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BOV Division One

Naxxar coach Vella credits players’ attitudes for positive start to season

Naxxar Lions eased past Qrendi last weekend. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Naxxar beat Qrendi to go third

Just over a month into this season’s Challenge League, the battle for a spot in the championship pool remains top
priority for clubs upon return from the international break.

While Sliema Wanderers and Fgura United are the only unbeaten sides left in the division, right behind them in third place are Naxxar Lions. The latter have had a similar start to the season as the previous, commencing positively and amassing ten points in the first five matches.

The Lions share the spot with Melita who, despite a crushing 6-2 victory over derby rivals St Andrews on Sunday, stand below Naxxar due to goal difference.

As Naxxar have flourished after a number of signings including former Valletta goalkeeper Yenz Cini and experienced players like Jonathan Bajada and Adolphus Marshall, last weekend’s opponents Qrendi have not shared the same faith.
Qrendi have faced troubles since last season and this has been carried into the new season as well, the side scoring just a point in their first five matches, a goalless draw against St Andrews on the opening day.

In fact, two early goals by new signings Eryks Ferreira and Robinson Blandon were enough to grant Naxxar a 2-0 win on Sunday.

Speaking to the Times of Malta after his side’s victory, Naxxar coach George Vella insists his players have been humble so far and against Qrendi, they followed the gameplan set by himself and his staff which in turn, led to the win.

“The team reacted well after the draw against Tarxien in which the team created but failed to capitalise,” Vella explained.

“Against Qrendi, the attitude was right from the start, with the players following the game plan that we worked on during the week – credit to them for this.”

Naxxar have made no less than 12 new signings this summer, five of whom come from financially-troubled Pembroke Athleta who refuted their license to play in this season’s Premier League and are now taking part in the National Amateur League instead.

“It was a very busy summer in terms of signings and pre-season,” Vella said.

“Having a number of new players makes it a challenging task to gel them together, make them fit into your style
of play, and achieve the best results holistically.

“I must say that I am really satisfied with the team’s performance so far. The technical staff together with the players are committed to improving even further.”

Relegation scare

Asked about this year’s Challenge League, Vella echoed fellow coaches who have all expressed how the greater scare of relegation has been an impetus for teams to work harder.

“Considering that six teams will be relegated this year, all the teams did their homework well in order to have a strong team and achieve their targets,” he said.

Naxxar Lions face newly promoted Marsascala next on Saturday.

On paper, this looks like another episode of top versus bottom, with the Southsiders having yet to garner a point in their debut season in the division.

While football in the National Amateur League and that in the Challenge League is an entirely different affair, Vella’s side will not be taking their struggling opponents lightly.

“Each match has its own story and the most important thing is to take nothing for granted,” Vella said.

“Our aim is to continue improving game by game, but this can only be done by being humble like we’ve always been and working hard.”

RESULTS

Mqabba vs Sliema W. 1-2
Melita vs St Andrews 6-2
Swieqi vs Fgura United 1-1
San Ġwann vs Vittoriosa 3-1
Naxxar Lions vs Qrendi 2-0

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