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Watch: Coach Andre Paus hails Birkirkara’s belief after stunning comeback

Birkirkara's Kurt Zammit (right) in a duel with Bojan Kaljevic. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Birkirkara coach Andre Paus lauded his team’s belief and resilience as the Stripes produced one of the biggest comebacks in the 2021-22 Premier League when they scored two injury-time goals to stun Balzan 3-2 at the Centenary Stadium on Wednesday.

It looked as though Birkirkara were set for a miserable start to the new year when a penalty conversion from Aleksa Andreijic and an Uros Ljubomirac strike just before half-time handed Balzan a commanding two-goal lead.

But football is capable of producing things you would never expect and that is what happened. When Luke Montebello pulled a goal back with three minutes to go nobody thought that the Stripes could salvage the match.

But Birkirkara kept believing and coach Andre Paus’s decision to include young forward Jed Valletta in stoppage time proved a masterstroke as the young striker went on to clinch the equaliser with a spectacular strike two minutes into stoppage time before Diego Venancio sealed an extraordinary comeback with a fine winner.

The win lifted Birkirkara to fourth place on 24 points while Balzan remained seventh on 19 points.

“I only have words of praise for my players as they showed great resilience and belief,” Paus told the Times of Malta.

“When we scored our first goal on 87 minutes few thought that we could come back but the players kept believing. To be fair in the final 20 minutes of the match we had pushed a lot but couldn’t find the net… but luckily the players’ courage was rewarded with two injury-time goals.

“This is a very important win for us in terms of confidence. You can try and generate confidence by talking to the players but it is only created by performing well and winning points.”

Despite the euphoria of their dramatic win, Paus conceded that he was disappointed with the team’s performance in the first half.

“Our first-half performance was very poor,” the Dutchman said.

“We committed a lot of mistakes and the players failed to pick up second balls and that made things complicated for us.

“When you face top teams, every mistake that you commit is likely that you will be punished.

“The biggest problem is that we failed to control the tempo of the match and without that you cannot win matches. In the second half we improved a lot and managed to turn it around.

“But no doubt, we should learn from this match as on another day it would cost us valuable points.”

The Birkirkara coach had particular words of praise for young striker Jed Valletta who he described as ‘our gem’.

“Jed Valletta has showed what a great talent he is,” Paus said.

“I think he is showing every day what a great striker he can become. I have never doubted his qualities and I am sure that in two or three years’ time he will be one of the best forwards on the island. But he needs to remain humble and continue to work hard.”

Next up for Birkirkara is a clash against second-placed Floriana on Sunday and Paus is bracing himself for another difficult test.

“It’s going to be another difficult test for us,” Paus said.

“I hope that the players will carry the positive momentum and continue to build on that against Floriana. This season there are no easy matches in the Premier League and if you take the field with the wrong attitude you will be soundly punished.

“So hopefully against Floriana we can see the real Birkirkara right from the start.”

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