It is again pertinent to point out that Neptunes Grimaldi may not have been expected to remain resilient against teams which can bank on a wider array of players.
Yet, the Reds are proving the pundits wrong as they lead the table with 21 points, one more than San Ġiljan after the teams played nine games each.
Yesterday, they again provided flawless fare to give Sliema Betsson a hiding which may not have been evident in terms of goals but was surely conspicuous in their tactical nous.
The five-goal margin of victory was the result of diligent fare both in the covering phase as well as when the Balluta Bay team had possession.
The flying start courtesy of two goals from captain Niki Lanzon, the vastly improved Jeremy Abela and the iconic Steve Camilleri, provided coach Zoran Maslovar with the perfect platform when facing a complete Sliema squad, who were, however, without their suspended coach Dejan Milakovic.
To make matters worse the Blues had no clue how to prise open a well-knit rearguard in front of the dependable Alan Borg Cole in goal.
The second session had the teams sharing four goals as John Soler scored on either side of Cosmin Radu’s conversion, with Jordan Camilleri potting his team’s sixth.
The Reds were looking confident as they allowed the Blues little space and time to steady themselves for a pot at goal.
The third quarter turned out to be very arid as no goals were scored, with Neptunes still administering their lead expertly.
Confirmation of their clear edge was provided in the last eight minutes after Marko Cuk netted a rare goal to make it 6-3 only for Steve Camilleri and the tireless Niki Lanzon to apply the coup de grace.
In the previous match, Sirens Ritter Sport leapfrogged Valletta into fourth place on 11 points after beating Exiles Jet Freight 16-9.
The St Paul’s Bay team proved too strong for their opponents who could only fight to keep the damage to a minimum.
Sirens dominated from the second session onwards. They were tactically superior, with more variations in their movement.
They also had the deadlier finishers especially the Spaniard Sergi Mora, scorer of six goals, and their tandem of Zach Mizzi and the reliable Gabriel Pace who netted five between them.
Aside of the scoring skills of Sean Gravina and Milos Vukicevic, who each struck a hat-trick, Exiles could pose little threat against opponents whose coach utilised all his young guns more freely, including Isaiah Riolo, Jacob Sciberras and speedster John Napier who struck an aggregate of four goals.
The final scoreline was a fair reflection of the disparity between the sides.
Meanwhile, Marsaxlokk Fischer set the seal on the 2016 First Division title when they beat Ta’ Xbiex Amigos 8-7, in the process preserving their 100 per cent record.
They wrested the title from neighbours Marsascala
It was another close contest between these two teams which was resolved 77 seconds from the end with a goal from Karl Galea who complemented Sean Meli’s hat-trick and the two goals from Ivan Vuksanovic.
(4-0, 2-2, 0-0, 2-1)
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon 3, R. Cosmin 1, M. Cutajar, T. Agius, M. Lanzon, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela 1, M. Zammit, B. Lanzon, M. Azzopardi, M. Castillo.
Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabarretta, E. Aqui-lina 1, C. Cluett, M. Meli, J. Soler 1, M. Fenech, T. Sullivan, J. Brownrigg, K. Dowling, M. Cuk 1, N. Bugelli, Z. Sciberras.
Referees: P. Balzan, G. Del Bosco.
(3-3, 5-2, 5-2, 3-2)
Sirens: N. Grixti, Z. Mizzi 2, S. Mora 6, G. Pace 3, M. Grech 1, I. Riolo 2, M. Balucci, D. Cutajar, J. Napier 1, J. Sciberras 1, L. Caruana, N. Farrugia, J. Cremona.
Exiles: I. Bugeja, J. Rizzo Naudi, S. Vassallo, D. Pace Lupi, D. Borg Millo 1, E. Gravina, S. Gravina 3, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, A. Bianchi, G. Ciappara, M. Vukicevic 3, K. Lanzon 1.
Referees: S. Licari, T. Pagani.
Ta’ Xbiex 7
(3-3, 2-0, 1-3, 2-1)
Marsaxlokk: D. Abela, C. Spiteri DeBarro, L. Calleja, K. Galea 1, C. Gialanze 1, C. Bugeja, S. Meli 3, I. Vuksanovic 2, B. Buhagiar, R. Scerri 1, K. Navarro, K. Debattista, G. Busuttil.
Ta’ Xbiex: J. Tanti, A. Maklari 2, A. Camenzuli, B. Grech 1, E. Meli 1, K. Mock, M. Mifsud 2, J. Zerafa Gregory, G. Attard, D. Fenech 1, R. Attard, M. Camilleri, J. Micallef.
Referees: A. Goncharenko, G. Del Bosco.
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