The gulf between Valletta and Floriana these days is reflected in the names on their teamsheet and their positions in the league table but come April 13, these factors will be put to one side as these two fierce adversaries will face off in the final of the National League 100 Anniversary Cup.

Expectations of a Valletta-Floriana showdown were met on Wednesday but the two rivals were made to fight really hard for the right to contest the final.

Floriana bounced back from a goal down to see off the stern challenge of Mosta with two goals in the second half of extra-time.

Valletta applied relentless pressure on Tarxien in the second semi-final but an awesome display by Anthony Curmi, the Rainbows goalkeeper, and a late tap-in by Justin Grioli, whom the Citizens loaned to their opponents in January, stretched the game into extra-time after Gilbert Agius had opened the scoring for the favourites.

In extra-time, Valletta kept their nerves under check to strike two goals and set up a potentially enthralling final with Floriana.

Victor Sciriha, the Valletta president, responded to his team's vibrant display on Wednesday with a nod of approval.

"In the first 15 minutes of our semi-final, we fashioned three clearcut scoring chances but we were denied by the bravery of their goalkeeper," Sciriha said.

"We produced waves of attacks whereas our opponents hardly ever threatened before they hit a last-gasp equaliser which could have been avoided.

"Overall, the team's performance was very good. One also has to keep in mind that our coach and players had one eye on Sunday's important league clash against Birkirkara but everyone showed great motivation to reach the final of the Anniversary Cup, especially after Floriana won the first semi-final.

"The rivalry between Valletta and Floriana will lend an extra edge to the final. On paper, we are stronger than Floriana but in football there are no guarantees."

After marking his Valletta debut with a goal in the 3-0 win over Qormi last week, Michael Mifsud continued to justify Sciriha's faith with a decisive goal that put the Whites 2-1 ahead in extra-time on Wednesday.

"Some questioned our decision to sign Michael at this late stage of the season but I was convinced that he would be an asset to our team," Sciriha said. "He has already scored two goals in his first two games for us but I don't think we've seen the best of Mifsud... I'm confident that he will peak at the right moment.

"I'm pleased that Michael is proving his worth. He's very happy here as he has found an excellent atmosphere in the dressing room. Mifsud's ambition is to continue his career overseas next season but if he stays here, I have no doubt that he will sign for Valletta again."

Valletta's emphatic performance has increased Sciriha's optimism about their chances of winning a treble of league, FA Trophy and Anniversary Cup.

"I'm positive about our treble bid because I believe in the strength of our squad," Sciriha remarked. "Our squad is united and the most important thing is that everyone is committed to the cause. It's not always possible to achieve all your goals in football because there's a very fine line between success and failure but I'm optimistic.

"We have been playing well, we are creating numerous chances and we are scoring many goals. The upset to Sliema aside, the team's results in the last few months have been very positive."

Joe Cauchi, the Floriana FC president whose input in the past few seasons has been vital in keeping this financially-stricken club afloat, is pleased that his team have defied the odds by reaching the final of the Anniversary Cup.

"There is no hiding the fact that Floriana are beset by serious financial limitations," Cauchi told The Times. "Even in terms of support, we're struggling. Mosta had more fans than us for the semi-final.

"Our committee is basically made up of three people and this season has been a hard fight for our club. Considering all the difficulties we've encountered, I must say that I'm proud that my team has reached the final of the Anniversary Cup.

"Every team wants to go all the way in the main competitions and we are no different. I must admit that our path to the final has not been that difficult but that said, Mosta were not to be underestimated, especially after their elimination of Sliema Wanderers in the previous round and their 2-2 draw with Marsaxlokk in the Division One league."

Cauchi lauded the significant contribution of the younger elements in Floriana's squad to Wednesday's victory.

"Our first-half performance was appalling, the team just couldn't get going," Cauchi said. "Apart from Orosco Anonam, the rest played like strangers but the coach's pep talk at half-time and a few encouraging words from my side had the desired effect.

"The substitutions also paid dividends as the team improved after the likes of Clyde Borg and Mark Spiteri entered the fray. The pressure on the team eased once we scored the first goal."

The prospect of facing Valletta in the final ought to have strengthened Floriana's motivation to beat Mosta. "In a way it was an incentive, even though everyone knows that Valletta are much stronger than us," Cauchi said.

"We met Valletta in the Centenary Cup final 10 years ago (the Citizens won 3-1) and it's a good thing for the club to contest another important final against our main rivals. But, things have changed a lot since that match. In 2000, Floriana were not far from Valletta but now there's a huge gap.

"We know that we're facing an uphill battle in the final but football can be unpredictable at times. If we play with commitment and stay concentrated, we will have a better chance of making life difficult for Valletta."

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