A gem of a free-kick from Shaun Bajada after just two minutes paved the way for a remarkable final day in the Maltese Premier League as Valletta FC snatched the trophy from Birkirkara FC's grasp.
Going into the game two points clear at the top of the table, a draw would have been enough for Birkirkara but they never recovered from Bajada's early salvo. Throwing caution to the wind land on, they were hit on the counter as substitute Roderick Briffa's drive beat Justin Haber for the second time – sending the Valletta faithful into wild celebrations which will go on through the night in the Maltese capital.
"God up above," Bajada told UEFA.com at the final whistle, pointing to the night's sky. "I have no words. My goal today, the title – never dreamt this would end like this." Nor could Birkirkara, who last season overcame Hibernians FC in a not dissimilar winner-takes-all showdown, a one-off match after the teams had finished level at the end of the regular campaign. This term brought its own drama.
In front of a crowd of 10,000 at the National Stadium, Valletta produced a lion-hearted performance befitting the crest they wear on their chest. Captain Ryan Fenech was imperious in midfield and biting back the tears at the final whistle, he told UEFA.com: "It has been such a memorable year for me in particular – getting married, having a child – the family, Valletta FC and now the title. I could not ask for more."
The final 90 minutes of Valletta's season summed up much of the previous eight months as they played just as Dutch coach André Paus said they would earlier in the week: "without any pressure". Their reward was a composed 2-0 victory, their 22nd league title and a place in next season's UEFA Champions League qualifiers.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.