Birkirkara came from behind to defeat Raiders Lija 2-1 after extra-time in the Championship Decider at the Centenary Stadium on Sunday.
In an entertaining match in front of an electric crowd, the two teams put on a strong showing which bodes well for the growth of this game.
Led by Denis Guerra, Raiders drew first blood through Michela Bonella Ghio but failed to make their pressure count and extend their lead. Their missed chances came back to haunt them as Birkirkara – coached by Dorianne Theuma – pegged them back in the 89th minute before netting the winning goal early in extra-time.
Birkirkara produced the first chance of the match when Lexine Farrugia darted towards goal but fired straight into goalkeeper Giulia D’Antuono.
Raiders Lija forged ahead at the first time of asking through Bonello Ghio whose long-range free-kick beat goalkeeper Erika Muscat.
After the goal, both teams continued to push with Birkirkara looking for a leveller whereas Raiders were striving to double the score.
In fact, Raiders could have extended their lead on a couple of occasions through Leah Ayres. First, the Maltese international had a one on one effort denied by the Birkirkara goalkeeper before sailing a header over the bar from point-blank range.
After the interval, Birkirkara were trying to pile up the pressure on their opponents with captain Veronique Mifsud failing to capitalise from close-range in the 66th minute.
On the other hand, Ayres squandered a golden opportunity to double Raiders Lija’s lead when after beating the offside trap, she failed to convert into goal from inside the penalty area. Maya Lucia had an attempt on goal blocked by Erika Muscat before Birkirkara’s Mifsud tried her luck from a freekick but failed to hit the target.
Four minutes from time, Birkirkara’s Izabella Camilleri let fly a strike which struck the crossbar before Lucia replied with a fierce shot that was smothered into Muscat’s hands.
Nonetheless, the Stripes managed to level terms at the death when a Martina Fenech’s corner crossed the line to the euphoria of the Birkirkara clan.
The game headed to extra-time and it was Birkirkara who netted the winning goal when a Lexine Farrugia’s header had already crossed the line before Sara Saliba guided it into the net.
They could have made sure of their win through Camilleri whose towering header from a corner-kick situation glanced past D’Antuono’s goal.
In stoppage time, Raiders Lija’s Cristina Hili missed the target from inside the penalty area as Birkirkara ended triumphant at the Centenary Stadium.