The BOV Challenge League produced an exciting finale to the opening phase of this year’s championship as six teams battled for the final three spots in the Top Six.
Marsa, Senglea Athletic and Pieta’ Hotspurs secured crucial victories last weekend to join Żabbar St Patrick, Melita and Żurrieq in the Top Six and will have the opportunity to fight for one of the two promotion spots for the Premier League next season.
Marsa, under the charge of Orosco Anonam, have gone through a topsy-turvy first part of the season which saw the team struggle with injuries and as a result, drop some valuable points which put their ambitions for a Top Six berth in doubt.
However, the team managed to steady the ship with crucial victories over leaders Żabbar and Luxol St Andrews with an identical 4-1 scoreline before finishing the job with a dramatic 1-0 win over Luqa St Andrews, courtesy of a stoppage-time winner.
“The last couple of months have been quite tough for us as we lost some key players and struggled to pick up points,” Anonam told the Times of Malta.
“But I am proud of this team as in the past four matches the players showed their character and we managed to win three successive matches that put us where we belong – the Top Six.
“For a team like Marsa, it would have been a disaster if we failed to make the top pool but the players kept pushing till the end and the nature of our win epitomised everything about our club as we clinched the win against Luqa St Andrews in the 92nd minute.”
Anonam made it clear that the team’s main goal was to clinch promotion to the Premier League.
“Our target is promotion in the Premier League,” Anonam said.
“At the moment we are fourth, five points adrift of the top and three away from second spot so it’s well within our reach. Now it’s time that we step up a gear and try to push for promotion.
“There is going to be a great fight as all six teams are sandwiched within six points so anything can happen. We start the campaign with a crucial clash against Żabbar St Patrick and we will do our best to win the match to boost our ambitions.”
‘Not looking too far ahead’
Pieta’ was another team that had qualification for the Top Six as their main objective as they look to return to the top flight on their first attempt.
Last weekend, the Hotspurs showed their potential when scoring a goal in each half to overcome Żurrieq and secure fifth place.
“Top six was our main goal this season and to achieve it is a great achievement for our club,” coach Manuel Caruana said.
“We were fighting against some quality sides but we knew that destiny was firmly in our hands and we successfully finished the job. If you see the quality of some of the teams that missed out, such as Tarxien Rainbows, Fgura United, Lija Athletic, Swieqi United and Żebbuġ Rangers, our achievement takes further significance.
“I am pleased that we reached our goal by playing positive football and I firmly believe that on our day we can beat anyone.”
Asked whether promotion was high on the agenda, Caruana said: “What I can say is that we will certainly give it our best shot. We are not looking too far ahead. We will approach every match with a lot of determination and try to play the way we want.
“I don’t think there is much difference between one team and another so we have to earn it.”
Senglea Athletic have been one of the in-form sides in the division as they headed into the final round of fixtures on the back of an impressive 12-match unbeaten run.
But still, they had some work to do last weekend and they reached their goal by overcoming Attard 2-0 last Saturday to finish in third place.
“It was not an easy feat to finish in the top six this year as all teams are well-equipped,” Senglea coach Liam Mangion said.
“The Challenge League this year features experienced Maltese players as well as talented foreigners which inevitably raised the league’s competitivity. My team has been on a good run of form and the secret behind our success is that we don’t look too far ahead but take it one match at a time.
“We worked well and remained focused in all matches and that is what we need to do now if we are targeting promotion. The most important thing is that we remain humble and give our 100 per cent in every match.
“It’s going to be a great fight but I’m sure my team will be ready, starting with our first match against Melita.”
Żebbuġ vs Fgura 1-3
Lija Ath. vs Swieqi Utd 2-2
Pieta H. vs Żurrieq 2-0
Senglea vs Attard 2-0
Marsa vs Luqa SA 1-0
Melita vs Żejtun 0-0
St Andrews vs Msida 3-2
Żabbar SP vs Tarxien 1-1
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