Reds tie series to force decider
Matches between Neptunes Emirates and Sliema McDonald’s are destined to go to the wire both on the basis of a single encounter as on that of play-offs.
After last season’s epic five-match thriller in the summer championship, it was the turn of this year’s Winter League to see the teams playing out a final decider tomorrow.
The Reds, so subdued in Friday’s defeat, rose to their responsibilities to upstage their opponents in no uncertain way.
Their 12-6 victory was deserved reward for their resilience and better game-plan as well as some stout defending, especially from goalkeeper Ian Bugeja.
The Balluta Bay team had already opened an 8-1 gap midway through before a slight blip tempered by Sliema’s reaction enabled the Blues to cut the leeway to 8-5.
But that was only momentary as Sergei Markoch’s pep talk sufficed to re-establish his team’s superiority and victory could not escape the Reds.
The Blues took an early lead but Neptunes responded with four goals and then another poker in the second session as the Reds’ superiority against fumbling opponents started surfacing.
By now Sliema were forced to dig deep to recover. They went for unrelenting press and managed to score four times in less than three minutes, thus closing the gap to 8-5 and open up some hopes midway through the third session.
But Neptunes hit back with three goals to make it 11-5 with the last session left. In the last part of the game the Reds were in total control, content to administer their comfortable lead and take the tie to the third play-off.
Neptunes’ last goal, netted by Edward Aquilina, was a beautiful swivelling backhand, a fitting climax to the Reds’ undoubted supremacy on the day.
Meanwhile, in the third place play-off, San Ġiljan Giuseppe’s beat 3CX Exiles in a duel which failed to raise any ripples, given the clear edge the Saints had over their disappointing opponents.
Karl Izzo’s team were definitely a superior lot with Andrea Bianchi, Karl Galea and Matthew Pisani providing the zip in the execution stage. Neither should one discard a magnificent backhand goal scored by Ryan Mock.
San Ġiljan’s early cushion may not have been very thick but was comfortable enough to help them maintain the distance from their opponents from across the bay.
San Ġiljan 8
(2-0, 1-1, 2-0, 3-3)
San Ġiljan: D. Camilleri, J.C. Cutajar 1, A. Galea, Karl Galea 2, Keith Galea, R. Mock 1, A. Bugeja, A. Bianchi 2, C. Gialanze, P. Fava, C. Martin, M. Pisani 2.
Exiles: A. Borg Cole, J. Rizzo Naudi, K. Rizzo Naudi, D. Pace Lupi, T. Sullivan 1, P. Paris, J. Spiteri Staines 1, K. Grixti 1, D. Borg 1, P. Borg, S. Vassallo, M. Paris, K. Lanzon.
Referees: Ronnie Spiteri, Peter Balzan.
(1-4, 0-4, 4-3, 1-1)
Sliema: R. Coleiro, C. Cluett, N. Lubrano, P. Privitera, M. Meli 1, J. Soler 2, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg 2, C. Debono, M. Cordina,M. Rizzo 1, M. Spiteri Staines, Z. Sciberras.
Neptunes: I. Bugeja, N. Lanzon 2, E. Aquilina 2, M. Stellini 1, Z. Mizzi, G. Pace, J. Camilleri 2, K. Debattista, T. Agius 1, S. Gravina 2, B. Lanzon, S. Xerri de Caro, C. Mercieca 2.
Referees: Ivan Sciriha, Massimo Angilleri.