Season review: Malta

Birkirkara FC held their nerve to win a historic title decider against second-placed Hibernians FC, who took comfort from another Maltese Cup triumph in a repeat of the 2012 final.

Birkirkara won the title in historic fashion
Birkirkara won the title in historic fashion ©Domenic Aquilina

A breathless Maltese Premier League campaign reached a dramatic climax as Birkirkara FC ousted Hibernians FC in a historic one-off title decider. Not to be denied a share of the limelight, Michael Woods's team defeated Qormi FC in the Maltese Cup final.

Champions: Birkirkara FC
Paul Zammit's charges poured scorn on their underdog status by claiming the title and finishing well clear of pre-season favourites and holders Valletta FC. They triumphed in dramatic fashion too, outwitting Hibernians 3-1 in an unprecedented winner-takes-all showdown after the two teams finished level on points at the summit. Birkirkara's campaign was initially slow to catch fire until Zammit's slick unit found their feet and then held their nerve in one of the most exciting conclusions to a season in the history of Maltese football.

Cup final: Hibernians FC 3-1 Qormi FC
History repeated itself with the league runners-up overcoming Qormi 3-1 for the second season in succession. After a goalless first half, Edison, Bjorn Kristensen and Clayton Failla started to dictate terms, with Qormi losing much of their impetus after striker Alfred Effiong was taken off injured. Hibernians striker Tarabai struck twice, and while Ávila Pérez pulled one back for Qormi in added time, Jackson Lima restored his side's two-goal advantage at the death.

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

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara FC)
A reserved and modest individual off the pitch, the Birkirkara captain becomes a player of fierce determination once he crosses the white line. The 30-year-old midfielder was undoubtedly instrumental in his team's title triumph, possessing an uncanny knack of taking the bull by the horns in a slew of delicately-poised encounters.

One to Watch: Zach Muscat (Birkirkara FC)
With sagacity beyond his years, the 19-year-old proved a valuable asset when called upon having undergone a trial at Barnsley FC last August. Despite failing to command a regular first-team place, the Maltese U21 international nonetheless racked up 19 appearances and found the net in his side's crucial 3-1 triumph against Hibernians.

Surprise package: Qormi FC
Led by shrewd coach Jesmond Zerafa, Qormi reached the cup final for a third time in four years, before a second consecutive loss. A disappointing league campaign was offset by the form of strike duo Moisés Ávila Pérez and Nigerian Effiong, who hit 20 goals between them.

Leading Scorer: Jose Luis Armario Negrin, Rabat Ajax FC (22)

Relegated: Hamrun Spartans FC, Melita FC

Promoted: Naxxar Lions FC, Vittoriosa Stars FC

Number: 41
It took 41 years for Maltese football followers to witness another title decider showdown, the previous one having been when Sliema Wanderers FC beat rivals Floriana FC in 1972.

"I would like to dedicate this memorable day to everyone at the club and to my family, especially to my late parents who I'm sure the two two happiest people 'up there' today." 
An emotional Sciberras speaks after leading Birkirkara to the title.