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Watch: Minala sends Sliema into Trophy final against ‘Old Firm’ rivals Floriana

Joseph Minala (right) wheels away after scoring Sliema's winner against Birkirkara. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Marsaxlokk qualify for European football



Minala 116 pen.

(after extra-time)

The 2024 FA Trophy final will be an Old Firm derby between Sliema Wanderers and Floriana as the Blues needed an extra-time penalty goal from Joseph Minala to overcome the challenge of Birkirkara at the National Stadium.

It was a resilient performance from the Wanderers who looked second best for much of the match as it was Birkirkara who created the better chances throughout and had it not been for some excellent interventions from their goalkeeper Rashid Al Tumi and the Stripes’ profligacy they would not have booked their place in the final.

But football matches are won by the team who scores the goals and Sliema managed to find the breakthrough from the penalty spot to move into Sunday’s final.

Here they will face their old rivals Floriana with the winner of the match becoming the most successful club in the competition as they currently share top spot in the all-time honours with 21 victories.

 Another major winner yesterday, without kicking a ball, are Marsaxlokk who, with Floriana and Sliema already assured of a place in the UEFA Conference League, they will also take part in the qualifiers of the same competition after finishing fourth in the Premier League.

The match turned out to be a drab affair for much of the opening 20 minutes as both teams were looking to assert their dominance in midfield with scoring chances inexistent.

Birkirkara were almost regaled with the opener on 23 minutes when Gustavo Alciono was dispossessed by Paul Mbong who sped inside the area but the Sliema defender was grateful to see his team-mate Murilo clear Mbong’s cross towards the unmarked Maxuell Maia.

Sliema secured a place in the FA Trophy final after an extra-time win against Birkirkara. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

The first shot on target arrived on 27 minutes when from a free-kick action Samuel Da Mata Gomes’ shot was easily saved by Marcel Zapytowski, the Birkirkara goalkeeper.

From then on, there was little to report as the match again fell in a lull until the half-time interval.

We had to wait until the 56th minute for the next action of note when Maxuell Maia connected to Paul Mbong’s cross but headed the ball wide.

Five minutes later, Birkirkara had an even better chance when Sarpong’s cross was nodded by Pena Beltre into the path of Zibo who from a few metres out saw his shot deflected over the bar.

At the other end Acheampong picked Plut inside the area but the Slovenian forward fired over from close in.

On 69 minutes, Birkirkara had another glorious chance when Maia dispossessed Jean Borg and race inside the area where he was blocked by Al Tumi, the ball fell to Satariano who was again thwarted by the Sliema no.1.

Al Tumi was again the protagonist for the Wanderers when six minutes from time he charged out of his goal to deny the goalbound Mbong as the match went into extra-time.

Here scoring chances remained a rarity as the two teams were more focused on not conceding than on grabbing a winner.

On 108 minutes, Sliema shouted penalty when Neil Micallef looked to have been pulled back by Zibo inside the area but referee Ishmael Barbara incredibly waved play on.

Sliema players celebrate after securing a place in the FA Trophy final. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

However, Sliema were awarded a penalty minutes later when Zapitowski’s clearance with his feet hit his team-mate Coppola with the ball falling to Kondrakov who was blocked by the Birkirkara goalkeeper. Simultaneously, Awad was pushed by Coppola with referee Ishmael Barbara pointing to the spot.

Joseph Minala stepped up and fired past Zapytowksi to the delight of the Sliema fans.

Sliema ended the match with ten men when Edmond Agius was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on Nicholas Agius, but the Blues held on to their lead to secure a place in Sunday’s final.

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