Seven teams will be battle it out to lift the Women’s Knock-Out competition as the women’s domestic cup makes it return after a two-year absence.
The 2020 and 2021 edition never took place after the Covid-19 pandemic had forced the Maltese football governing body to cut the local competitions.
The return of this competition is a sign of progress that we are continuing to edge towards normality while it will continue to boost the promotion of the movement on our islands.
Six teams have been drawn to feature in Round 1 with three games between Tuesday and Wednesday. The three winners will join Mtarfa in the semi-finals that are pencilled for this Sunday.
The final is set be played at the Centenary Stadium on Friday, May 27 (kick-off: 19.30).
Rampant Birkirkara have just added their 10th women’s league title to their trophy cabinet after another spectacular season in which they matched the domestic record of unbeaten league games – 69, set by Hibernians between the 1999/2000 and 2004/2005 season.
Coached by Melania Bajada, the league champions will be eyeing to complete another championship-cup double to affirm their status as the team to beat in Malta.
Their track record in this cup is impressive with 15 titles, topping the all-time winners’ list. Birkirkara claimed the last three editions from 2017 to 2019 and they start as favourites to complete a domestic clean sweep.
However, they won’t have an easy introduction to this competition as their first opponents are none other than rivals Mġarr United.
Birkirkara and Mġarr contended the last edition played, back in 2019. On that day, the Stripes emerged winners 2-0 thanks to goals from Stephania Farrugia and Ann-Marie Said after beating Swieqi United and Kirkop United en route to the final.
For Mġarr, this competition provides an opportunity to make up for their run-in in the league after slipping into third despite a strong start to their campaign.
Coach Michael Mangion, in his debut season at the helm of the Greens, will bank on the goals of Francesca Chircop and Brenda Borg who finished in the top two places of the league’s scoring charts with 20 and 19 goals respectively.
The winner of Birkirkara and Mġarr will then face one between Raiders Lija and San Ġwann.
Denis Guerra’s Raiders Lija have concluded a remarkable campaign for them in fourth place with 31 points and strong showings against the top three teams of the league which bodes well for their progress in the near future.
The quality they boast in their squad can allow them to have a say in this competition. But first, they have to overcome the hurdle called San Ġwann.
The Yellows participated in the senior women’s league for the first time, managing to pick up a draw and a historic win in their maiden year.
Coach Jean Paul Attard, who juggles his coaching duties with playing for Gżira United in the Maltese top-flight, has a squad composed of youths and experience which can always provide a good test to the opponents in a knock-out game, just like their U-16’s side have shown after reaching the cup final.
The third and final team that will head into the semi-finals will be determined from the Swieqi United and Kirkop United affair.
The Owls have improved from their shaky start to the season and they managed to string a run of six unbeaten games in the league, including a 2-2 draw against Birkirkara after leading until five minutes from the end.
Winter signings Alexis Espitia and Fernanda Peinado, player of the month for April and scorer of 10 goals, have added more offensive prowess whereas evergreen Dorianne Theuma – 10 goals – has helped to lift the spirits of the team with her regular strong performances.
On the other hand, Kirkop United finished their season in fifth place with 21 points. If previous results are to go by, the Reds tend to do particularly well in this competition having reached the final in 2017 before making into the last four the following year.
Forward Rodianne Zerafa has proved her eye for goal once again after finishing the league campaign with 15 goals.
Meanwhile, Raiders Lija and Swieqi United have clinched the U-20’s and U-16’s KO competitions respectively.
In a repeat of the U-20’s championship decider, Raiders Lija crossed swords with Birkirkara in another nerve-wrecking affair at the Centenary Stadium. Sarah Vella Barbieri and Michela Bonello Ghio were the scorers for the side led by Denis Guerra. On the other hand, Sara Saliba scored for Birkirkara.
A Kay Axiak and Nina Naudi goals were enough for Swieqi United to hand them a 2-0 win over San Ġwann in the U-16’s final played at the Marsascala Ground.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
TUESDAY, MAY 17
Raiders Lija vs San Ġwann – 19.00, Mġarr Ground
Birkirkara vs Mġarr United – 19.45, Centenary Stadium
WEDNESDAY, MAY 18
Swieqi United vs Kirkop United – 19.45, Centenary Stadium.
SUNDAY, MAY 22
Swieqi United or Kirkop United/Mtarfa – 10.30, Mġarr Ground
Birkirkara or Mġarr vs Raiders Lija or San Ġwann – 16.00, Centenary Stadium
FRIDAY, MAY 27
Winner semi-final 1 vs Winner semi-final 2 – 19.30, Centenary Stadium
Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina/Malta FA.