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Watch: Sliema beat rivals Floriana for record 22nd FA Trophy success

Sliema Wanderers players celebrate with the FA Trophy. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

FLORIANA                                        0

SLIEMA WANDERERS                    0

(Sliema Wanderers win 4-2 on penalties)

Joseph Minala scored the winning penalty as Sliema Wanderers lifted their 22nd FA Trophy after defeating Old Firm rivals Floriana in Sunday’s showdown.

Rashed Al Tumi was the hero for the Blues after saving two penalties in the shoot-out to propel his team to victory.

This year’s FA Trophy final was contended between two of the most decorated teams in local football, with both Floriana and Sliema boasting 26 league titles and 21 cup wins heading into this match.

For the Blues, this success wraps a memorable two-year period in which they made an immediate return to the top flight by winning the Challenge League and qualifying for European football after almost a decade while winning their first silverware since 2016.

Back then, they had the better of Balzan after a thrilling penalty shoot-out as well.

For Sliema coach, Paul Zammit, this is his second FA Trophy success after winning the cup while at the helm of Birkirkara in 2015.

This success means the Blues will have a shot at next season’s Super Cup where they will face league champions Ħamrun Spartans.

Floriana, on their part, will be disappointed to have ended their season empty-handed after a solid campaign under the guidance of Mauro Camoranesi, having finished runners-up in both league and cup.

For this final, Floriana’s coach Camoranesi made four changes to his starting line-up.

The Greens were without captain Oualid El-Hasni and midfielder Matias Garcia, both suspended after their red card in last Tuesday’s semi-final against Gżira United. On the other hand, Camoranesi welcomed back Lorenzo De Grazia who returned after serving a one-game ban.

The Italian returned immediately to the starting formation along with Guy Yameogo and Jake Grech, who both started on the bench against the Maroons.

Yameogo, on his side, had come on early in the first half to replace injured Alexandros Kouro.

Sliema, on their part, named an unchanged squad from last Wednesday’s narrow win over Birkirkara.
Joseph Minala, who scored the winning penalty against the Stripes, started with defender Murilo Henrique to captain the side.

The early stages did not produce any clear-cut chances even though Floriana were looking more dangerous inside the final third, with Kemar Reid continuously probing Sliema’s backline.

The shoot-out drama that propelled Sliema Wanderers to victory in the FA Trophy. Video: TVM Sport+

Four minutes before half-time, Nemanja Andrijanic was tested for the first time when Samuel Gomes took charge of a free-kick from the edge of the area but it was not enough to put the Blues ahead.

Floriana threatened after the restart when De Grazia connected with a corner just to see his header sail over Al-Tumi’s goal.

Moments later, Al-Tumi came to Sliema’s rescue when he denied Grech from inside the small area.

Sliema replied through Gomes who darted towards the box before forcing Andrijanovic into action with a fierce strike.

Zammit, Sliema’s coach, made three changes in a bid to spark his attack into life with Daniil Kondrakov and Mohamed Awad replacing Gomes and Vito Plut.

On the other hand, Floriana deployed Adam Magri Overend in the front three, replacing Willis Furtado, while Mattia Veselji came on for Matthias Sousa.

With both teams changing their attacking personnel, it was clear that the two coaches were looking for some signs of inspiration in the closing stages of this cagey affair.

A Henrique header glanced past Floriana’s goal as Sliema tried to break the deadlock from a set-piece situation.

At the other end, Floriana forward Reid threatened with a header but could not beat the Sliema goalkeeper from close range.

Five minutes from time, Sliema’s captain Henrique had to be replaced after picking up a knock with forward Lydon Micallef taking on the field, setting up himself upfront.

A De Grazia free-kick went over Al-Tumi’s bar as the thought of extra-time started to loom on both sides.

In stoppage time, Andrijanovic kept Micallef at bay from inside the small area as the winner could not be decided inside the regular period.

At the start of extra time, Camoranesi replaced midfielder Grech with attacking player Jose Arias in a bid of mustering more chances upfront.

Just before the half-time whistle, Al-Tumi denied Maksim Valadzko from close range before Sliema Wanderers’ Gustavo Alcino had a header go inches wide from a corner kick.

Floriana were dealt a heavy blow in the second half when Valadzko was given a second yellow card after fouling Denis Kouao.

From the resultant free-kick, Andrijanovic blocked Geoffrey Acheampong’s effort.

Neil Frendo came agonisingly close to firing Sliema ahead with a low drive just to be inches wide from Andrijanovic’s goal.

Sliema Wanderers players celebrate with the FA Trophy. Video: Paul Cachia

Sliema ended the match with ten men as well, after Frendo was given a straight red for hitting an opponent as the cup winner had to be determined through a penalty shoot-out.

From the spot, Sliema converted four times while Floriana missed twice as Minala’s winning strike handed the Blues their 22nd FA Trophy.

Penalty sequence

Acheampong (S) scored 1-0; Veselji (F) saved 1-0; Awad (S) scored, 2-0; Arias (F) scored 2-1; Alcino (S) saved 2-1; Reid (F) saved 2-1; Micallef (S) scored 3-1; Zammit Lonardelli (F) scored 3-2; J. Minala (S) scored 4-2.

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