Maltese football returned last weekend after the international break before BOV Challenge League sides face a double-header this week.
While Żurrieq top the table on 12 points, breathing down their necks are local revelations Żabbar St Patrick who follow on 10 points.
The Żabbar side have been the talk of the town throughout these past two seasons after big investment from the club’s committee has seen them make an impressive leap from the lowest tier of Maltese football, to putting themselves in contention for promotion to the Premier League.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, coach Emilio Cornago said it was all credit to the commitment from the committee, players and staff, as well as the supporters.
“Since I joined the club, I could feel they want to improve every day in all aspects,” Cornago said.
“In fact, I joined the club a year ago more or less, and already you can see a lot of changes in the structure of the club such as organisation and facilities. They try to give all the tools to work in a proper way.
“Also, we have a big group of supporters who love the club and they are there every day to help and to take care of their club. They are proud of their town and their club and for someone who came from outside, this is really motivating and very nice to see.”
One of the top stories in the local transfer market was the signing of Malta international goalkeeper Matthew Grech which sparked controversy over whether a national team player of his calibre would be making a mistake by heading down to a lower division.
However, Grech – who has since kept his place within Michele Marcolini’s squad – has fit into the club’s project together with other former Premier League players like former Hibernians stalwart Rodolfo Soares who joined from Santa Lucia over the summer.
“We have a good mix of players, players from Żabbar, who were with us last season, new young players, and veteran players with big experience. But most important for me is the commitment they have. They are very dedicated, they give their all every single day and we are very happy with them,” Cornago said.
Last season, Żabbar rushed through the BOV Amateur League looking a step ahead of their opponents throughout the campaign. However, one would expect a stern challenge to this consistency when reaching a higher division. In spite of this, St Patrick have continued this run of form in the second tier as well, and Cornago believes every team can get the upperhand over each other at this level.
“It’s a hard league, any team can beat anyone,” he admitted.
“That’s why for us our main target is always the next game. We have to try to perform at our best and try to win the three points every time.”
Last weekend, Żabbar got a taste of how tough it can be when they shared points with Senglea Athletic in a goalless draw at the Centenary Stadium.
While they remain unbeaten in four matches, Senglea were the first to stop their winning run after Żabbar had beaten Attard, Żejtun Corinthians, and newly relegated side Żebbuġ Rangers.
“It was a tough game,” Cornago said, “as always, we try to go for the win, but they tried to defend in their half and reduce the spaces for us. Still, we tried and managed to have good chances, but we suffered a bit on transitions, especially in the last minutes of the game.
“The players tried their best, they had a good attitude and some good moments during the game. Now we are focusing on the next game.”
Zurrieq vs Swieqi Utd 1-0
Marsa vs Melita 3-3
Zabbar SP vs Senglea 0-0
Msida SJ vs Fgura Utd 0-1
Pieta H. vs Lija Athletic 2-2
Luqa SA vs Zejtun C. 2-0
St. Andrews vs Żebbug R. 3-1
Tarxien vs Attard 4-2
Melita vs Żurrieq 18.45
Fgura Utd vs Marsa 21.00
Swieqi vs Żabbar SP 20.30
Żebbuġ R. vs Tarxien R. 18.30
Lija vs Msida SJ 21.00
Senglea A. vs Luqa SA 20.30
Attard vs Pieta H. 19.00
Żejtun C. vs St Andrews 21.15
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