Birkirkara and Swieqi United are the two teams that will contend the first major silverware of the season when they will rub shoulders in Wednesday’s Assikura Women’s Super Cup.
This coveted trophy makes its return in the domestic season’s agenda after an absence of two consecutive years due to the Covid-19 pandemic that had disrupted the timetable of the local competitions.
The Stripes, winners of the first ever edition back in 2005, will be vying for a sixth success that would put them just one shy from the all-time winning record held by Hibernians.
The Paolites are the most successful team in the Super Cup with seven triumphs, their last being in 2018.
Birkirkara, led by coach Jose Borg, repeated their 2005 success in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2019 as well.
Their last title being clinched at the National Stadium when they hit Mġarr United for five.
Reigning champions and current leaders of the Assikura Women’s League, Birkirkara start as favourites to pick up another local title.
They will be facing Swieqi as winners of last season’s domestic championship which they clinched with 50 points in 18 games under the guidance of former coach Melania Bajada.
She led the Stripes to 16 wins and two draws, and to a success in the Knock-Out competition as well which means that Swieqi are contending this Super Cup as the second-place side in the 2021/2022 championship.
Last season, Birkirkara defeated Swieqi on two occasions – 3-1 and 1-0, while drawing 2-2 in their season finale which helped them extend their unbeaten league run, which is ongoing – now at 76.
Their 76-game streak includes also the two head-to-head against the Owls this season. They drew their league opener, 1-1, before Sara Saliba handed Birkirkara a narrow 1-0 win in their most recent direct encounter.
“We have already faced Swieqi United this season. The first game was very tough and I would say that sharing the points was a just result for both of us,” Birkirkara’s coach Borg told the Times of Malta.
“In the second game, I think we were slightly better as we were very tactically disciplined and that allowed us to win the game.
Overall, I have a very good impression of Swieqi and I deem them as a very strong team having quality players in every department.”
Borg expects a close affair in this final and hopes that the two teams provide a spectacle which will continue to boost the local women’s game.
Despite the leading standings, Birkirkara have struggled to make the most of their chances as they have scored just 15 goals so far.
Swieqi (31), Hibernians (30) and Mġarr United (20) have all scored more than the Stripes. However, Birkirkara make up for their lack of goals with solid defending as they boast the best defensive record with just two goals allowed – level with Swieqi.
“We do not have depth in our offensive department as most of them are wingers and midfielders,” Borg pointed out.
“That is one of the reasons we are not capitalising on our chances despite controlling possession, even against the big teams.
That means it is important for us to be cautious and organised at the back so that we stay in the game for as long as possible as we know that we still have enough capabilities to find a goal at any time of the game.
Swieqi, on their part, are striving to collect their maiden major title in local women’s game.
Their sole silverware so far is a Second Division title in the 2016/2017 which at the time, it was a turning point for the Owls as this enabled them to clinch promotion in the top-tier.
From then onwards, they never looked back as they always strived for improvement and in recent campaigns they established themselves as one of the most competitive sides in the domestic scene.
After finishing runners-up in both league and cup last season, Swieqi invested in their squad to assemble a competitive squad that could challenge Birkirkara for the title.
One of their major changes was in their technical staff having entrusted their project to Dutch coach Judith Kuipers.
So far, she steered the Owls to 14 points in 7 games including four wins and two draws. Their only defeat was at the hands of Wednesday’s rivals, against whom they also conceded the two goals in this campaign.
“We faced each other twice so far and we provided a good challenge for each other,” Kuipers underlined.
“Despite the results, I still believe that Swieqi has a better team but we must show it through the points we pick along the road.
That is a process which takes time especially when there is a new coach and new players on board, but we are all upbeat about the next part of the season starting from this final.”
Asked about what type of game she is expecting against Birkirkara, the Dutch coach said that it will be hard because they will be facing a strong side but believes that the game can go anywhere as both sides are able to create goal scoring chances.
“It is an important game, like the others that we have on our schedule and we are aware of our results so far against the Stripes,” Kuipers pointed out.
“We would like to change that as we want to become better and grow as a team in order to bring more victories to the club.”
LIST OF WINNERS
Hibernians – 7 (2006, 2007, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)
Birkirkara – 5 (2005, 2008, 2010, 2017, 2019)
Mosta – 3 (2009, 2011, 2012)
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