A match which meant more for Sliema Frank Salt Real Estate in terms of tangible spoils ended with a narrow 7-5 victory for the Blues who kept their hopes alive of lifting the winter title for a ninth time.
The issue will be decided today week when they face the strong San Ġiljan side who have so far led the championship race.
Facing a largely inexperienced Neptunes Grimaldi team, Sliema took a 4-2 advantage in the opening session after which it was tit-for-tat as both teams annulled each other’s efforts when they shared two goals in each of the next three quarters.
In the final reckoning the winners had to somewhat dig deep to come out unscathed from a tricky test.
The Blues had John Soler and Kai Dowling missing, while Neptunes relied mostly on Jordan Camilleri.
Shot efficiency, which surfaced in that first session, was the winning card for Dejan Milakovic’s lads as Edward Aquilina and Alex Attard netted opportunistic goals after Jerome Gabarretta struck the first with a shot from 12 metres.
Neptunes’ response in this regard could only come from Camilleri whose hat-trick of goals kept his team’s aspirations ticking.
Sliema’s advantage was momentarily stretched to 5-2 in the second quarter and then again 7-4 in the last but the Reds kept chasing their opponents despite being guilty of elementary mistakes when lack of tactical diligence gifted the Blues with a couple of goals.
Although Neptunes improved on their last game they need to refurbish their edifice.
(4-2, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1)
Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabarretta 1, E. Aquilina 2, C. Cluett 1, M. Meli, N. Bugelli 1, M. Fenech, T. Sullivan, J. Brownrigg, A. Attard 2, M. Mifsud, D. Fenech, Z. Sciberras.
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon, K. Erdogan, M. Cutajar, T. Agius 1, S. Xerri de Caro, K. Navarro, J. Camilleri 3, J. Abela, M. Zammit 1, B. Lanzon, M. Azzopardi, M. Castillo.
Referees: P. Balzan and A. DeRaffaele.
Ta’ Xbiex 7
(1-2, 2-2, 0-2, 1-1)
Otters: F. Buhagiar, M. Borg Millo 1, L. Hyzler 1, G. Debono, D. Dimech, K. Scicluna, G. Mizzi 1, M. Borg, C. Martin, R. Greco 1, R. Bonnici.
Ta’ Xbiex: J. Micallef, I. Spiteri, M. Camilleri 1, B. Grech, J. Gauci, K. Mock 1, S. Aquilina 1, D. Schembri 1, D. Saliba 3, L. Pace, T. Said, L. Saliba, N. Camenzuli.
Referees: A. Goncharenko and M. Angileri.
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