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Execution of details the key this season – Gudja coach

Gudja’s Neil Micallef (no.81) in a tangle with Valletta’s James Arthur. Photo: Stephen Gatt

Gudja United are on a giant-killing spree at the moment, after claiming the scalps of more-established Premier League sides Sliema Wanderers (3-2) and Valletta (2-0) lasts weekend.

With these two wins, the southerners have climbed to fourth place in the Premier League standings, on seven points after five games and only trail third-placed Sirens by a point.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Gudja coach Thane Micallef said that despite the threat of higher-rated teams, it is only the execution of finer details that will win games this season.

“Honestly, we’ve been working hard since pre-season and our games have been balanced, either a draw or a win – or loss – by a goal or two, so I don’t think there were any particular changes which won us these two games except for the fact that we’ve continued to believe in ourselves,” Micallef said.

“The team has been growing day by day and I believe that these two wins give us a boost. However, there is an absolute balance between the teams
and details are what make the difference.”

On Saturday, Gudja gave Valletta their third consecutive defeat in a tough start to their season so far. The Citizens played most of the second half with nine men after Joseph Zerafa and Ryan Camilleri were sent off. Ruslan Kisil had put Gudja ahead right before the break with a penalty, and Filip Pankarican ended all hopes for Toze Mendes’s men with Gudja’s second goal.

Micallef said that even before the red cards, Gudja had held their own during the game, with the side having been already ahead before the first sending off.

“We were in front before the red cards and I believe that until then, the game was quite balanced. Obviously, with the red cards, we played 11 against nine and that’s an advantage,” Micallef said.

“I believe that after the second red, there were a few minutes during which we were not settled because suddenly we had a game that we had to win at all costs. But when we scored the second goal, we could control the game better and it was obviously easier to contain Valletta’s reaction.”

Micallef, who is in his first season with Gudja after leaving Challenge League side Pembroke last season, believes that the gap between all Premier league teams this season is minimal and even because there are only 12 teams this term, with many of them having been there for a while, matches are tougher for all.

“Results so far have either been draws or won by around two goals so the challenge is tougher for everyone. On paper, there are no easy games, so you need to be prepared on the day and you can’t get it wrong because on an off day, every team can beat you.”

High-profile matches

Gudja will play another two high-profile teams next in their season’s commitments as they face Birkirkara and Ħamrun Spartans. Asked about his team’s plans for the coming games, Micallef remained humble yet hopeful about his team’s chances.

“They are difficult games against Birkirkara and Ħamrun but the difference is not as big between our teams so we still believe that if we play our best football, we can win points,” he said.

“Our plan is to work on what we’ve done so far, fixing what needs to be fixed. We need to keep our feet on the ground because at the moment, there is a lot of enthusiasm after the two wins but it’s vital that we keep pushing to win points as much as we can.”


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