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Title goes back to Balluta Bay as Neptunes seal their 19th crown

The Neptunes Emirates players, officials and fans with the BOV cup at the National Pool. Photos: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Neptunes Emirates players, officials and fans with the BOV cup at the National Pool. Photos: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Neptunes Emirates are champions for 2010. They only had to avoid defeat against Sliema McDonald’s yesterday to make sure of the title which they had last won in 2007.

It was the 19th success for this flamboyant team from Balluta Bay, another triumph in their 81-year history.

Indeed, another gratifying experience for the Reds whose versatility and goal-scoring stints were at the forefront of their achievement this year. They had a solid base of performers under the shrewd Russian coach Sergey Markoch. They were backed by an unyielding rearguard whose extreme defender Niki Gouder oozed confidence among his colleagues.

Neptunes’ foreign recruits were at the beck and call of what was needed for this success, with their professional qualities shining brightly.

Vlada Vujasinovic and Tamas Molnar were the right men in this respect as was the prodigious Steve Camilleri, a player of true class whose individual exploits in recent years, both in domestic competition and abroad, will, arguably, rank him as the best ever product of Maltese waterpolo.

The stealthy work of captain Niki Lanzon, the explosive Michele Stellini and the dependable core David Camilleri, Jordan Camilleri, Shaun Gravina, Matthew Pisani and Brian Buhagiar all lived to expectations, as did the other tail-enders including goalkeeper Ian Bugeja.

Despite Sliema’s bold efforts, yesterday the Reds demonstrated a more positive intent when in possession and more staying power even if they stuttered for a moment in the second session and into the third when they went 6-3 down.

Coach Markoch was right when saying, ‘my team showed great character and a will to win this championship’.

“This was a truly great final match,” he said.

This character came to the surface as Neptunes surged ahead in the third session, with Sliema stalling, especially when tossing away six extra-man sets in succession at a crucial point in the game.

The new champions, though, also had to overcome the handicap of having their units depleted when they had three men fouled out.

In a closely-fought first session, the Blues went ahead but Neptunes overturned the result on 2-1.

Into the second session, Sliema’s reaction took the Reds by surprise after the latter conceded four goals to the one scored. Sliema’s goals in this session came from Michael Rizzo, Paul Privitera, Bogdan Rath and Aliosa Kunac who added to John Brownrigg’s first goal.

Neptunes, on their part, scored through Steve Camilleri and David Camilleri in the opening session with Stellini finding the net in the second.

In the third part of the game, the Reds administered the same medicine on their opponents as they upped their game to score four times through the hard-working Niki Lanzon, David Camilleri, Gravina and Steve Camilleri after Brownrigg had momentarily made it 6-3 at the start of the third session.

So it was 7-6 for Neptunes with eight minutes left. The Blues continued squandering man-up sets with Neptunes going 8-7 ahead following a Gravina goal after which Molnar made it 9-7.

With two minutes left, Rath converted a penalty (9-8) only for Hungarian Molnar to do likewise at the other end before Jerome Gabaretta grabbed a consolation ninth goal for Sliema.

Peter Perotti, BOV Chief Officer, presented the cup to captain Lanzon amidst the Neptunes clan’s celebrations.

It was then andante con brio as the jubilant players and supporters proceeded to their club for more celebrations.

Neptunes 10
Sliema 9
(2-1, 1-4, 4-1, 3-3)

Neptunes: N. Gouder, N. Lanzon 1, B. Lanzon, M. Stellini 1, D. Camilleri 2, V. Vujasinovic, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri, B. Buhagiar, S. Gravina 2, I. Bugeja, T. Molnar 2, M. Pisani.

Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabaretta 1, N. Lubrano, P. Privitera 1, M. Meli, J. Soler, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg 3, C. Debono, A. Kunac 1, M. Rizzo 1, B. Rath 2, D. Abela.

Refs: M. Dalli, M. Di Chiara.

Next matches – KO

Tuesday
Marsascala vs Otters
Exiles vs San Ġiljan.

Wednesday
Marsaxlokk vs Ta’ Xbiex
Sirens vs Neptunes.

Friday
Sliema vs Exiles/San Ġiljan.

Sunday, Sept. 12
Finals.

Champions (last 10 years)

2001 Sliema; 2002 Sliema; 2003 Sliema; 2004 Sliema; 2005 Sirens; 2006 Neptunes; 2007 Neptunes; 2008 Sliema; 2009 Sliema; 2010 Neptunes.

All-time Champions

Sliema – 31 times; Neptunes – 19; Valletta – 11; San Ġiljan – 8; Sirens – 6; Marsascala – 1.

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