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Ħamrun Spartans finished their successful Premier League campaign in style as they defeated Gudja United in their season finale.
The Spartans, buoyed by the enthusiastic crowd that filled the Enclosure stands at the National Stadium, picked up their 22nd win of the season as they wrapped up their campaign with a 19-point lead above Birkirkara, who finished second.
This year’s title is Ħamrun’s ninth crown and their second in the last three seasons as the Spartans are looking to open a dynasty with further success in both the local and possibly in European football.
They will be making their debut in the Champions League next season having last played in this competition back in 1991 when it was still referred to as the European Cup.
For their season finale, Ħamrun’s coach Branko Nisevic fielded a strong starting formation including goalkeeper Henry Bonello and captain Steve Borg.
Forward Elvis Mashike was also fielded from the start as he was chasing the league’s top scorer Jefferson with the Spartans having the improbable task of netting four goals to pip him to the accolade.
Although not registered as a player, there was a lot of attention around whether president Joseph Portelli would still introduce himself on the playing field and in the closing stages it looked like he was going to ‘fulfil his dream’.
However, after warming up for a handful of minutes he returned to the bench before the Spartans made their fifth and final substitution of the game.
Back in January, the Malta Football Association’s executive board has turned down a request made by the Spartans to register Portelli as a player on the recommendation of its ethics committee.
Gudja United, on their part, were led by interim coach Ludvic Bartolo following the resignation of Andrea Agostinelli earlier this month.
Deployed from the start were former Ħamrun captain Karl Micallef and youngster Shaisen Attard, who joined the Blues on loan from the Spartans this season.
The Blues finished their Premier League campaign in 10th with 29 points, having secured eight victories and five draws.
Ħamrun Spartans could not have wished for a better start when Ryan Camenzuli’s cross was converted into goal by forward Elvis Mashike inside the first minute of the game.
As expected, the Spartans dictated proceedings and they managed to find a second through Camenzuli who beat Glenn Zammit with a delightful volley from the edge of the area.
Gudja’s first chance dropped on the feet of Tatsuro Nagamatsu but his long-range volley failed to threaten goalkeeper Bonello.
Jonny replied for Ħamrun, firing a low drive from the edge of the area but Zammit managed to keep his effort at bay.
Gudja’s Vito Plut came close to pull one back for the Blues when he connected with a corner-kick but his towering header just glanced past Bonello’s goal.
At the break, Gudja made one change with Nicolas Navarrete coming on for Nagamatsu in a bid to spark the attack into life.
Ħamrun came close to finding a third through substitutes Luke Montebello and Dodo, but neither of them managed to find the back of the net midway into the second half.
However, that little mattered as at the end of the match the Spartans title party kickstarted with the thousands of Reds fans in full voice cheering their players on their way to receiving the championship trophy.
The volume levels reached their maximum when president Bjorn Vassallo presented the championship trophy to Ħamrun Spartans captain Steve Borg who lifted the trophy towards the sky amid the jubilation of the players, team officials and fans.
Referee: Ishmael Barbara
Ryan Camenzuli (HMR)
BOV PLAYER OF THE MATCH
|#||Player||Position||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards||Second Yellows||Red Cards|
|21||Joseph Attard 39||Defender||0||0||0||0||0|
|23||Neil Tabone 19||Defender||0||0||0||0||0|
|7||John Mintoff 92||Defender||0||0||0||0||0|
|19||Johann Bezzina 23||Midfielder||0||0||0||0||0|
|92||Jean Claude Bugeja 7||Defender||0||0||0||0||0|
|39||Samuel Gomes 21||Midfielder||0||0||0||0||0|
|8||Tatsuro Nagamatsu 77||Midfielder||0||0||0||0||0|
|77||Nicolas Navarrete 8||Midfielder||0||0||0||0||0|
|11||Shaisen Attard 99||Forward||0||0||0||0||0|
|99||Divaio Kolf 11||Forward||0||0||0||0||0|