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Sliema win 22nd FA Trophy, seal splendid season in style

Published: Sun 12 May 2024, 22:17
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12.05.2024, National Stadium, Ta’ Qali

(After extra time, Sliema Wanderers winners after penalty kicks: 2-4)

Season 2023/24 came to and end tonight with the FA Trophy Final, won by Sliema Wanderers after extra time and penalties. It was the very first major Trophy for the Blues since they won the same Trophy last in 2016, confirming their return to the very elite of Maltese football after winning the Challenge League last season. Like in the Semi-Final, towering Maltese international goalkeeper Rashed Al-Tumi proved to be the man of the match once more, not only saving two penalties in the shoot-out but making some vital interceptions throughout the match.

The match, which could have gone either way, was a repetition of the FA Trophy Final in 2017, when Floriana beat Sliema Wanderers 2-0 with Enzo Ruiz and Clyde Borg being the scorers for the Greens. From that Final seven years ago, Mark Scerri was the only survivor but the Sliema veteran remained on the bench throughout the game. It was the 16th time in history that these traditional clubs ended up playing each other in the Final, with Floriana being crowned winners on nine occasions, while tonight was the Wanderers’ seventh victory over their eternal rivals in Malta’s domestic cup competition.

Floriana had two crucial players suspended for this match, which were Tunisian centre-back Oualid El Hasni and midfield maestro Matias Garcia, who both saw red in their semi-final against Gzira United. On the side of Sliema, 37-year-old veteran Edmond Agius was a spectator as well after being sent-off in the final stages of the Blues’ semi-final game with Birkirkara.

The first 25 minutes most definitely belonged to Floriana, who threatened several times mainly through their forwards Kemar Reid and Willis Furtado. Play stabilised after the opening period, with Sliema trying to control midfield. On 42 minutes, the Wanderers finally produced their first shot on target, which was a Samuel Gomes free-kick from the left side just outside the box.

On 56 minutes, Al-Tumi was called back into action, parading a close-range grounder of Matheus de Sousa after Jake Grech did all the hard work on the right flank. Four minutes later, Nemanja Andrijanic did well to save a Gomes 20-meters distance scorcher. Towards the very end of the match, substitutes Lydon Micallef and Daniil Kondrakov could have decided the match with two great Sliema opportunities but both strikers failed to finish, with the match going into extra time.

On 103 minutes, Al Tumi performed another splendid save on a Maksim Volodko attempt in a Floriana attack rooted on the right flank through Adam Magri Overend with Reid missing from close-range. Moments later, a Gustavo Alcino header on the other side from a corner missed target by an inch.

Right after the start of the second half of extra time, Volodko was cautioned twice in quick succession and was given his marching orders. With various players tiring out, Sliema nearly capitalized on their numerical superiority with Acheampong and Neil Frendo coming close to kick the winner behind Adrijanic. At the very end of the match, Frendo was given a straight red card after an incident in the Floriana box.

It were the Sliema Wanderers who took the penalties better however, with Joseph Minala hitting home the final Blues penalty.

Floriana, who lay their hands on the Cup two years ago after beating Valletta, is ending their season without silverware but can be complimented by giving an excellent challenge to Hamrun Spartans in the league. The Greens will now compete in the UEFA Conference League along with Cup Winners Sliema which also means that Marsaxlokk, who finished their season in fourth place, will return to Europe after an absence of 16 years. The UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers will be played throughout the months of July and August.

The match brought an end to season 2023/24, with Hamrun Spartans winning the Super Cup in December and the Championship title earlier this month. They will participate in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, also planned for July and August.

The 16 FA Trophy Finals between Floriana and Sliema Wanderers
1935      Sliema Wanderers 4 Floriana 0
1936      Sliema Wanderers 2 Floriana 1
1938      Floriana 2 Sliema Wanderers 1
1945      Floriana Athletic 2 Sliema Athletic 1
1949      Floriana 5 Sliema Wanderers 1
1953      Floriana 1 Sliema Wanderers 0 aet
1955      Floriana 1 Sliema Wanderers 0
1956      Sliema Wanderers 1 Floriana 0
1958      Floriana 2 Sliema Wanderers 0
1965      Sliema Wanderers 4 Floriana 2
1972      Floriana 3 Sliema Wanderers 1
1974      Sliema Wanderers 1 Floriana 0
1979      Sliema Wanderers 2 Floriana 1
1993      Floriana 5 Sliema Wanderers 0
2017      Floriana 2 Sliema Wanderers 0
2024      Sliema Wanderers 0 Floriana 0 aet (4-2 pens)

Images copyright Domenic Aquilina