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Jose Borg lauds Birkirkara women for stepping up in tough season

The 2022/2023 women’s league campaign was expected to provide the toughest test to Birkirkara in recent years.

Yet, the Stripes managed to find a way to step up, keep winning and remain the team to beat in Maltese football.

On Tuesday night, old foes Hibernians handed them their 11th title after upsetting second-place Swieqi United who were trailing the Stripes by six points.

Birkirkara kicked off their celebrations with a 2-0 victory over Raiders Lija, their 86th consecutive positive result as they extend the league’s unbeaten run.

Jose Borg’s side won 15 of their 17 encounters, scoring 71 goals and shipping in just four goals as they marched on towards their fifth straight title.

After parting ways with previous coach Melania Bajada, who had won every domestic trophy with the club, it was time for Borg to guide the club into the next level.

“I knew I had to win when I took over and I had everything to lose since Birkirkara are at the back of a treble,” he told the Times of Malta.

“Chalking the first Maltese win in the Women’s Champions League was our first target and we managed to achieve that despite having prepared for that appointment for only a few weeks.”

Birkirkara’s first test of the season was immediately against Swieqi, whose heavy investment during the summer transfer window pitted them as favourites to dethrone the Stripes.

The Owls managed to hold Birkirkara to a 1-1 draw in the league’s opener, setting the tone for the campaign.

“Our rivals strengthened their teams with high-level signings and we were aware of the task that we had on our hands,” Borg explained.

“During the summer transfer window, we had to bring in some new faces as well to replace the key players that had left our side.”

As the league wore on, Birkirkara started to brim with confidence and their playing style was becoming even more clear and lethal.

In their following matchups against Swieqi, they won all three games including in the Super Cup which was Borg’s first local trophy as Birkirkara coach.

“I am truly pleased with my players’ commitment despite being amateur, meaning they have their day jobs – and sometimes night shifts too,” Birkirkara’s coach pointed out.

“The training attendance was excellent and that was one of the factors that helped us winning.”

Birkirkara’s success is down to various factors such as their defensive solidity, their chemistry in the midfield and efficiency upfront with 2007-born Sara Saliba scoring 10 goals.

Veronique Mifsud, another rising star, found the net on eight occasions with Borg also handing playing time to other youth players like Mariah Cardona and Valentina Rapa.

“We had a squad of 25 players including those who form part of the U-21’s team as well,” the former Premier League coach said.

“Me and the U-21’s coach – Dorianne Theuma – enjoyed a positive coordination throughout the season to make sure that both teams were competitive in their respective competitions.”

Birkirkara will be Malta’s representatives in next season’s Champions League campaign, eyeing another remarkable participation.

Asked about whether he will be attempting to guide the Stripes towards another historic result, Borg said that his contract discussions have not yet started with the club.

“My contract with Birkirkara will expire following the domestic Knock-Out (which will run until May 12), and right now our concentration is about finishing the league with another win and trying to win the cup.”

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