San Ġiljan preserved their unbeaten record when they edged out Neptunes 9-7 to stay on top of the standings ahead of the start of the play-offs.
The result left the Balluta Bay team with the prospect of starting their play-off campaign from the quarter-final stage after missing out on a top two placing.
But beyond the result, which was another hard-fought battle between these rivals, unfortunately the limelight was on a fiery ending to the game sparked by the unsporting behaviour of San Ġiljan stalwart Paulo Obradovic who was excluded with substitution.
Neptunes took an early two-goal lead that was wiped out in a four-goal blitz in the latter stages of the first session before Stevie Camilleri clipped the gap to 4-3.
The Reds fought back to level matters before Jeremy Abela made it 5-4 for Jovan Popovic’s men.
At this point, San Ġiljan looked to have the measure of their opponents with a cute lob from Ben Plumpton and another effort by Obdradovic.
Before the change of ends, Andreas Galea scored again and it looked as though it was going to be an easy night for San Ġiljan.
Midway through the third session, Obdradovic was sent off with substitution for protests but he reacted badly throwing his white cap, towards Italian referee Fabio Brasiliano.
Stevie Camilleri immediately pulled them back within a goal but a bombshell from Matthew Zammit made it 8-6.
Camilleri was having a purple patch and soon reached his hat-trick to cut the leeway again. But Plumpton did not miss to seal San Ġiljan’s victory.
The result left Neptunes in third place and they will be up against bottom side Valletta in the play-offs quarter-finals with the winner of this match facing Sliema in the semi-finals.
Exiles take on Sirens in the other quarter-final, with San Ġiljan awaiting the winners in the last four.
Exiles are admittedly the team of the moment.
After their historic win against Neptunes last weekend, they managed to perform admirably again yesterday to dump a surprisingly out-of-tune Sliema 10-7.
No doubt this victory should lift further the spirits of Exiles ahead of the play-offs.
Two goals to the good inside the first four minutes and Exiles immediately looked in better shape.
Christian Presciutti twice closed the gap before Timmy Sullivan scored for Exiles to lead before ends were shifted.
An identical scoreline of 4-2 in the third session had Exiles extending their lead to 8-4.
However, Sliema were not outdone, scoring three times at the beginning of the last session without reply.
But their comeback was cut short by veterans Michele Stellini and Aurelien Cousin.
In the second match, Sirens’ better take-off, when they took a 5-2 lead in the opening session which was extended to 6-3, made for a solid base for Sasko Popovski’s side after which, Valletta managed to trim the three-goal leeway to 8-6 in the third session.
That scoreline lasted until Clint Mercieca, Nicolas Bicari and Isaiah Riolo tilted the balance in their team’s favour.
Both sides were certainly well served by their foreigners, Bicari and Marthon Toth, who scored ten goals between them.
EXILES ELIA CATER 10
SLIEMA FRANK SALT 7
(3-1, 1-1, 4-2, 2-3)
Exiles: M. Castillo, M. Fenech, A. Bianchi 1, M. Stellini 1, T. Sullivan 1, S. Xerri de Caro 1, S. Nikic 1, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, A. Cousin 3, B. Lanzon, P. Paris 1, G. Ciappara.
Sliema: J. Sammut, J. Gabarretta 1, C. Presciutti 4, M. Carani, M. Meli, K. Dowling, M. Spiteri Staines 1, D. Fenech, M. Cordina, J. Gambin, Z. Mizzi, N. Bugelli 1, Z. Sciberras.
Referees: Mario Dalli, Fabio Brasiliano
SIRENS GREENTUBE 11
VALLETTA VIDEOSLOTS 8
(5-2, 1-1, 2-3, 3-2)
Sirens: N.Grixti, P. Privitera, E. Aquilina 1, N. Bicari 5, M. Grech, I. Riolo 3, C. Mercieca 2, J. Sciberras, J. Napier, J. Ciantar, L. Caruana, J. Brownrigg, Z. Bartolo.
Valletta: R. Sciortino, J. Spiteri Staines 1, A. Agius, M. Mifsud, T. Agius, R. Mock, D. Paolella, M. Toth 5, A. Mifsud 1, C. Zammit, N. Bonello Ghio, L. Gialanze, M. Lanzon 1.
Referees: Alex de Raffaele, Marco Cataldi
SAN ĠILJAN TUM INVEST 9
NEPTUNES LEO VEGAS 7
(4-3, 3-2, 1-1, 1-1)
San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, P. Borg 1, A. Galea 2, B. Grech, C. Farrugia, M. Zammit 1, B. Plumpton 3, D. Zammit, T. Said, P. Obradovic 2, P. Fava, D. Ciantar, T. Micallef
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon, K. Erdogan, G. Pace, P. Muslim 2, N. Zammit, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela 1, M. Zammit, J. Muscat, M. Azzopardi, J. Parnis.
Referees: Fabio Brasiliano, Peter Balzan.
16.45 Otters vs Birżebbuġa; 18.00 Marsaskala vs Marsaxlokk.
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