This year’s BOV Challenge League season is reaching the end of its regular proceedings with many teams still uncertain of where they will be playing next season.
One thing is certain however, and that is the close nature of the standings in both groups.
Following sixth-placed side St Andrews’ 3-2 win over strugglers Senglea Athletic, Saints coach Brian Said told the Times of Malta that his team’s aim is most definitely to win the final set of matches.
“The plan is to win all of what is left of the season and climb as high as we can in the standings,” Said said.
“This season, in my opinion, has been a positive one but we needed that something extra to keep up with the big teams. If you see our matches and the goals we scored, it all shows. But I still think we needed something more.
“The aim is obviously to look at our next matches, and even our fixture in the FA Trophy – another opportunity for the players to play against a better team, one which is better-quoted than us. There’s always the chance to progress.”
Asked about the match on Saturday, an end-to-end contest that could have gone either way until the last second, Said admits that even though the team won, they should have closed off the encounter sooner.
“The most important thing is that we won the three points, especially in windy conditions that were particularly difficult,” he said.
“I’m satisfied but we had a lot of chances especially in the second half which could have given us the game much earlier. That was the biggest issue and that’s why the match remained wide open until the end. We need to be careful when creating so many chances and we need to start taking them because the contest would have been over much sooner.”
At the other end, Senglea have faced adversity this season, having gotten relegated from the Premier League last season.
However, it was far from the push for return one would expect, with the side risking another relegation into the Amateur League by the end of the season.
Standing in ninth place on 12 points, just two ahead of joint bottom sides Mġarr United and Luqa St Andrew’s, Senglea have encountered defensive problems and coach Dennis Fenech believes that as the season progressed, his side started to both score and concede more.
“Our problem today was that we needed a win and we opted for a system which gives more space for attack but also opens up our defence a bit,” Fenech, who oversaw the match from the stands after accumulating enough yellow cards to get suspended, told the Times of Malta.
“Added to this, we had some missing players especially in defence. I was disappointed to see us score and concede an equaliser almost instantly, instead of trying to keep the score in our favour.
“We don’t have many experienced players and in January, we needed players to strengthen our squad but were not able to do this – obviously, it is harder to find players at that point of the season as well.”
Another hurdle to overcome against St Andrew’s was the issue of suffering three early injuries in the first half.
“It affected our match a lot because you can’t replace later on,” Fenech said.
“Two of those (players) who got injured were dubious from the start but the players I could have started instead of them were ill and so, I was short and had to use them anyway. To be honest however, I was not expecting them to get injured so early on.”
The match couldn’t have started better for Fenech’s side as they scored with their first shot of the match after two minutes when a cross from the flank bounced into the area. No player managed to clear the ball ahead of Matheus De Lucena Guariento who volleyed it into the net.
Just a minute later, the teams were level again. On the counter, the ball was pushed towards Alan Borg Olivier who in turn, hit a low cross into the path of Alexander Nilsson to stab home.
The match calmed down for a while after the electric start, until the 22nd minute when the deadlock was broken again.
From a St Andrew’s goal-kick, the ball was played low with defenders finding Kei Sano who dribbled past two players on the left flank and hit past Senglea goalkeeper James Pisani to give his side the lead.
Senglea’s Lucas Santos Ferreira provided a quick response three minutes later when a cannon of a shot was only stopped by a diving Miguel Montfort, who put the ball out for a corner. Luck was on the former’s side as from the ensuing flag kick, the ball returned to Santos Ferreira who hit an identical shot into the top corner to get his team level again.
The break settled down both sets of supporters. However, it took them only five minutes to reignite their excitement as the second half began.
In the first attack of the half, St Andrew’s players crowded the Senglea area, putting pressure as Jamie Sixmsith struck a loose ball to score what was to be the match winner.
St Andrew’s continued to pile up the pressure but could not extend the lead, with the final whistle handing them the three points.
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