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Malta’s Alishia Sultana eyes another title at Birkirkara

Champions Birkirkara will resume their commitments this week as the Women’s League returns following the international break.

The Stripes will face second-placed Swieqi United in a clash that could see Birkirkara edge closer towards their fifth straight title. The match will be played at the Dingli Ground, on Tuesday (kick-off: 20.45).

During last week’s international break, the Malta women’s national team took centre stage in the first edition of the VisitMalta Women’s Trophy.

Led by Mark Gatt, 85th-ranked Malta hosted Slovakia (rank 45) and giants Sweden (rank 5).

Despite suffering two defeats, 4-0 and 3-0 respectively, the Maltese side earned the plaudits from the public for their brave performances which highlight the continuous improvement of this side.

“We played two challenging games against teams who are better ranked than us,” Malta and Birkirkara player Alishia Sultana told Times of Malta.

“It was a massive experience for everyone involved in our team because we could learn from teams who have been making big strides in the women’s game lately.

“Despite having key players absent, we managed to produce two important displays that will inject further self-belief into the team.”

In fact, coach Gatt headed into this tournament with several absentees namely Dorianne Theuma, Ylenia Carabott and Haley Bugeja.

“Had we had a full squad, they would have helped us even more but at the end of the day, this tournament showed that this group of players is still improving, both tactically and mentally,” Sultana explained.

“Despite opting for a defensive style of play for this tournament, the whole team was involved and remained compact throughout all games.

“At some point of the matches, we also tried to attack and this reflects the mentality that this team has.”

During this tournament, Sultana collected her 40th cap in the game against Slovakia. The Birkirkara player made her debut during a 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier against Switzerland.

Since then, she has grown into a versatile player, cementing herself as a regular starter for both club and country.

“From a personal level, it’s always an honour to represent your country and at the same time, facing some of the best opponents in our game,” the 23-year-old explained.

“One can only learn and improve on such a stage, both as a person and as a player.

“A team like Sweden, who is a big name in women’s football and boasts a number of world-class players, leaves a positive impact on you and motivates you more to keep working on a daily basis.”

Stripes delight

Birkirkara have dominated the 2020/2021 campaign from outset, with 12 wins in as many outings.

Overall, the Stripes are currently on an unbeaten streak of 49 matches that is the fifth-longest among the active runs across Europe and 20 games shy of the all-time Maltese record set by Hibernians between the late 90’s and early the 2000’s.

The Stripes scored a staggering 70 goals, with 11 goals coming from the feet of Sultana.

The versatile player has featured both as fullback and winger in a Birkirkara side that has had no rivals this year.

“We have dominated the season so far and the 12 wins in a row is a clear reflection of that,” Sultana said.

“At the same time, we have to remain calm and with our feet rooted firmly to the ground to remain concentrated on our objectives.

“As always, our rivals will have an extra motivation when they face us but that’s how it should be, and we are ready to embrace the hurdles ahead of us.”

Sultana heaped praise on the group’s unity as she looks forward to help her side clinch a fifth straight domestic title that cements Birkirkara’s status as the best team in Malta.

PROGRAMME

TUESDAY

MĠARR GROUND – 20.30
Mġarr United vs Mosta
DINGLI GROUND – 20.45
Swieqi United vs Birkirkara

WEDNESDAY

MĠARR GROUND – 20.30
Mtarfa vs Kirkop United

STANDINGS (12 games played):

Birkirkara 36; Swieqi United 28; Mġarr United 25; Kirkop United 16; Raiders Għargħur 12; Mosta 7; Mtarfa 0.

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