday as the Reds made an impressive start to their league campaign.
The Spartans served a real title statement when they brushed aside champions Hibernians 4-1 at the National Stadium as goals from Marcelina, Jonny and an Elvis Mashike late brace handed Branko Nisevic’s troops a perfect start to the campaign.
Ħamrun came into the match against Hibernians just a few days after their impressive run in the UEFA Conference League qualifiers had come to an end with a 3-3 draw against Partizan Belgrade at the National Stadium.
Marcelina admitted that in the build-up to the match against Hibernians he was concerned that the Spartans might approach the match against Hibernians in the wrong way.
“Playing in Europe has given the team a lot of satisfaction this summer,” Marcelina told the Times of Malta.
“We played at such a high level of football that to be honest when we were preparing for the match against Hibernians I was concerned that we might approach the game with some kind of complacency.
“But the team certainly turned up for the job right from the first minute. Everyone played with that hunger and ambition needed to win matches. The intensity in our game was of a high level and that certainly makes the difference when playing in Maltese football.
“To be fair we created a lot of scoring chances and could have won by more. The main difference between the Maltese league and European football is that in UEFA competition if you miss a chance you are immediately punished, in the Maltese league you can make up for it.”
The Spartans this summer became the first Maltese team to reach the Play-Off round of the UEFA Conference League and Marcelina said that the dream run has inevitably injected self belief in the players who are now eyeing to reclaim the Premier League crown.
“Winning the Premier League title is on top of the agenda,” Marcelina said.
“It’s not easy to face a team like Hibernians, controlling the match from start to finish and winning 4-1, that is certainly a sign of our potential. The success achieved in Europe this summer has injected a lot of self belief in every player in our team and that is making all the difference.
“On a personal note I am delighted to have finally scored the first goal for Ħamrun Spartans and hopefully there will be more to come not only from me but also from the rest of the team. The team has a lot of potential to get better and we just need to work harder every day.”
Next up for the Spartans are three matches in the space of seven days against Pieta Hotspurs, Marsaxlokk and Sirens and Marcelina warned that these matches hold much more significance to their title ambitions than the game they played against Hibs.
“I have been playing in Malta for eight years and one thing I have learnt is that if you want to win the league you cannot drop points against the lesser-quoted teams,” the former Floriana midfielder said.
“The next three matches we have in the space of a week are going to be crucial and we cannot afford to drop any points if we are to win the league title. We need to approach the match against Pieta with the same hunger and intensity we faced Hibernians or risk suffering a nasty surprise.
“Our ambition is to win the league and play in the Champions League next summer as it would give us a better chance of reaching the group stages of the Conference League and it’s up to us to realise this dream.”
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