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Season review: Malta

Published: Monday 28 May 2012, 10.59CET
Valletta FC lost just twice en route to claiming back-to-back titles, finishing six points clear of Hibernians FC, who did not miss out on silverware thanks to a Maltese Cup triumph.
by Domenic Aquilina
Season review: Malta
Valletta celebrate their 21st title ©Domenic Aquilina
Published: Monday 28 May 2012, 10.59CET

Season review: Malta

Valletta FC lost just twice en route to claiming back-to-back titles, finishing six points clear of Hibernians FC, who did not miss out on silverware thanks to a Maltese Cup triumph.

Valletta FC won their second successive Maltese Premier League crown thanks to a run of 26 games without defeat which left them six points clear of title rivals Hibernians FC. Home and away wins against the champions were scant consolation for second-placed Hibernians but they at least lifted the Maltese Cup to ensure their season ended on a high.

Champions: Valletta FC
Despite those two defeats by Hibernians, Valletta were champions again after going unbeaten from the end of September until the beginning of May. Victor Schriha's side beat Sliema Wanderers FC 3-0 on 29 April to clinch their 21st title with two rounds to spare and earn a UEFA Champions League qualifying place as a reward. Not surprisingly, captain Michael Mifsud was delighted by how the season had panned out. "I would like to dedicate this first Premier League title with Valletta to my family, close friends and of course to this marvellous crowd of supporters here at the National Stadium," said Mifsud, who scored ten goals in 21 starts.

Cup final:  Hibernians FC 3-0 Qormi FC
Premier League runners-up Hibernians made sure they did not to miss out on silverware by beating Qormi 3-0 at the National Stadium. Coach Mark Miller had been dismissed at the end of the league campaign two weeks earlier but caretaker Richard Mercieca guided Hibernians to their ninth cup success thanks to a Clayton Failla penalty and two goals from Jackson Lima.

*European places
Valletta FC – UEFA Champions League first qualifying round
Hibernians FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
Birkirkara FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Jonathan Caruana (Valletta FC)
The official awards may not yet have been announced but one player certain to be in contention is the 25-year-old Malta defender. Caruana is a largely understated figure but his awareness, reading of the game and consistent performances confirmed his status as the main man in the heart of Valletta's defence.

One to watch: Obinna Obiefule (Mosta FC)
The Nigerian forward enjoyed a purple patch at Marsaxlokk FC, before his prolificacy continued with Mosta in January, where he found the net 24 times in 17 appearances to help the Premier League newcomers maintain their top-flight status. The 24-year-old has one of the best scoring records in Europe and with his deadly finishing and lively movement will be one to keep an eye on next term.

Surprise package: Balzan Youths FC
Under the shrewd guidance of coach Ian Zammit, the newly promoted side not only maintained their Premier League status but managed to post a top-six finish.

Leading scorer: Obinna Obiefule, Mosta FC (24)

Relegated: Mqabba FC, Marsaxlokk FC

Promoted: Melita FC, Rabat Ajax FC

Number: 38
Evergreen Valletta captain Gilbert Agius turned 38 in February but kept his place in the starting XI despite a number of new signings. Agius has been named as Valletta's assistant coach for next season after a playing career that has brought eight Premier League titles. He was, notably, a member of the Valletta sides that achieved a clean sweep of five and six honours in 1996/97 and 2000/01 seasons respectively.

Quote:
"It was not easy at all this season to win the title for the second year running.  Competition was fierce and I would like to dedicate this title to a person very much in my heart, my grandfather." An emotional Jonathan Caruana spoke to UEFA.com after winning the title with Valletta.

Last updated: 10/07/12 14.19CET

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