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BOV Challenge League

Melita proud to have secured Challenge League Championship Pool spot

Tarxien’s Juninho Cabral (right) fends off the challenge of Paul Galea Testaferrata. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Tarxien mark season turnaround with renewed promotion hopes

This season’s BOV Challenge League has finally reached its business end after a battle between the 18 clubs towards securing a top-six Championship Pool spot.

Melita secured top-six football only last weekend with a goalless draw against Tarxien at the Luxol Ground and they could not have been happier to achieve their target.

“Everybody was aiming for the top six,” Melita coach Saviour Debono Grech told the Times of Malta.

“When you reach the top six, you can put your mind at ease that, at least, you’re safe in the Challenge League.

“We believed in what’ve done last year and the players delivered. We had very good matches, some not so much, but on the whole the results came our way and we’ve made it, so we can’t be anything but proud of the players.”

Asked about the match against Tarxien on Saturday, Debono Grech emphasised that the team went into the game looking for no less than the point which would secure their place in the Championship Pool.

“I believe there were chances for both sides, so it was quite balanced. Our players showed character, especially due to the fact that no one was expecting Melita to be in this position. The players believed and so did we, and we made it,” he said.

“The competition now will be very close, but I believe we have always given other teams a run for their money even though we consider ourselves one of the smaller teams. We won’t give up – that’s the Melita mentality.”

On the other hand, Tarxien have turned around their season’s troubled opening and now sit in the league’s fourth position, a point below Żejtun Corinthians after an impressive run under new coach Jacques Scerri, who returned after having previously been with the club in the Premier League.

Scerri who led Pembroke Athleta to an unbeaten season last year, leaving the club only after internal conflict that saw Pembroke forfeit their licence to play in the highest division of Maltese football in the summer, seems to have instilled his winning mentality on the club which was in the lower half of the standings at the opening stages of the season.

“In the beginning of the season, when I joined after the first five matches, especially after the loss to Mtarfa, the team was down in the lower places of the standings. Since then, we’ve made a run of 10 unbeaten matches and we’ve put ourselves in a very good position,” Scerri explained.

“Of course, we’re happy to be where we are with second place still in sight. Our objective is to fight for it, and I believe we have a good enough squad – we’ve got a certain level of determination and motivation within our group.”

Speaking about the draw on Saturday, Scerri had praise for opponents Melita.

“The match was a tricky fixture, because coming from the winter break, it takes time for the players to get back into routine. At the same time, Melita are a very good team,” he said.

“I like the fact that they have a mixture of experienced players like Julian Galea and (Anderson) De Barros, as well as homegrown players who have been playing together for a long time, so they are definitely not pushovers and their placing is no coincidence.”

Transfer window

With both sides in competition for a spot in next year’s Premier League, improvement will definitely be on the minds of both coaches.

While Melita have reintroduced Karl Mohnani to their squad, Tarxien have recently acquired Dylan Agius from rivals Żejtun.

When asked about any prospective additions to their squads, both mentors remarked that while new players are not their priority, the door is always open.

“Like all teams we’re always on the lookout for any opportunity that might arise. At the
moment, I’m very happy with the squad that we have but if something comes up, we’ll not close any doors for sure,” Scerri explained.

“As a club, we’re discussing what our priority is so I can’t really confirm if we’ll have any more additions,” Debono Grech admitted, “however, I won’t exclude that there might be any new players joining our club.”

Fgura Utd vs Żejtun C. 4-1
Tarxien R. vs Melita 0-0
St Andrews vs Marsa 2-3
Naxxar L. vs Swieqi Utd 1-3
Marsaskala vs San Ġwann 1-2
Vittoriosa S. vs Sliema W. 1-2
Mtarfa vs Mqabba 1-0
Attard vs Qrendi 0-0
Żurrieq vs Lija A. ­ 5-1

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