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Valletta retain FA Trophy

Season 1995-96 started and ended well for Valletta FC.

The Lowenbrau Cup kicked off on July 24, 1995 with the match between Valletta and Sliema Wanderers.

Valletta edged the Wanderers 1-0 and with the latter beating Hibernians 2-0 in the second game, the Whites only needed a draw against Hibs to retain the Lowenbrau Cup.

It was a Joe Zarb goal, this time from a penalty, that gave Valletta the points they needed to beat Hibs and win the pre-season competition.

Valletta and Hibernians met again three days later in the semi-finals of the Super Five tournament. The match ended in a 1-1 draw but Valletta won 4-2 on penalties.

The second semi-final also finished in a 1-1 draw. This time it was Floriana who beat Sliema Wanderers 4-3 in the shoot-out.

The final was worthy of an encounter between old rivals Valletta and Floriana. Nenad Veselji opened the scoring for Floriana after only one minute.

Shaken by this early goal, Valletta tried to regain their composure but Darren Debono increased City's problems with an own goal on 24 minutes.

Valletta threw caution to the wind. They attacked in numbers but the Greens defended stoutly. Four minutes from time, Ivan Zammit managed to break Floriana's resistance but the Greens held on to their advantage up to the final whistle.

In 1995-96, Valletta had a very disappointing league campaign. The Citizens started in bright fashion. A splendid run of seven victories gave them a five-point lead over Sliema but when it seemed that the Citizens were going to run away with the championship, they began to falter.

Successive 1-1 draws against Naxxar Lions and Hibs and an unexpected 1-2 defeat against Ħamrun Spartans cut their lead to a mere point.

Sliema capitalised on this unexpected loss of form by the Citizens. The second round encounter between the two title contenders was the turning point. Valletta took a 1-0 lead early in the game but despite playing with 10 men for most of the 90 minutes, Sliema turned defeat into victory.

This was the start of Sliema's revival. They never looked back and, despite being hit hard by injuries to key players, they won all their remaining matches to claim the 23rd championship in their history.

Valletta made up for their league upset by successfully defending the FA Trophy.

Pietà Hotspurs stole the limelight in the initial rounds. They eliminated Premier League clubs Rabat Ajax and Ħamrun Spartans.

Lija Athletic also made it to the quarter-finals at the expense of Żurrieq while Mosta, although knocked out by St Patrick, left a good impression. Tarxien Rainbows fought gamely before going down to Ħamrun.

The four seeded teams found little difficulty reaching the semi-finals. Sliema beat Lija 3-1 while Hibs brought Pietà's fine run to an end with a 3-2 victory. Floriana ousted Birkirkara 4-2 while Valletta eased past St Patrick's 3-0.

In the first semi-final, Sliema saw off Floriana 2-0 after extra-time.

Valletta were hardly bothered by a below-par Hibs side. The 3-0 final scoreline did not flatter the Citizens.

The final was played in front of one of the biggest crowds of the season. It was a thrilling encounter but no goals were scored after two hours of action.

The replay was played four days later. The spectators were again treated to a gripping game. This time, Gilbert Agius's goal early in the first half decided a balanced encounter as the Citizens retained the FA Trophy.

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