Hats off to Neptunes free-scoring Steven Camilleri for a remarkable performance which lifted his team-mates to a 13-10 victory over San Ġiljan and a 1-0 lead in the best-out-three play-off final.
There was no doubt about the legitimacy of Neptunes’ handsome victory, yesterday.
They were the slicker team, in control of the situation after the first session and in Camilleri and Petar Muslim who netted ten goals between them, they had their prinicipal ace cards.
San Ġiljan enjoyed a flying start when Matthew Zammit surprised Alan Borg Cole after evading his shadower’s attention on the outside position.
Ben Plumpton stabbed in goal number two just before the end of the first session.
Jordon Camilleri converted the Reds’ first man-up situation on the other end to reduce the deficit. Andreas Galea sustained an eye injury but the Saints shrugged aside the setback to make 3-1 through Plumpton. Neptunes managed to respond to their opponents’ goal and netted three times without reply, the last being a superb back-hand by Petar Muslim to go 4-3up.
It was a tight match sportingly contested with strict attention on the respective centres.
The charged atmosphere on the stands made for vibrant exchanges as both teams yielded nothing.
In no time, Paulo Obradovic levelled matters but Neptunes nosed ahead through Niki Lanzon.
In a short space of time, Camilleri and Muslim made it 9-5 as Neptunes stormed around their opponents’ fort.
The Reds, particularly, Camilleri kept playing the tune as the player reached five goals to leave San Ġiljan stunned.
Obradovic hanging on two personal faults, kept his cool to keep the Saints within touching distance. But at the end of third session, Neptunes scored six to three for a 11-7 lead.
An uphill task faced Marko Orlovic’s side as the last quarter got under way.
But Jeremy Abela piled more misery on the champions before Zammit and Peter Borg cut the deficit.
But there was no respite from Camilleri who added another one to reach six goals.
Sliema were in dominant mood as they recovered in style from last week’s setback against Neptunes, to swamp their opponents by a five-goal margin to win the first of a three-match play-off against Sirens.
Goals were plentiful in the first session, with Sliema opening a 5-2 lead.
At one point it was 7-2 in the second session, for the team guided by Sergio Afric before Edward Aquilina scored two times to trim down the deficit.
But Sliema were back in the driving seat as Mark Meli and Zach Mizzi re-opened a five-goal gap in the third session.
In the last session, Christian Presciutti kept banging in the goals as Sliema were good enough to add to their tally.
Earlier, Marsaxlokk produced a cautious display to edge Birżebbuġa 4-3 in the first leg of the First Division Play-off final.
The holders appeared to be better equipped throughout and were soon off the mark in the first session, taking a two-lead before Mikhael Cutajar pulled one back for Birżebbuġa.
Mattias Ortoleva equalised before David Pace Lupi made it 3-2 for Birżebbuġa.
Marsaxlokk shrugged aside that setback to go 4-3 up in the third session with quick goals netted by Christian Gialanze and Michael Rizzo.
Birżebbuġa’s unlikely reaction fizzled out and no goals were scored in the last session with Marsaxlokk blocking every attempt by Marco Risso’s men.
San Ġiljan 10
(2-0, 2-5, 3-6, 3-2)
San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, P. Borg, A. Galea, B. Grech, C. Farrugia, M. Zammit 2, B. Plumpton 3, Darren Zammit, T. Said, P. Obradovic 2, P. Fava 1, Dino Zammit, T. Micallef.
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon 1, K. Erdogan, G. Pace, P. Muslim 4, N. Zammit, S. Camilleri 6, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela 1, M. Zammit, J. Muscat, M. Azzopardi, J. Parnis.
Refs: Peter Balzan, Massimo Calabro.
(5-2, 2-1, 2-1, 3-3)
Sliema: J. Sammut, J. Gabarretta 2, C. Presciutti 4, S. Azzopardi, M. Meli 2, K. Dowling, M. Spiteri Staines, D. Fenech, M. Cordina, J. Gambin 2, Z. Mizzi 1, N. Bugelli 1, Z. Sciberras.
Sirens: N. Grixti, P. Privitera, E. Aquilina 3, N. Bicari 1, M. Grech, I. Riolo, C. Mercieca, J. Sciberras, J. Napier 1, J. Ciantar, L. Caruana, J. Brownrigg 2, G. Galea Curmi.
Refs: Stefan Licari, Arnaldo Petronilli.
(2-0, 0-1, 2-2, 0-0)
Marsaxlokk: R. Coleiro, C. Spiteri Debarro 1, L. Calleja, C. Bonello, C. Gialanze 1, N. Hosnyyansky 1, J. Galea, M. Rizzo 1, B. Buhagiar, R. Scerri, M. Pace, O. Zammit, K. Lanzon.
Birżebbuġa: D. Abela, M. Ortoleva 1, N. Cassar, D. Pace Lupi 1, S. Mora, J. Rizzo Naudi, S. Vassallo, D. Cutajar, S. Micallef, M. Cutajar 1, K. Rizzo Naudi, J Zerafa Gregory, D. Spiteri.
Refs: Ronnie Spiteri, Massimo Calabro.
Playing on Friday: Division One 5.30pm Marsaxlokk vs Birżebbuġa; Premier 6.45pm Sirens vs Sliema, 8pm Neptunes vs San Ġiljan.
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