Neptunes Grimaldi and San Ġiljan Salini Resort saw off Exiles Jet freight and Sirens Ritter Sport respectively to regain the top two places in the BOV Premier League table.
The Saints found their rhythm early on to stifle any possible threat their opponents could pose.
On top of that the St Paul’s Bay team’s extra man 20 per cent scoring rate played into the hands of the champions whose expert covering annulled Sirens’ efforts.
With powerhouse players Peter Borg, Matthew Zammit and Boris Vapenski also having by their side the opportunistic Dino Zammit and the elusive Clint Mercieca, San Ġiljan, who had 15 expulsions against them, had no loose cog in their machine. Goals came regularly even if they were not plentiful.
To make matters worse the northerners had Spaniard Sergi Mora blotted out of the game when it mattered most. That proved to be too much of a handicap for a team that had done so well when holding Sliema to a 9-9 draw last week.
The dice in San Ġiljan’s favour had long been cast and now their confidence is undoubtedly back.
In the earlier match five goals in the third session helped Neptunes steer clear of Exiles.
Experience and staying power told in the end as the Reds’ scoring duo of Steve Camilleri and Cosmin Radu provided the bulk of goals for a team that found their smooth touch after the main interval.
Both Radu and Milos Vukicevic were double marked throughout and as a result tactics hinged on the ability of the outside players to exploit the space afforded to them.
In this respect the Balluta team had a clear advantage with Jordan Camilleri and Niki Lanzon adding to the threat posed by chief scorer Steve Camilleri and the Romanian.
As usual, Neptunes relied mostly on their trusted opening seven even if Timmy Agius was used sparingly after he had been caught on two early exclusions.
The returning Sean Gravina was fouled out in the third quarter when Neptunes were 7-4 ahead.
A closely-fought and animated match was resolved in Marsaxlokk Fischer’s favour 24 seconds from the end when Ranier Scerri’s winning goal broke the hearts of Ta’ Xbiex Amigos’ clan.
The latter side had nearly always been in front before Ian Azzopardi’s team scored the all-important goal to remain unbeaten with 18 points from six matches.
Ta’ Xbiex 9
(3-2, 1-2, 1-1, 4-5)
Ta’ Xbiex: J. Tanti, A. Maklari, A. Camenzuli, B. Grech, E. Meli, K. Mock 1, M. Mifsud 3, A. Sammut 1, G. Attard, D. Fenech 1, R. Attard 1, G. Zerafa 2, J. Micallef.
Marsaxlokk: D. Abela, C. Spiteri Debarro, K. Debattista, K. Galea 1, C. Gialanze 1, C. Bugeja, S. Meli 2, I. Vuksanovic 2, B. Buhagiar 3, R. Scerri 1, K. Navarro, G. Busuttil, A. Xuereb.
Refs: S. Licari, P. Bensaia.
(4-3, 2-1, 5-1, 3-2)
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon 2, C. Radu 3, M. Cutajar, T. Agius 1, M. Lanzon, S. Camilleri 4, J. Camilleri 2, J. Abela 1, L. Gialanze, B. Lanzon 1, M. Azzopardi, M. Castillo.
Exiles: I. Bugeja, J. Rizzo Naudi, S. Vassallo, D. Pace Lupi 1, D. Borg Millo, E. Gravina, S. Gravina, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, A. Bianchi 2, G. Ciappara, M. Vukicevic 2, K. Lanzon 1.
Refs: P. Balzan, R. Carmignani.
San Ġiljan 9
(4-1, 2-0, 2-0, 1-3)
San Ġiljan: J. Sammut, P. Borg 1, A. Galea, B. Vapenski 2, Darren Zammit, M. Zammit 2, K. Galea, C. Mercieca 1, B. Plumpton, A. Cousin, P. Fava 1, Dino Zammit 2, D. Camilleri.
Sirens: N. Grixti, Z. Mizzi 1, S. Mora 2, G. Pace, M. Grech, I. Riolo 1, M. Balucci, D. Cutajar, J. Napier, J. Sciberras, L. Caruana, N. Farrugia, J. Cremona.
Refs: A. Goncharenko, P. Bensaia.