In the first of possibly three relegation deciders Exiles Jetfreight made the right start in their bid to retain their Premier Division status when they beat Marsaxlokk Fischer 13-5, yesterday.
The victory was a foregone conclusion as the top division side were clearly the superior lot.
Moreover, the southerners presented a decimated squad not only in terms of numbers but also because they had chief scorer Ivan Vuksanovic and utility player Ian Buhagiar absent after leaving the island, as well as Karl Galea.
Marsaxlokk could only last the pace until almost midway in the second quarter when they led 2-1.
After that Milos Vukicevic, eventually scorer of six goals, and Kayne Lanzon who netted a hat-trick, took over striking duties to leave their opponents puffing and panting.
Exiles will achieve their objective if they beat Marsaxlokk in the second decider on Thursday.
Bar statistics, yesterday’s duel between Sliema Betsson and San Ġiljan Salini Resort was of negligible importance once the destination of this year’s league title had been sealed in favour of Neptunes last Wednesday.
Although one could not play down the players’ endeavours resulting in 20 goals being shared the match had a tepid texture since there was a nothing tangible at stake.
After initially trailing the Blues, again without Mark Meli, Timmy Sullivan and John Brownrigg, nosed ahead several times in the third session, once on 9-6 with just under six minutes left.
The Saints, who had Aurelien Cousin missing, recovered to make it 10-9 with less than two minutes to go, but they conceded the equaliser 70 seconds from time to avoid a complete whitewash in the play-offs.
Before the match the retiring John Soler was presented with a bouquet of flowers by team-mate Edward Aquilina in recognition of his 22 years service for Sliema during which he helped the Blues win nine league titles and as many knock-out honours, besides eight winter titles as well three Player of the Year awards.
San Ġiljan 10
(0-2, 2-1, 5-3, 3-4)
Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabarretta, E. Aquilina 1, C. Cluett 1, K. Dowling 2, J. Soler, M. Fenech 1, J. Gambin, L. Galea, A. Attard 2, M. Cuk 1, N. Bugelli 2, M. Muscat.
San Ġiljan: J. Sammut, T. Borg, A. Galea 1, B. Vapenski 1, J. Galea, M. Zammit 2, K. Galea 1, C. Mercieca 1, B. Plumpton, Darren Zammit, T. Fava 3, Dino Zammit 1, D. Camilleri.
Referees: M. Angileri, G. Fusco.
(1-1, 3-1, 5-1, 4-2)
Exiles: I. Bugeja, J. Rizzo Naudi 1, S. Vassallo, D. Pace Lupi, D. Borg Millo 1, E. Gravina, S. Gravina 1, K. Grixti 1, N. Paris, A. Bianchi, L. Felice, M. Vukicevic 6, K. Lanzon 3.
Marsaxlokk: A. Xuereb, C. Spiteri De Barro 2, L. Calleja, C. Gialanze, C. Bugeja, S. Meli 1, G. Busuttil, R. Scerri 2, K. Navarro, K. Debattista.
Referees: A. Goncharenko, A. Zedda.
Thursday: 18.15 Relegation decider Exiles Jetfreight vs Marsaxlokk Fischer. 19.30 Premier Division San Ġiljan Salini Resort vs Neptunes Grimaldi.
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