The latest of many battles between San Ġiljan and Sliema was again won by the champions, who have always lowered their rivals’ colours in the past matches.
Yet, the unbeaten San Ġiljan were this time given a test in resilience before finally pulling away with a goal 38 seconds from the end against a stubborn side in a match that was a great advert for the Maltese waterpolo.
It was a close contest all the way with the floodgates opening in an incredible third session, which was won by San Ġiljan 5-4, ultimately proving the difference between the two sides.
San Ġiljan had a flying start through Matthew Zammit, only for Jerome Gabarretta to pull Sliema level with a man-up goal but the leaders hit back courtesy of Paul Fava.
The second session, Sliema goalkeeper Joseph Sammut stole the show with a series of outstanding saves, including three stops in quick succession before Ben Plumpton made it 3-1. Sliema were again let down by their profligacy in man-ups, failing to convert a double-man-up situation but Christian Presciutti redeemed himself to reduce the arrears.
Nevertheless Fava extended San Ġiljan’s lead soon after the change of ends with a sublime lob that just beat the 30-second buzzer.
Sliema were still very much in the frame, wiping out the leader’s two-goal cushion instantly through the scoring prowess of Gabararretta and Michael Spiteri Staines.
A tit-a-tat ensued with San Ġiljan conducting the scoreline only for Sliema to hit back and levelled matters on two occasions.
Yet two quick goals by Zammit and Plumpton opened a two-goal advantage for San Ġiljan at the beginning of the last session.
But Sliema started the fourth session on a sharper note with Nicholas Bugelli and Presciutti levelling once more for the Blues.
However, a final surge by Plumpton sealed the match in San Ġiljan’s favour.
In Division One, Birżebbuġa put their defeat against Marsaxlokk completely behind their backs when they comfortably dismissed Ta’ Xbiex.
Ta’ Xbiex took an early lead through Keith Tanti but the leaders soon went 2-1 up with goals from Stephen Micallef. In the second quarter, David Cutajar opened a 5-3 lead for Birżebbuġa.
Nikola Dedovic pulled two goals back in the third session before formalities were completed in the last session with Sergi Mora, David Pace Lupi and Stephen Micallef netting three more against disemembered opponents for whom league top-scorer Dedovic scored the last goal.
San Ġiljan 9
(2-1, 1-1, 5-4, 1-2)
San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, P. Borg 1 , A. Galea, B. Grech, C. Farrugia, M. Zammit 2, B. Plumpton 2, T. Said, P. Obradovic 1, P. Fava 2 , D. Ciantar, T. Micallef.
Sliema: J.Sammut, J. Gabarretta 2, C. Presciutti 2, J. Saliba, M. Meli, K. Dowling, M. Spiteri Staines 2 , D. Fenech, M. Cordina 1, J. Gambin, Z. Mizzi, N. Bugelli 1 , Z. Sciberras.
Referees: Massimo Angileri, Andrea Zedda.
Ta’ Xbiex 6
(2-1, 3-2, 2-2, 3-1)
Ta’ Xbiex: A. Theuma, R. Greco, M. Manara, L. Hyzler, B. Cachia, K. Mock, G. Blundell, N. Dedovic 3, L. Galea 1, G. Sammut, K. Tanti 1, N. Saliba 1.
Birżebbuġa: A. Abela, M. Borg, N. Cassar, D. Pace Lupi 1, S. Mora 2, J. Rizzo Naudi, S. Vassallo 1, D. Cutajar 2, S. Micallef 3, M. Cutajar, K. Rizzo Naudi 1, J. Zerafa Gregory, D. Spiteri.
Referees: Tommaso Bocca, Neville Mercieca.
Premier Division: 6.45pm Neptunes vs Sirens; 8pm Exiles vs Valletta.
Division One: 5.30pm Otters vs Marsaskala.
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