So it is San Ġiljan who started the year on a glowing note.
In a deciding match to determine the destination of the 2016 winter honours yesterday, the Saints had that extra touch of resilience and stamina to land the pre-season championship prize, their second since 1995.
A five-star performance by nap-hand scorer Dino Zammit, closely followed by hat-trick hitter Aurelien Cousin, put paid to Sliema Frank Salt Real Estate’s hopes of their ninth Winter League title.
A sizeable crowd watched another hard-fought duel which suddenly swayed in San Ġiljan’s favour within 54 seconds almost midway in the third session when Cousin, Zammit and Clint Mercieca scored three consecutive goals.
Until then it had been touch and go, with the lead alternating despite the Saints’ having to renounce to their dynamo, Ben Plumpton, who was excluded with substitution halfway through the second quarter.
However, San Ġiljan were unperturbed as another up-and-coming youngster Andreas Galea – he also netted at a crucial late moment in the third session to make it 9-7 – took to the water more often and the lad did a good job of it.
It was, all in all, a collective performance by the team, with potential winner Matthew Zammit staying on the sidelines to allow his namesake Dino the luxury of the bulk of goals, the last of which, a ferocious back-hand, was a beauty.
Sliema, who had hard-worker Alex Attard fouled out late in the game, looked nervous in the end, with veteran John Soler, whose age-curve and staying power are showing signs of decline, being dispossessed once or twice, episodes which resulted in his team being blown off their early rhythm.
The Blues’ best player was young Nicholas Bugelli. Despite being on the periphery in his team’s build-ups, he lived up to his billing as a rising star.
Otherwise, the team lost the plot halfway through with some of their players more intent on passing remarks to the officials in charge than concentrating on their game.
San Ġiljan 11
(2-3, 2-1, 3-5, 1-2)
Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabarretta 1, E. Aquilina 1, C. Cluett, M. Meli, J. Soler 1, M. Fenech, T. Sullivan 2, J. Brownrigg, A. Attard, K. Dowling 1, N. Bugelli 2, Z. Sciberras.
San Ġiljan ASC: J. Sammut, P. Borg, Andreas Galea 1, J. Galea, Darren Zammit, M. Zammit, K. Galea, C. Mercieca 1, B. Plumpton 1, Aurelien Cousin 3, P. Fava, Dino Zammit 5, D. Camilleri.
Referees: Mario Dalli and Massimo Angileri.
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