The 1922-23 football season is best remembered for Sliema Wanderers' achievement in securing the most prestigious trophy ever awarded to the Maltese league champions.
Since then, the Aitken Cup, or In-Nanna as it was known by the locals, has become one of the myths of Maltese football.
The 1922-23 season, however, is also best known for the way Floriana turned the tables on Sliema in cup competition. The Cousis Shield that year served as a great finale to an eventful season.
That year, St George's did not take part in the league but they put their name in the hat when the draw for the first round was made.
The Saints were drawn to meet neighbours Vittoriosa. Sliema Rangers were paired with Valletta United while Sliema Wanderers were to face Hamrun Spartans. Floriana were given a bye.
The Sliema teams easily dismissed the challenges of Valletta United and Hamrun Spartans. The two old warriors were mere shadows of the teams that used to attract so many thousands to the Mile End. Both the Wanderers and the Rangers won with similar 4-1 scorelines.
St George's found it harder to eliminate Vittoriosa. The match, played on April 1, finished 0-0. The replay was set for April 15 but the appointed referee did not turn up.
The match was postponed for April 22. This time, however, it was Vittoriosa's turn to take a skip and the Saints were awarded a walkover.
The semi-final between Sliema Wanderers and Sliema Rangers was little more than a formality. No one expected the Rangers to beat their seniors. After all, they were the recognised reserves of the Wanderers, but a 6-1 thrashing was really too much to stomach.
In the other semi-final, Floriana met St George's.
A large number of spectators witnessed a well-contested and balanced game. Each team gave as much as it got and the match seemed destined to end in a draw. Then, with only 10 minutes left, Floriana broke the deadlock.
It was the opinion of many at the time that the Greens did not create enough to win the game and to make matters worse, they scored the only goal of the match from a highly disputable penalty. The long-suffering St George's supporters must have felt that, come what may, their team would never beat Floriana.
Saturday, May 27, 1923 was the day of the final. Floriana started on a top note and after only seven minutes, George West put them in front.
Sliema were soon back in the game and for the rest of the first half, the match was played in the best cup-tie traditions. At half-time, the score was still 1-0 for Floriana.
Floriana defend lead
After the interval, the Blues assumed the initiative and after three minutes, Frankie Busuttil came very near to equalising.
A free-kick by Busuttil just went over while a shot by Conti almost ended in the Floriana net. For the rest of the half, Sliema kept pushing forward with no result.
A few minutes from the end, George Rule took a corner kick. The ball swerved into the penalty area and for a split second it seemed destined to end into the net. Floriana keeper Manwel Azzopardi, however, dived across the goal to save in extremis.
That fine save brought the match to an end, leaving the Greens winners of the prestigious trophy. This final between the two Old Firm rivals made for a fitting finale to a memorable season.
For the record
1922-23 Cousis Shield - Empire Sports Ground
18-03-1923 Sliema Rangers vs Valletta United 4-1
25-03-1923 Sliema Wanderers vs Hamrun Spartans 4-1
01-04-1923 St George's vs Vittoriosa United 0-0
St George's awarded a walk over in replay
Floriana awarded a bye
06-05-1923 Sliema Wanderers vs Sliema Rangers 6-1
13-05-1923 Floriana vs St George's FC 1-0
27-05-1923 Floriana vs Sliema Wanderers 1-0
Floriana: E. Azzopardi, J. Tabona, S. Tabone, G. Alamango, G. Micallef, Zammit, S. Grima, G. West, G. Psaila, J. Herbert, H. Samuel.
Sliema Wanderers: J. Nicholl, R. Friggieri, H. Busuttil, A. Busuttil, A. Caunter, C. Caruana, E. Scicluna, C. Inglott, F. Busuttil, E. Conti, G. Rule.
Scorer: George West. Referee: Sgt. Buckley.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us