Sciriha hails City resilience Published on: 26-01-2016

Saturday’s derby showdown between Floriana and Valletta took the fans of these two neighbouring clubs on a rollercoaster of emotions. For much of the opening 65 minutes, the Floriana faithful were buzzing with excitement as their team, leading through Mauricio Villa’s 19th-minute penalty, looked on way to a much-craved win over their bitter rivals but a series of episodes changed the dynamic of the game.
Their joy soon turned into despair as, after Matteo Piciollo and Villa hit the woodwork, Valletta dragged themselves back on level terms courtesy of Jhonnattann. Umeh Calistus, on as a second-half substitute, delivered the killer blow late on, sparking euphoric scenes among the City supporters.
Victor Sciriha, the president of Valletta FC, conceded that Floriana didn’t deserve to lose but paid tribute to his team’s tenacious comeback. “It was an important win for us,” Sciriha told Times of Malta.
“I think Floriana didn’t deserve to lose but football is like that. “The strength of our team came to the fore in the last 20 minutes. In the first half, we lacked grit but the players showed character in the second.” The derby win ensured that Valletta stayed top of the league for another week. To a large extent, the Whites have defied the odds so far as this was supposed to be a transitional season for them after coach Paul Zammit, who succeeded Ivan Zammit last summer, had no option but to overhaul his squad. There have been occasions in the last two seasons when Sciriha looked to have grown disillusioned with local football but his team’s positive league campaign has revived his enthusiasm.
“Unless something extraordinary happens, I see no reason why I should leave my post,” Sciriha, who has been at the helm of Valletta since 2007, said. “I believe that our club is moving in the right direction and will become stronger in the future.” The scepticism about Valletta’s prospects of reclaiming the title has long been supplanted by optimism. Sciriha was philosophical when asked to rate Valletta’s chances of winning the championship.
“There are four to five clubs that are, more or less, on a par and our chances of winning the league are equal to theirs,” Sciriha remarked. “Every game is a big test but we are not inferior to the other challengers.” The championship is Valletta’s only hope of silverware this season after they were knocked out of the FA Trophy by Birkirkara last Wednesday.
Their lethargic first-half showing in Saturday’s derby suggested that Valletta had not recovered, mentally and physically, from their midweek upset but they summoned the energy and willpower to fight back.
“We had three tough games, against Tarxien, Birkirkara and Floriana, in six days, so it was not easy for the players to cope,” Sciriha said.
“We didn’t deserve to lose to Birkirkara in the FA Trophy as we were as good as them if not better… they only had one shot on target. “What happened on Saturday was that our players were shattered, both physically and mentally, following the FA Trophy exit, but their resilience saw us through.”
While Valletta deserve credit for their staying power, Floriana can’t be faulted for lacking commitment but they left the stadium wondering how and why they failed to take something from the derby.
Club president Riccardo Gaucci was yesterday still at a loss to explain his team’s defeat. “I believe that, of all the derbies played over the past two seasons, Saturday’s was the one we genuinely didn’t deserve to lose,” Gaucci said.
“Even a draw would have been harsh, let alone defeat, but football can be cruel. “Valletta exploited their chances whereas we didn’t take ours. “The disappointment was huge. I watched the game with the fans and everyone believed that we could win but it was not to be.
“However, we need to keep in mind that we lost to a strong team.” The defeat to Valletta left Floriana fifth, nine points off the top, but they are still very much on course to reach their top-four objective.
“Our target this season is not to win the league,” Gaucci said. “But when you lose the derby in such manner, it does leave a scar. In previous games, Valletta deserved to win but this was different.”
Not that Floriana can afford to dwell on their derby heartache as they need to regroup ahead of their clash with the resurgent Birkirkara on Sunday.
Bold response Gaucci has called for a bold response from all those connected with Floriana.
“We need to produce the right reaction next Sunday and hope that we come out of the match with a better outcome than last Saturday,” the Italian said.
“It’s not an easy task for us as Valletta and Birkirkara are two of the title favourites. “We will be looking to repeat the performance in the derby and hope that our strikers, as well as defenders, convert their chances.”
Gaucci, whose unstinting efforts since taking over the Floriana presidency in 2014 have significantly improved the club’s organisation and financial stability, has agreed a deal with Birkirkara to take back Brazilian midfielder Emerson Marcelina on loan until the end of the season.
“I believe that the imminent arrival of Marcelina will further enhance the quality of our squad,” Gaucci said.

Source - Times of Malta