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Watch: Late goals seal Birkirkara’s sixth FA Trophy success

Birkirkara players celebrate after winning the 2023 FA Trophy. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

BIRKIRKARA       2

Iorio 76

Bonnani 85 og.

MARSAXLOKK     0

BIRKIRKARA

A.Sylla; O. Iorio, D. Pires, A. Alves (88 K. Tulimieri), Y. Yankam (90 J. Farrugia), P. Mbong, K. Zammit, C. Attard, E. Cabrera (90 N. Micallef) , S. Zibo, D. Ribeiro.

MARSAXLOKK

M. Drobnjak; A. Attard, P. Xuereb (59 C. Uzeh), S. Ferraris, J. Aguilar, O. Carniello (81 C. Bonnani), L. Aguirre, R. Scicluna (81 T. Vella), S. Moracci (59 S. Moracci), D. Vukovic, T. Fonseca.

Referee Trustin Farrugia Cann.

Yellow cards Scicluna, Fonseca, Yankam.

Birkirkara scored two late goals to propel themselves to their sixth FA Trophy success after having the better of Marsaxlokk in Sunday’s FA Trophy final.

The Stripes deservedly won the final having dominated proceedings from the start while creating the game’s best chances, especially in the second half where they improved a lot.

For Birkirkara, this was a much-welcomed success as they bring silverware home for the first time since their last cup success back in 2015.

Birkirkara’s triumph means that Monday’s Hibernians vs Balzan decider will determine Malta’s fourth representative in next summer’s UEFA club competitions.

Giovanni Tedesco, now a two-time winner of this competition, fielded a team without captain Enrico Pepe who was ruled out due to a knee injury.

Simon Zibo replaced him at the heart of the three-man backline with Yannick Yankam named captain for this game.

Marsaxlokk, on their part, were tactically organised and battled continuously but ultimately Birkirkara’s quality emerged in the closing stages of the game to break the hearts of the southseasiders fans who attended the game.

Coach Pablo Doffo named the same starting formation that started against Gżira United in last week’s semi-final, including forward Tiago Fonseca.

Marsaxlokk threatened to score inside the opening two minutes of the game when an unmarked Fonseca received the ball on the edge of the area but his first-timer sailed over the bar.

Birkirkara’s Alex Alves sprints past the challenge of Marsaxlokk captain Peter Xuereb. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

That chance became the best one in the half as time went by, with Birkirkara dominating proceedings but failing to capitalise on their possession.

Marsaxlokk, in their 4-2-3-1 shape, were dealing with Birkirkara’s initiatives and managed to keep them at bay.

The Stripes came closest past the half-hour mark when Yannick Yankam tried to beat Marko Drobnjak with a low drive but the Marsaxlokk custodian was alert to avert the danger.

Neither side made any substitutes at the break, with Birkirkara producing the first goal-scoring opportunity through an Osvaldo Iorio shot that went wide.

The Stripes threatened again through Alex Alves whose effort was inches high from Drobnjak’s goal.

Midway into the second half, Marsaxlokk made two changes with Doffo deploying hard-working Christopher Uzeh and forward Kristian Keqi.

Moments later, Birkirkara created a couple of chances with a Diego Pires’ header and Enzo Cabrera’s long-range shot that glanced past Drobnjak’s goal.

Marsaxlokk’s Keqi tried to stun Amara Sylla with a shot from distance that went wide before Attard tried to test the Birkirkara goalkeeper but failed to hit the target.

Twenty minutes from time, Tedesco opted to replace Paul Mbong with Andrei Ciolacu, winner of the FA Trophy with Floriana last season.

Six minutes later, Birkirkara drew first blood. Cain Attard redirected the ball into the box following a corner kick with Iorio connecting with it and slotting it into the far post to the delight of the Birkirkara fans.

Birkirkara lift the 2023 FA Trophy. Video: Paul Cachia

Alves came close to doubling Birkirkara’s lead with a well-weighted freekick that was whiskers away from going past Drobnjak.

Marsaxlokk’s coach Doffo tried to bolster his squad with the introductions of midfielder Claudio Bonnani and Terence Vella, who scored the winning penalty in the semi-final against Gżira United.

Nonetheless, Birkirkara made sure of the cup win when Cabrera capitalised on Iorio’s cross from point-blank range.

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