We must forget Saturdays win but not the performance Published on: 30-04-2014

Muscat craves cup lift for Sliema

Ryan Fenech’s enterprising performance in midfield epitomised Valletta’s determination to overcome Birkirkara and clinch the BOV Premier League title in Saturday’s showdown.

After helping Valletta accomplish their mission last weekend, Fenech is excited by the prospect of winning his first FA Trophy medal as the newly-crowned champions chase a league and cup double when they meet Sliema Wanderers in tomorrow’s final at the National Stadium (kick-off 5pm).

“It’s a very important game,” Fenech, the Valletta captain, told reporters during a news conference at the Grand Hotel Excelsior yesterday.

“The club has not won the double since season 2000-01. The president (Victor Sciriha) is very keen to see the team do the double as he has never won it.

“There are other players in our squad who have never won the Trophy or the double and that is an added stimulus for us.

“As I told the coach, we need to forget Saturday’s success but not the performance. We will approach the final with that mentality.”

Long acclaimed as one of the most talented players in Maltese football, Fenech, 28, is at the peak of his career.

His nomination as City skipper at the start of the season has spurred the former Ħamrun Spartans captain to raise his game and his contribution to Valletta’s title success has allayed any doubts about Fenech’s ability to deliver at a top club.

“This is my fourth season with Valletta,” Fenech said.

“I have learnt a lot from previous seasons. I did encounter some difficulties at first but these situations helped me to develop and mature.

“Every coach I’ve worked with has helped me in his own way.

“The club have underlined their faith in me by appointing me team captain and that gave me a boost.

“Now I feel like I’ve been accepted by the Valletta fans. I’m satisfied with my progress but when you reach a high level, the most important thing is to sustain those standards.”

Sliema Wanderers have had scant success in the last decade but the last time they lifted a cup, it was at the expense Valletta in the 2008-09 FA Trophy final, winning on penalties.

Captain Alex Muscat is confident that Sliema can replicate that triumph tomorrow.

“At Sliema, we haven’t won anything for a long time,” the 29-year-old said.

“Five years have passed since we won the FA Trophy after beating Valletta in the final. They were also the favourites on that occasion but we prevailed.

“I believe that we can repeat that feat this season. Winning the FA Trophy would be the perfect gift for the club after our poor showing in the Championship Pool.”

Despite finishing fifth in the Premier League, one point behind Mosta, the Blues are guaranteed a place in the Europa League thanks to Valletta’s title win.

Ironically, Valletta’s success has not only benefited Sliema, it has reduced the pressure on the Blues ahead of the cup final.

“The pressure is on Valletta,” Muscat said.

“They are the better team. Their title win helped us to reach our European target but there’s an honour at stake and we will do our best to win it.”

Sliema are the most successful club in the history of the FA Trophy with 20 wins while Valletta are third in the all-time list with 13 cup triumphs.

The Citizens beat Division One side Gżira United 2-0 in the semi-finals while Sliema needed a stoppage-time goal from veteran Ivan Woods to knock out Qormi.

Woods, 37, is expected to retire from competitive football after tomorrow’s final.

Valletta will be without defender Steve Borg and Abdelkarim Nafti, both suspended, while John Mintoff is out for Sliema after receiving four yellow cards in the previous rounds of the competition.

Source - Times of Malta, Photo Credits Domenic Aquilna