Four foreigners made difference for us, says club president Casha
From time to time, cup football reminds us of its capacity to throw up the unexpected.
That was certainly the case on Tuesday night as the first two games of the third round of this season’s FA Trophy produced not one but two giant-killing acts which sent Birkirkara and Hibernians, two of the early favourites, crashing out of the competition.
Birkirkara’s quest to become the first team to lift the new FA Trophy silverware fell at the first hurdle after they slumped to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to fellow Premier League side St Andrews.
That upset was eclipsed by Hibernians’ exit at the hands of Division One side Senglea Athletic who prevailed 3-2 after extra-time.
Benny Casha, the president of Senglea Athletic, hailed Tuesday’s KO win over Hibernians as one of the most prestigious results in the club’s history.
“It’s up there with the best results our club has achieved during its history,” a beaming Casha told Times of Malta yesterday.
“It ranks alongside the victories over the likes of Sliema Wanderers and Ħamrun Spartans on the way to the 1981 FA Trophy final where we lost 2-1 to Floriana.
“Tuesday was the first time we had four foreign players in the starting line-up this season and it made a huge difference.”
With Hibs down to 10 men after Bjorn Kristensen was dismissed for two yellow cards after 35 minutes, Senglea surged into a two-goal lead courtesy of a brace from Brazilian forward Marcelo De Sousa Dias.
The Paolites hit back to level matters with goals from Jurgen Degabriele and an Andrew Cohen penalty but Senglea had the final say after Ryan Dalli struck the winner four minutes from the end of extra-time.
Casha believes that Senglea’s brisk approach rattled Hibernians.
“The tactical strategy adopted by our coach (Pablo Doffo) played a key role,” Casha said.
“I also think that Hibs might have taken us for granted but we surprised them.
“Only a few days earlier, Hibs had beaten Sliema Wanderers in the Premier League despite finishing the match with 10 men but this time the roles were reversed.
“It was a perfect evening for us and the inclusion of four foreigners in our team (Juninho Cabral, Aud-Gustine Obaje, Doffo and Dias) certainly helped to narrow the technical gap with Hibernians.”
Division One clubs are allowed to field only three foreigners in league games.
Senglea look well-placed to challenge for promotion to the Premier League this season as they are second in Division One, three points adrift of leaders Naxxar Lions.
Their famous win over Hibs ought to further strengthen their optimism about their promotion prospects but Casha is not getting carried away.
“This victory should raise our confidence but we need to be very careful as now our opponents in the championship will be more prepared when they play us,” Casha said.
“One particular difficulty we are facing in the league is that most of the teams play defensive football when they meet us whereas in the cup tie against Hibs, we could play our normal game because we were the underdogs but we showed our potential.”
Casha believes the current team is the best in Senglea Athletic’s entire history.
“Our objective is to gain promotion to the Premier League,” Casha said. “This is probably the best team Senglea Athletic have ever had as we not only have valid Maltese players but also high-quality foreigners.”