Every striker thrives when scoring goals but for Birkirkara forward Luke Montebello his goal against Gżira United had added significance as it came a few weeks after the former Malta U-21 forward put behind him one of the darkest patches in his career.

Montebello only returned to competitive football last month after he served a one-year ban following his involvement in the match-fixing case involving the Malta U-21 side and there were doubts on whether the young striker could rediscover the form that had made him one of the most promising players in the Maltese game.

These are still early days to see the best of Montebello but the former Valletta and Pembroke forward is surely giving promising signs with an energetic performance that was crowned with an excellent finish that put his team ahead midway through the second half.

Montebello’s goal may have not been enough to hand his team the three points as Gżira managed to fight back and take a point.

But the towering player admitted that he could not hide his emotions when he saw the ball soar into the roof of the net.

“When I saw the ball hitting the net my emotions had the better of me,” Montebello told the Times of Malta.

“The past 12 months had been very difficult for me. I had been out for a year to serve a suspension and it was not easy for me to stay away from the football pitch. Since I resumed my career I have been craving to finally score a goal and thankfully that moment arrived against Gżira on Sunday.

“As a striker when you score a goal it’s inevitable that it infuses more motivation and helps you to be more confident.

“I hope this goal is just the start for me this season and hopefully things can only get better.”

Montebello said that the time he spent out of the game were very difficult and lauded his club for the unconditional support.

“I have a lot of gratitude towards Birkirkara FC as during my time out of the game the club officials were always behind me,” Montebello said.

“I continued to train hard every day to ensure that I kept my physical fitness. The club made a lot of changes in the squad during the January transfer window but they always made me feel important.

“Their decision to make me as one of their main forwards in team’s starting XI is a testament of their faith in my ability and hopefully I will be able to repay their faith by helping the club to reach their objectives this season.”

Birkirkara’s main objective this season is to return to European football this summer and they are still in the running to reach this goal through the BOV Premier Leauge where they are seventh in the standings on 30 points, five adrift of third-placed Gżira.

On the other hand, they are also in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy where they face Mosta for a place in the semi-finals this weekend.

Montebello admitted that having brought in so many young faces during the January transfer window, the Birkirkara are still finding their feet and needs time. However, he warned that to reach their objectives they need to go on a run of victories.

“Our position in the league standings is surely not how we want it to be and surely our Trophy match against Mosta this weekend will is a massive match as winning the FA Trophy is a main objective for us,” Montebello said.

“However, the most important thing for us at the moment is to start delivering results week in week out. We are only five points away from third place and although it’s not a very huge gap it’s still not easy to recover given the nature of the championship of this year where all teams are capable of defeating each other.

“For winning consistenly is the only way to attain our objectives.”

Beyond his team objectives, Montebello still harbours hopes of winning a place in Ray Farrugia’s national team.

“Representing my country has always been my biggest motivation and nothing has changed about that,” Montebello said.

“It’s up to me to show the national coach that I deserve my chance. The last 12 months have been very difficult for me. It was frustrating seeing my team in action and I couldn’t giving my contribution.

“I feel that this negative experience has helped me to mature a lot as a player. I missed football too much and today I appreciate more when I am given the chance to play the game I love most.

“Hopefully there are only good things coming my way in the near future.”


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