Sliema’s Zach Mizzi hit the game-winning goal with 3.2 seconds remaining as holders San Ġiljan succumbed to a surprise 11-10 defeat.
The Saints had lifted the Winter League title in each of the last three years but could not emulate Sliema’s feat of winning this competition four times consecutively between 2009 and 2012.
The Blues were off the mark in brisker fashion, taking a 4-3 lead against faltering opponents. However, San Ġiljan equalised before ends were changed and even took the lead through Paul Fava early in the third session.
Still, Sliema were still showing all their resilience and they responded with three goals in succession to take firm command of the match inspite Michael Spiteri Staines’ missed penalty as they led 9-7.
San Ġiljan tried to respond and managed to restored equilibrium courtesy of two quick-fire goals by Andreas Galea.
But it was Sliema who had the final say with Mizzi popping up to make it 11-10 with just three seconds left and secure his team’s place into the final.
No doubt, it was a sprightly performance by the team guided from the bench by Francesco Cutajar.
Earlier, Neptunes found little opposition when facing Valletta and their comfortable margin of victory, 14-2, was true to their superiority in a match in which they kept piling up the goals.
By the half-way mark, it was already double figures for Jovan Popovic’s side, before easing off to an emphatic victory in the last session.
Jeremy Abela was Neptunes’ leading scorer with six goals.
San Ġiljan 10
(3-4, 3-2, 1-3, 3-2)
San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, A. Saliba, A. Galea 2, B. Grech, K. Dowling, M. Zammit 4, B. Plumpton 1, C. Farrugia, T. Said 1, Darren Zammit, P. Fava 1, Dino Zammit 1, T. Micallef.
Sliema: J. Sammut, J. Gabarretta 2, L. Galea 1, J. Sciberras 3, M. Meli, B. Cachia 1, M. Spiteri Staines, J. Pace Mizzi, M. Muscat, Z. Mizzi 2, N. Bugelli 2, M. Vassallo, J. Valletta, J. Cassar.
Refs: Mario Dalli, Ronnie Spiteri
Neptunes Leo Vegas 14
Valletta Videoslots 2
(4-0, 6-0, 2-0, 3-2)
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon 2, K. Erdogan 1, G. Pace 1, V. Ragone, J. Farrugia, J. Muscat 1, S. Busuttil, J. Abela 6, N. Zammit, S. Stellini, M. Azzopardi 2, B. Busuttil, S. Gialanze, M. Farrugia 1.
Valletta: R. Sciortino, J. Spiteri Staines, A. Agius 1, P. Borg, C. Zammit, R. Mock, D. Paolella, M. Mifsud, N. Farrugia, M. Zammit, L. Gialanze, R. Bonnici, A. Bianchi 1.
Refs: Peter Balzan, Neville Mercieca.
(2-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2)
Birżebbuġa: D. Spiteri, Z. Farrugia Seychell, N. Cassar 2, D. Pace Lupi 4, C. Mifsud, R. Spiteri, S. Vassallo, D. Cutajar, J. Bajada, M. Cutajar 1, M. Borg, L. Borg, J. Cremona.
Marsaxlokk: R. Coleiro, J. Rizzo Naudi, L. Calleja 1, M. Martellacci, T. Agius, L. Saliba, J. Galea, S. Micallef 1, R. Scerri 1, M. Cacici 1, O. Zammit. F. Buhagiar.
Refs: Ronnie Spiteri, Peter Balzan.
(0-0, 1-1, 1-0, 4-1)
Marsaskala: J. Micallef, J.C. Cutajar 1, A. Camenzuli 1, M. Manara, M. Aquilina, L. Grixti, K. Navarro 1, L. Felice 1, J. Buhagiar 1, J. Culic 1, R. Attard, D. Borg Millo, M. Borg.
Otters: M. Xerri, C. Spiteri Debarro 1, L. Falzon, L. Hyzler, E. Meli, D. Dimech, K. Scicluna, G. Mizzi, A. Mifsud 1, C. Teuma, J. Bonavia, G. Sammut, D. Camilleri.
Refs: Mario Dalli, Richard Magri.
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