Ben Plumpton beat the buzzer with a sublime lob from the edge of the pool halfway that went over the incredulous Alan Borg Cole to topple Neptunes 10-9.
We thought we had seen it all this summer! Again it was another match which kept the numerous crowd on the stands enthralled. The omens for a duel of this sort were on after Neptunes had wrested the league title from San Ġiljan last Sunday. Fortunes alternated with end-to-end play being the order of the day.
San Ġiljan knew that it was a must-win match for them, not to finish empty-handed. They put their hearts into it but at one point at the start of the fourth session, Neptunes were enjoying a three-goal lead. Still they were unperturbed and aided, with the dismissal of Steve Camilleri, they came back with that last-gaspgesture turned Plumpton into a hero
Both sides cashed in on their opening man-up set as Gabriel Pace replied to Matthew Zammit’s opener. Paul Fava hit in on his team’s third extra-man situation as San Ġiljan were slightly more clinical during a hard-fought the first session.
The Reds were the smarter side in the second one, equalising immediately before Jordan Camilleri made 3-2, only for Plumpton to restore parity.
An accurate Petar Muslim ball caught Jake Tanti unawares and Neptunes were again leading at the end of the second session. Yet Neptunes were conceding successive personal faults by the uncomprising referees and despite San Ġiljan missing a possee of man-ups, Steve Camilleri was already hanging on two personal faults at the halfway stage.
At the start of the third session, Camilleri kept his cool despite his handicap to put his name on the scoresheet but Plumpton reduced the leeway to 5-4. Then, Neptunes missed two successive man-ups and were punished for their profligacy by Dino Zammit.
But Neptunes continued to enjoy the upper hand. A goal by Niki Lanzon was followed by two of Steve Camilleri as the champions opened a three-goal lead at the start of the fourth session.
By then, San Giljan had a rather sloppy man-up reading, wasting five consecutive extra-man situations but Matthew Zammit and Paulo Obradovic converted on numerical advantages with Steve Camilleri fouled out in the process halfway through the last session. Dino Zammit equalised to set up a frantic finale. Last Sunday’s winner Gabriel Pace thought he had repeated the feat when he made it 9-8 with 34 seconds to go.
But San Ġiljan sensing it was do-or-die for them, staged a recovery to score twice in quick succession, Obradovic levelled before Plumpton’s sublime lob just beat the final buzzer. The San Giljan players incredulously looked at the referees and it was only when the duo Raffaele Colombo - Massimo Angileri convalidated the goal that they realised that the cup was theirs.
Their fans then went into raptures.
In the previous match, Marsascala were the masters as they outplayed an off-tune Birżebbuġa, to clinch the First Division Knock-Out title. This was a thumping victory for Marsascala, plotted by their foreigner Andrija Vlahovic who struck five goals.
It was a generally collective performance for Pierre Borg’s boys, who were off the blocks with four consecutive goals and eventually never looked back.
Indeed, it turned out be a no contest as Marsascala could in no way be matched by Birżebbuġa, who suffered a mental and physical collapse after losing the league title to Marsaxlokk last week.
Marco Risso’s side were caught napping on the break time and time again to finish the season empty-handed.
SAN ĠILJAN 10
(2-1, 1-3, 2-4, 5-2)
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 2, T. Micallef.
NEPTUNES: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon 1, K. Erdogan, G. Pace 2, P. Muslim 2, N. Zammit, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela, M. Zammit, J. Muscat, M. Azzopardi, J. Parnis.
Refs: Massimo Angileri, Raffaele Colombo.
(4-1, 4-1, 2-2, 2-4)
MARSASCALA: J. Micallef, JC Cutajar 1, E. Carabott, D. Borg Millo 1, A. Vlahovic 5, L. Grixti 1, K. Navarro, J. Borg, J. Bajada 2, C. Mifsud 1, D. Cassar, R. Attard 1. J. Cremona.
BIRŻEBBUĠA: D. Abela, M. Ortoleva 1 , N. Cassar, D. Pace Lupi , S. Mora 5, J. Rizzo Naudi, S. Vassallo, D. Cutajar 1, S. Micallef, M. Cutajar 1 , K. Rizzo Naudi, J Zerafa Gregory, D. Spiteri.
Refs: Peter Balzan, Giovanni Lo Dico.
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