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1994-95 - Hibs retain title

Hibs captain Michael Woods receiving the league trophy from MFA president Joe Mifsud.

Hibs captain Michael Woods receiving the league trophy from MFA president Joe Mifsud.

The 1994-95 season was very similar to the previous one as Hibernians retained the league championship.

Hibs dominated in the first round but, in the second part of the competition, they faltered and stumbled before steadying themselves in the straight for home.

At the start of the season, Hibs had suffered an unexpected blow after being forced to release one of their foreign players.

Although there was a gentlemen's agreement between the clubs to keep the number of foreign players the same as the previous season, the Premier League Clubs' Standing Committee voted in favour of reducing the number of foreign players from three to two.

It was evident that Hibs had the best foreign trio on the island. The move, therefore, seemed intended to weaken the Paolites by forcing them to part with one of their foreigners, George Lawrence, Karl Zacchau and Robert Docherty.

In the circumstances, one could hardly blame Hibs if they felt cheated.

It was a tough decision for the champions. At the end, after much deliberation, Hibs decided to sacrifice prolific goal scorer Zacchau.

The Danish striker was heartbroken and I know he left the club in tears.

Hibs replaced Zacchau with Konrad Sultana, of Żurrieq FC. He had a good season, scoring some crucial goals on the way to the championship but the Hibs' supporters never forgot the exploits of the lion-hearted Zacchau.

Hibs were challenged all the way by Sliema Wanderers, Valletta and Floriana. Strengthened by Carmel Busuttil, back from his successful stint in Belgium, and by ex-Floriana winger Mark Miller, Sliema entertained high hopes of knocking Hibernians off their perch.

The Blues started the season in top gear but at a crucial stage of the campaign, they lost to Ħamrun Spartans. Badly shaken, the Blues seemed to have recovered well but when they lost to Floriana, their hopes were dashed.

After their fine start to the season, Floriana were also expected to challenge seriously for them title.

However, two consecutive defeats to Sliema and Hibernians in the initial phase of the competition dimmed their chances.

As the season progressed, the Greens regained lost ground to rejoin the race for the title.

A missed penalty, however, in their second round encounter with Hibernians erased any hopes they may have had of winning the championship.

The match was heading to a 1-1 draw when, with seconds left, Floriana were given a penalty. Igor Stefanovic took the kick but to his dismay, the ball hit the post and rebounded into play.

Without thinking, Stefanovic hit the rebound into the net but the referee justly annulled the goal for offside. Valletta's third place in the final table belied their potential.

Internal crisis undermined the team's performances during the first round but when Edward Aquilina took charge of the team, the Citizens improved considerably.

Hopes began to soar with every game played but when Valletta lost their direct encounter with Hibernians, their title chances were as good as nil.

Hibs hit a rocky patch in the initial phase of the second round. Two consecutive draws and the defeat against Sliema trimmed their lead at the top.

The Paolites, however, hit back. Showing grit and determination, they had a run of five consecutive victories, culminating in the match against Valletta which virtually assured them of the championship.

It was a merited reward for the team, coach Brian Talbot, club president Tony Bezzina and his committee who, despite the occasional setback, never lost faith in the team.

With players like Michael Woods and Lawrence Attard in defence, Docherty and Silvio Vella in midfield and Lawrence in attack, Hibs were a cut above the rest. These players were the kingpins in a balanced side. However, at the end it was team spirit that won the day for the Paolites.

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