It may have come in the dying stages of the match but Gżira United could breathe more easily on Wednesday night as the Maroons finally broke their duck in the BOV Premier League.
Two late goals from Martin Davis handed them a dramatic 3-1 win over Valletta for their first success this season.
The Maroons came into the match against the previously unbeaten Valletta under some pressure after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Floriana and were then held to a 1-1 draw against unfancied Tarxien Rainbows.
For much of the Wednesday’s match, it looked as though Gżira United were set to wait longer for their first league victory as the match was locked at 1-1 heading into injury time.
But then a rare defensive mistake from Valletta defender Jonathan Caruana paved the way for the Maroons to surge ahead through Martin Davis and the Jamaican striker then struck again just before the final whistle to seal the points for his team.
“It was a very important victory for our club,” Gżira United coach Darren Abdilla told the Times of Malta.
“We were aware of the difficult task awaiting our team as we were up against a Valletta team who were coming from two successive victories. But we were highly motivated to try and claim all three points.
“One has to remember that our team has several new elements and we needed time to gel together and start to deliver at the best of our ability from day one.
“In this kind of match, when two strong teams go head-to-head, the result goes the way of the side that commits the least number of mistakes and that is what happened. Valletta committed more mistakes than we did, and we were able to punish them and return home with the three points in the bag.”
During Wednesday’s match, it was clear the high level of tension displayed by the Gżira United players in the way they acted between themselves on the pitch.
However, Abdilla downplayed the incidents and said that those scenes came down to their hunger for success.
“I can assure you that we have no problems between our players and the spirit in our team is very good,” Abdilla said.
“When the stakes are high, it’s common to see players tense but it was all down to the players’ hunger to get the right result. I only have words of praise for the players who showed great grit and determination to win the match.
“As a coach, I’m always pleased to see such a high level of determination from my players. It’s very healthy. I’m sure that this win will be a huge boost for us as it will inject much-needed self-belief in the players and gives us the tranquility needed to kick on once the championship resumes in a fortnight’s time.”
Abdilla described this year’s league as one of the toughest for many years and said the increasing number of matches will test the resilience of every club.
“The Premier League has always been very balanced in the last few seasons, but his year I’m sure it will be even tighter,” the former Valletta coach said.
“The addition of two other teams has certainly increased the level of competition. Every club has brought in excellent overseas players and all teams can offer a strong challenge to any team.
“The fact that this season the number of top-flight matches being played have increased to 30 matches every team needs a long bench to be able to contend with the demands of this year’s championship.
“The results in the first three matchdays have shown the great balance that exists. In fact, the so-called top teams, like Floriana, Valletta, Birkirkara, Hibernians and Gżira United all have suffered defeats after three matches and there is only one team with maximum points at this stage.
“It’s going to be a difficult season, but we need to try and stay with the top teams until the end of the year and once the new year starts we will adjust our objectives.”