Birkirkara coach Andre Paus and his players could breathe more easily on Tuesday night as the Stripes finally ended their winning drought in the BOV Premier League when they beat league leaders Ħamrun Spartans 2-0 at the National Stadium.
An early goal from Yannick Yankam and a Federico Falcone strike midway through the second half did the trick for Birkirkara to claim all spoils against a Ħamrun team who had won all their previous four matches.
However, what really impressed on Tuesday was the performance of the Stripes who despite being without a string of first-team players such as goalkeeper Andrew Hogg, defender Enrico Pepe and forward Caio, they still managed to outplay the Reds for long stretches to send a real statement of intent.
Paus was understandably delighted with his team’s display.
“I am really pleased with my players, they showed good attitude and they fulfilled their task to perfection,” the former Valletta coach told The Times of Malta.
“We came into the match under a lot of pressure. When you look at our performances in the first four matches, we enjoyed a lot of possession but failed to put the ball into the net.
“But what was of more of a concern was the fact that we committed a series of mistakes which saw us getting punished by our opponents and that was not good for the confidence of the team.
“In fact we conceded ten goals which was not good. But I never stopped believing in this team and expected a strong reaction from the players who duly obliged with a very good display.”
If one looks at the squad Paus named for the match against the Spartans one cannot but notice a number of young players who are being given an opportunity by the Dutchman to stake their claim into the team.
Italian duo Davide Guarnone and Francesco Verde were both handed a starting berth alongside forward Paul Mbong, who produced a man-of-the-match performance.
On the bench, the Stripes had several academy players such as Neil Friggieri, Adam Camilleri, Glending Farrugia and Owen Sciberras.
“In the close season 15 players left the club,” Paus said.
“Their departures have opened the door for the young players to being promoted to the first team. But once they are part of the senior team, they need to show the work ethic and desire that they want to improve their ability.
“A case in point is Paul Mbong. We brought him in the first team last year and he made a very good development.
“When he was promoted to the first team, he had to prove that he deserved his chance and did so as he managed to break into the national team.
“But the good thing about him is that he still has a lot of margin for improvement. He needs to continue working hard and show desire.
“I have no doubt that he will become a much better player than his right now.
“It’s important for our club to keep opening the door for academy players. Lately we have brought Matteo Gambin, 16, and Nathan Cross, 17, training with the senior team. Players like them are the future of our club and I will give them every opportunity to prove their worth.”
Looking ahead, Paus said that despite their win against Ħamrun Spartans, there was still a lot of work to be done for Birkirkara and it was important that they continued to work hard.
“We may have beaten the league leaders, but as far as I’m concerned, we haven’t achieved nothing yet,” the Dutchman said.
“There are still many areas of our game that we need
to improve and the only way to achieve that is to remain humble and continue to
work hard on the training pitch.
“We have a long and tough season ahead of us and every team is capable of beating anyone so we need to be consistent.”