Ħamrun Spartans coach Branko Nisevic hailed his players’ determination to wrap up their title triumph last Saturday when they edged Gżira United 1-0 at the National Stadium on Stadium.
Luke Montebello netted the all-important goal nine minutes of time that handed his team their 19th win this season and take an unassailable 17-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings and secure their ninth championship crown in their history.
It was far from a vintage display from the Spartans who looked tense on the day and survived some anxious moments, particularly in the second half before Montebello came off the bench to sweep the ball past Gżira goalkeeper Darijan Zarkov to send his fans into raptures.
“I am so happy that we have wrapped up the league title today,” Nisevic told the Times of Malta.
“It was a very long campaign that started with our European participation in the first week of July and for the past nine months the players kept performing at a very high level and it’s great to see that we are ending the season with as Malta champions.
“No doubt this proves the quality of our squad and I am just happy to be in charge of this group of players. It’s a case of being at the club at the right place and at the right time.
“Today it was a bit tense for us. I had said that we had five matchdays to win the title and we knew that given all the expectations there were around the squad and among our fans it was inevitable that there was a bit of tension as we didn’t want to take unnecessary risks.
“But the players have shown that they are still capable to perform in such tense circumstances.”
With the team needing just one point to wrap up the title on Saturday, the match attracted a huge crowd with the Spartans fans filling their section at their enclosure section as well as a huge number sitting in the Millennium Stand.
Nisevic said it was great to give their passionate fans a good cause to celebrate.
“Our supporters have been with us since our first game in Armenia way back in July,” the Serbian coach said.
“Since then, they have always been behind us and always showed how much they loved our club and we have only respect and a great deal of appreciation towards them. They have been waiting for so long for this moment and have good cause to celebrate tonight.”
Turning his sights to the rest of the season, Nisevic said that preparation for the team’s participation in the Champions League qualifiers is high on their agenda.
“There are still four matches to go and we will set a number of objectives from now till the end of the season,” he said.
“We need to understand some things, maybe give more playing time to players who didn’t feature much. Then within a week or two, we will start preparations for the summer.
“Our president is very eager to do better in Europe than we did last year. He always sets ambitious goals and is always there to push us. Last summer he wanted us to reach the third qualifying round and I had told him it was difficult but we then managed to reach the Play-Off round.
“For us, it’s good to have this kind of guy that is pushing us to the limit as he is getting the most out of the whole squad.”
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