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Sliema leave rivals in their shadow

Published: Saturday 22 May 2004, 15.54CET
Malta review: Dominant Sliema Wanderers FC completed their first double since 1964/65. features

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Published: Saturday 22 May 2004, 15.54CET

Sliema leave rivals in their shadow

Malta review: Dominant Sliema Wanderers FC completed their first double since 1964/65.

Sliema Wanderers FC tightened their grip on Maltese football this season by completing their first Premier League and Maltese Trophy double since 1964/65.

'Dream come true'
Along with their Super Five Trophy victory in December, when they beat Valetta FC 4-2 on penalties, it is no surprise to hear Sliema's Nigerian goalkeeper Murphy Akanji declare to "Winning the double with Sliema is a dream come true for me. With a squad like ours, Sliema will be a tough nut to crack."

Four-point margin
Birkirkara FC kept Sliema under pressure, but the defending champions were overcame some early disappointing results, including a 4-1 defeat by Msida St. Joseph FC, to prevail by a four-point margin.

Landmark victory
Edward Aquilina's side then picked up their 100th major honour earlier this week with a record 19th Maltese Trophy victory. Joe
Brincat and Stefan Giglio scored to give Sliema a 2-0 win against final debutants Marsaxlokk FC.

'Special two years'
Akanji's fellow Nigerian Orosco Anonam, who forms a deadly striking trio with Danilo Doncic and Michael Mifsud, said: "It has been a special two years in which we won the title twice and now the Trophy. With a squad like that of Sliema the title is definitely a must. I never doubted our title success."

Doncic feat
For the third season running, Sliema's Danilo Doncic was the league's top scorer. Having shared that honour last year, he won outright this time with 20 goals, taking his Premier League total to 110.

Mastermind Aquilina
But the man on every Sliema fan's lips was coach Edward Aquilina. A reserved modest, professional man, Aquilina lets results do all the talking. Appointed in 2002, not only did his side dominate domestically, but they also progressed past Skonto FC in the UEFA Champions League.

'I am thrilled'
Aquilina, who played in the 1964/65 Sliema team, said: "I am thrilled by this double success. The boys worked hard for it and all credit to them as well. I am very pleased to be kept on by Sliema for another season - working alongside a hardworking president like Robert Arrigo at Sliema is the utmost a coach can ask for."

One season left
However, he had bittersweet news. "I would also like to announce that my coaching career will end at Sliema next season." That may be a relief to UEFA Cup-bound Birkirkara, who have kept coach Stephen Azzopardi for next season.

Super Cup contest
They exited the Maltese Trophy against Sliema in the semi-finals, but did win the triangular Lowenbrau Cup for the three European entrants in August. Birkirkara open the 2004/05 domestic season by playing Sliema for the Maltese Super Cup.

Hibernians record
Hibernians FC were also hoping for better than third. However, they took their Maltese record tally of consecutive matches in the top-flight beyond 1000, and will enter the UEFA Intertoto Cup next month against Croatian opposition.

Valetta disappointment
Marsaxlokk's progress continued as they finished fourth ahead of Pietà Hotspurs FC and Floriana FC, and reached the Trophy final - earning their first ever UEFA Cup campaign. Valletta yet again ended without silverware, and even had the shock of having to play in the relegation pool, which they negotiated comfortably. Bulgarian coach Atanas Marino has now resigned.

Msida survive
The relegation pool produced a hair-raising finale to the season.  Msida and Balzan Youths FC, both promoted last season, were level when they met in the final round. A 2-1 Msida win sent Balzan down with troubled Hamrun Spartans FC, who did not win a league game all season and drew just five of 24 games.

Last updated: 22/05/04 20.24CET