Two wins for Fgura in new season’s opening
The BOV Challenge League is up and running again for another season and after two matchdays, seven teams remain unbeaten, four of whom have been perfect so far with wins out of both matches.
Last season, Fgura United were top of the table in the opening weeks of the campaign and this time around, the side coached by Kevin Vella are the fourth of the perfect teams with the only thing separating them from the top position being goal difference.
This season, Fgura have beaten St Andrews 2-0 on opening day and Tarxien Rainbows 1-0 last weekend.
Asked about their derby win over Tarxien – a late victory credited to a 90th-minute goal from Michael Gatt – Vella believes his side’s preparation led to a deserved win.
“The league is still in early stages, but we’ve won two good matches,” he told the Times of Malta.
“The match against Tarxien was very difficult considering the well-known fact that Tarxien are the team that invested the most money over the summer. Everyone knows the quality they possess in their team, but we prepared ourselves well and we got a good result in a balanced encounter last weekend.
“I believe that in the first half, they (Tarxien) had more possession, but in the second half, the team that deserved to win was Fgura.”
This win comes after an even tougher victory against St Andrews which saw Fgura play the entire second half with ten men after midfielder Thomas Grech got his marching orders for a second yellow card.
Nevertheless, a Ndandi Ofufu Ibem goal straight before the break and another from Michael Gatt three minutes from time secured a win for Fgura that Vella believes will help in a ‘long season’.
“To win two matches in succession at the beginning of the season is vital because it is a long season and the target of each team will be to secure their safety as quickly as possible,” Vella admitted.
“In order to surely avoid relegation this season, you must finish among the top six and I believe we need around 25 more points to secure that.
“In the first game, we managed to overcome the hurdle of having to play with 10 men after 42 minutes and we were capable of winning anyway. The players know that if we stay united and work hard like we are already doing, we can have a great season.”
Since January, Fgura have supplied two players to Premier League sides with Ewertton heading to Gzira United during the winter transfer window and Donys Quintero joining Valletta over the summer.
Vella said this augurs well for the club but their focus was on building up their squad in order to be able to play as a team.
“This year, we’ve made nine changes to our squad- four of whom were the foreigners. We had Quintero and Ewertton who are now both playing in the Premier League. This of course is a good sign as it means that playing for Fgura can open doors for them to play at a high level,” Vella explained.
“Over the summer we’ve focused on whom we have and what we need and in fact, we started preseason with our squad already complete – we know who was new and who had left so we could focus on our game and playing better as a team. Naturally, this is only the beginning of the season, so we have to stay focused.”
For a second-straight season, the Challenge League is set to be divided into the Top Six and Relegation Pool at the end of the first round and it is every coach’s nightmare to end up with the final 12 teams as relegation is always a possibility.
Fgura United finished just out of the top six positions, with Melita FC taking the final spot. This season, Vella believes it will be very difficult as the competition is just as tough.
“It’s going to be hard – last season we were the third-highest-scoring team in the league -we scored 57 goals. Until the final two matches of the first round, we were fourth but then there was a space of 17 days in which we had five fixtures,” he said.
“It’s true that this was the case for everyone but with a few injuries all we managed to get from these matches was a couple of draws and this set us back so much that Melita took our spot with just a point.
“Among the final 12, every game becomes a final and to make matters worse, the January transfer window forced us to reshuffle. Now we’re trying to learn from our mistakes, and we’ve made sure to form a more competitive squad with two players in each position and each one of them fighting for their spot.
“If we keep up this ambition, I believe we should have a good run this year. But I have to admit there isn’t a team that looks unprepared this season and the level looks higher than ever so I’m expecting a great campaign with another 14 finals in store.”
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