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City merit glory

Valletta Champions 2012

Hats off to Valletta.

The Citizens were crowned champions for the 21st time in their history on Sunday after a 3-0 win over Sliema Wanderers gave them an unassailable nine-point lead over Hibs at the top with two games left, sparking huge celebrations among their passionate fans.

Having cruised to the league title last season without conceding defeat, Valletta had a tough task on their hands to scale the heights of the previous campaign but they have been up for the challenge.

Regarded as surefire favourites to retain the title before the season got underway, Valletta were on a hiding to nothing.

Club president Victor Sciriha’s drive to recruit the best Maltese players plus high-quality foreigners has seen Valletta assemble a formidable squad in recent years but this inevitably heightened the level of expectancy.

Although Valletta have accom-plished their title mission with two matches to spare, their march was not always plainsailing.

Losing 2-0 to Hibs on the fifth day was a hammer blow, not so much because Valletta went down to one of their fiercest rivals but moreso because the defeat ruined their bid to set a new record for the longest unbeaten sequence in the league.

Valletta had equalled Hibs’ mark of 37 matches without defeat before their first meeting of the season but Mark Miller’s men upset the cham-pions in a match that underlined the Paolites’ potential to challenge for the title.

That blow constituted an early test for Valletta as it threatened to derail their season but they closed ranks and responded emphatically, embarking on another unbeaten run which they extended to 25 games with Sunday’s title-clinching win over Sliema.

It is this remarkable consistency and their ability to deliver under pressure that makes Valletta worthy champions.

Coach Jesmond Zerafa faced a testing period when with three first-squad players, Ryan Fenech, Dyson Falzon and Jamie Pace having joined other clubs on loan, sus-pensions and injuries left him short of homegrown players.

However, he overcame all diffi-culties to keep City on track.

The work and dedication of Zerafa and his squad came to fruition on Sunday when goals from Denni, Michael Mifsud and Ousseni Zongo, their fearsome attacking trio, ensured that Valletta remained on top of Maltese football for the second year running.

A fine achievement which should further bolster the club’s determination to make their mark in the early rounds of the Champions League next season.

Source – Times of Malta