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Swieqi eye maiden success, Hibernians target sixth women’s cup

Owls, Paolites to meet in Friday’s Assikura Women’s Knock-Out final

The final act of senior women’s football will take place on Friday night when Swieqi United and Hibernians will contend this year’s Women’s Knock-Out final at the Centenary Stadium (kick-of: 8pm).

One thing is for certain as there will be a new tournament winner for the first time since the 2015/2016 season when Hibernians lifted the trophy that year.

Birkirkara, winners of the last four editions, were ousted by Swieqi in the quarter-finals following a nerve-wrecking battle with the Owls snatching a winner late in extra-time.

Such victory put Swieqi at the top favourites to win the competition and pick up their first major trophy since their inception in the women’s game.

Swieqi, who invested heavily in the first-team squad, have already come short in two of their three objectives after finishing as runners-up in the championship while losing to Birkirkara in December’s Super Cup.

Lifting this trophy would help them wrap up this campaign on a high while injecting important morale boost in their camp ahead of the new season.

“It is very important for us to be in the final,” coach Judith Kuipers told the Times of Malta.

“As a team, you want to win as much as possible. Unfortunately, we failed to win the championship but at the same time we reached this final and therefore it is very important for us to win it.”

En route to Friday’s final, Swieqi defeated Birkirkara in extra-time before scoring a goal in each half to eliminate a resilient Raiders Lija side in the semi-finals.

Jessica Dimech, Salamatu Abdulai and Shona Zammit were the scorers of their three goals in this competition for Swieqi, who will be missing league’s top scorer and newly-winner of the MFA Player of the Year award Jade Flask due to a knee injury.

“The run-up to the final was certainly not the easiest,” the Dutch coach explained.

“We have had two tough games but by working hard and continuing to believe in our philosophy, we managed to advance to this stage.”

Swieqi met Hibernians three times during their league campaign, where they won their first two meetings before falling to a surprising 2-1 defeat in the third encounter.

Asked about what type of game she is expecting, Kuipers pointed out that it will be a very intense and competitive game between two good sides.

“We lost the last game against Hibernians so we have to make amendments for that in order to win the cup.”

For Hibernians, a sixth triumph in this competition would be the perfect ending for their second spell in the senior women’s game.

The Paolites made their return in the top-flight after an absence of almost three years and throughout the season they proved they are already a competitive squad, finishing fourth – trailing Mġarr United by just one point, and finishing above much-improved Raiders Lija.

In the Knock-Out, Hibernians overcame Mġarr in the first round after failing to beat the Greens in any of their three league encounters.

In the final four, Gouder’s side broke little sweat as they beat San Ġwann 6-0 to advance to the final with the Hibernians’ coach expecting an intense and competitive game between two highly-motivated sides.

Hibernians managed to finish their season strongly with a commanding second-half performance against Birkirkara (losing narrowly 3-2), a 3-0 victory over Raiders Lija and the upset against Swieqi, practically dashing their hopes of winning the title.

“A strong team performance was key to beat Swieqi in the final game of the season,” Gouder told this website.

“We played well as a team with all players contributing to the victory, having a solid defence and an effective attack. Tactically we were well-prepared for this game and the strong mental attitude helped us to clinch victory.

The players remained focused and well composed throughout the game and reacted very well even when Swieqi managed to cancel the one-goal deficit. These are a bunch of talented players and if they keep on believing in themselves and their abilities, they can achieve big milestones.”

Gouder has already tasted success in this competition having led Hibernians to the 2015/2016 triumph and therefore knows what it takes to win a final.

“Reaching the final is a significant achievement for this team especially this squad has been built from scratch for this season,” he explained.

“It does not only demonstrates the competitiveness of the squad, but also the progress that has been done in just one season.”



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