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Tedesco tells players to play without fear after Sliema win

Birkirkara’s Paul Mbong pushes forward against Sliema Wanderers. Photo: Christine Borg

We deserved more says Wanderers’ coach Zammit

Giovanni Tedesco has called on his Birkirkara players to play without fear as the Stripes kickstarted their Premier League campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sliema Wanderers on Sunday.

The game turned out into a real tactical battle with Sliema Wanderers, on their return to the top flight after an absence of one season, holding the edge in the first half.

But Birkirkara came to the fore after the break and started to express some free-flowing football before finally finding the breakthrough courtesy of substitute Andre Ciolacu who nodded home after a great run from Alex Satariano.

“I am happy with the three points but there are still a lot of things that we need to improve,” Tedesco told the Times of Malta.

“We played against a very organised side, led by a very good coach, and they put us in a bit of bother in the first half. I felt that my players were affected by a bit of pressure to perform and that resulted in them not expressing themselves at the top of their game.

“During the half-time interval, I told the players to try and express themselves more freely without thinking what could happen and the team looked more at ease. Players like Satariano and Mbong started to be more dangerous and our efforts were rewarded with the winner.”

Tedesco said that given the tough nature of this year’s championship, the win against Sliema was very important but admitted there were some areas that need to be improved if they are to mount a serious challenge for the honours.

“This is a very important win, particularly if you see how challenging this year’s championship is,” Tedesco said.

“The Premier League this season is far more balanced and I believe that there are up to nine teams who are well equipped and will be challenging for a top placing.

“Unfortunately the injury to Alessandro Coppola has caused us a bit of a problem as we need to see how we can cope with his absence. On Sunday, I played Satariano in a lateral role and I felt he did very well. In fact, he was the architect behind our match-winning goal with a 50m run that set up Ciolacu for the winner.

“Added to that we would need another midfield addition and at the moment we are looking into the market maybe we can find a free agent to help us in that area before the September 30 deadline.”

Photo: Christine Borg

Next up for Birkirkara are three very difficult matches in the space of a week when they face Floriana, Valletta, and Hibernians in the space of a week before the international break.

The Italian coach said that while he respects the clubs’ decision to start the Premier League season a month later than usual, from a technical point of view it was a bit ‘crazy’.

“To be honest the way how the Premier League programme has been lined up this season is a bit crazy,” the outspoken Italian coach said.

“I know that all the clubs agreed to it and I respect their choice, but from a technical aspect, it was not the best decision.

“How can you start the championship one month later than usual and then ask the players to play three matches in the space of a week so early in the season before heading to the international break.

“So early in the season, it’s natural that the players are not in the best condition and you are seriously putting the welfare of the players at risk.

“Obviously the clubs have their own agenda but this decision has surely not helped the clubs and also the senior national team who ended up playing the match against North Macedonia with the majority of the players without having played one competitive match.

“If Maltese football is to continue to make strides forward, the clubs and the football authorities need to be more sensitive to how these will affect the game here in general.”

On his part, Paul Zammit, the Sliema Wanderers coach, shared Tedesco’s views on the long break Premier League clubs spent prior to the start of the campaign and said that it put the national teams at a disadvantage during this month’s international break.

“For us at Sliema Wanderers, Sunday’s match against Birkirkara was the first competitive match after five months,” Zammit said.

“It was a long preparatory period and while the club administrations have their own vision when taking decisions, however, from a technical and tactical point of view you won’t find one coach that will be happy to start the league season a month later than normal.

“Such a decision has reflected badly on our national teams this month. If you take the senior team the only players who had competitive minutes in their legs where those players who played in Europe this summer.

“On the other hand, the U-21s had to play against mighty Spain with zero minutes on their legs so it made their task far more difficult. Against Hungary one could see that they were better as at least they had 90 minutes of competitive football on their legs.

“Added to that one has to think about the well-being of the players as this decision could see players suffer injuries having to play so many matches in a short span of time.”

Turning his sights on the match against Birkirkara, Zammit said that while he was proud of the performance of his players, on the other hand, he was disappointed to have left the field empty-handed.

“I am very happy with the performance of my players as they were very disciplined from a tactical point of view,” Zammit said.

“The players worked hard throughout the whole 90 minutes and even when we found ourselves a goal down there was a good reaction from the team. But the biggest disappointment is that we have nothing to show after such a good performance and I feel we deserved more.

“There were a lot of positives to take from this match, particularly, as we faced one of the best teams in the division. This match has shown that we are on the right track but there is still a lot of work to be done and we need to roll up our sleeves and continue to work hard.

“All matches in this season’s Premier League are going to be very difficult as all the teams are well prepared.

“Every team on the day is capable of causing you problems and I anticipate that there is going to be a great fight not only in the relegation places but also for who will qualify for Europe.”

NEXT FIXTURES

FRIDAY
Centenary Stadium
Sirens vs Mosta 19.00

SATURDAY
National Stadium
Floriana vs Birkirkara 18.00
Naxxar L. vs Ħamrun S. 20.15

Tony Bezzina Stadium
Hibernians vs Sta Lucia 18.00
Balzan vs Gżira United 20.00

SUNDAY
Tony Bezzina Stadium
Sliema W. vs Valletta 18.00
Gudja Utd vs Marsaxlokk 20.00

Standings provided by Sofascore

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