Sliema regain the top spot
Otters beat Ta’ Xbiex in high-scoring match
Sliema McDonald’s regained top spot in the Premier Division standings after narrowly beating Sirens Ritter Sport 7-5 yesterday in a match marked by stringent press and very often strong-arm tactics.
The Blues had a better take-off and at one point in the third session led 6-2 and were looking comfortable.
That, though, did not prevent Sirens from staging a bold comeback to render the match uncertain till the very last second.
Finally, Sliema prevailed courtesy of their early edge.
In a first session in which both teams went for uncompromising marking, Sliema took a 2-0 advantage through goals from Ferenc Salamon and John Soler. Sirens were off the mark in their shooting and when they were on target Istvan Gergelj was behind the northerners’ efforts.
Sliema’s Hungarian goalkeeper even saved a penalty on his compatriot Czaba Kiss early in the second session.
From a possible 2-1, Sliema made it 3-0. Arpad Babay scored between Jerome Gabarretta and Nikolai Lubrano’s goals as the match press tactics grew even more stringent.
Sirens made it 4-2 but Mark Meli netted a fifth goal with less than a second left for the end of the second session.
Meanwhile, Salamon, who had been hanging on two personal faults, re-appeared in the third quarter. He soon made it 6-2 but the gritty Alex Attard reduced the arrears to 6-3.
Sliema at this point could afford to be wasteful on man-ups but not Sirens who had to make up the three-goal leeway with the last quarter left.
Seconds into the fourth session, Salamon was expelled for good following his third personal fault.
With David Cutajar and Charlie Zammit making it 6-5 with under four minutes left, the match drew to an exciting climax as the northerners threatened to draw level.
However, Sliema held out during the remaining time only to seal victory with a last-gasp Soler goal, his second.
In the first match of the evening, scoring sprees in the middle sessions helped Otters Nivea avenge their 10-11 first round defeat at the hands of Ta’ Xbiex Amigos, a victory which propped up the Gozitan team to nine points in the Division One table, two behind Valletta.
It was yet another deserved victory for Alfred Cachia’s team.
Goals alternated until midway in the first session after which Ta’ Xbiex pulled the trigger to go three goals up on 5-2.
Otters came back in the second session, with Zoltan Radocz and Keith Grima Scott each reaching three goals before the latter cried off injured. They twice went ahead on 7-6 and 8-7 before goals from Reinhard Attard and Yuri Szeles restored the equilibrium on 8-8.
With Ta’ Xbiex having their ten-man squad drained, Otters took control in the next quarter. The exclusion on three fouls of Laszlo Suranyi compounded the situation for Mario Zammit’s team as the Gozitan team took a 13-8 advantage with the last session left.
To their credit, Ta’ Xbiex pulled back to 14-12 thanks to goals from Keith Galea and Attard with under two minutes to go on the watch before six-goal Radocz flicked in a beauty to seal his team’s victory.
Ta’ Xbiex 12
(5-2, 3-6, 0-5, 4-2)
Ta’ Xbiex: L. Borg, J. Cremona, A. Galea 1, L. Suranyi 1, K. Galea 3, S. Cini, C. Saliba, R. Attard 3, O. Zammit 1, Y. Szeles 3.
Otters: A. Cachia, G. Attard 1, G. Zammit, Z. Radocz 6, S. Dimech, M. Balatoni 1, J. Paris 2, D. Schembri, E. Farrugia, K. Debattista, C. Martin 2, K. Scicluna, K. Grima Scott 3.
Refs: M. Angilleri, S. Licari.
(0-2, 2-3, 1-1, 2-1)
Sirens: A. Grech, A. Attard 1, L. Caruana, P. Micallef, A. Babay 2, C. Kiss, J. Borg, D. Cutajar 1, A. Zarb Cousin, C. Zammit 1, C. Spiteri de Barro, D. Zammit, A. Sammut.
Sliema: I. Gergelj, J. Gabarretta 1, N. Lubrano 1, P. Privitera, M. Meli 1, J. Soler 2, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg, C. Debono, F. Salamon 2, M. Rizzo, M. Spiteri Staines, R. Coleiro.
Refs: I. Sciriha, P. Bensaia.
Tuesday: Division One 18.00 Valletta Sterling vs Ta’ Xbiex Amigos. Premier Division 19.15 Sirens Ritter Sport vs San Giljan Giuseppe’s.
Wednesday: Premier Division 19.15 Exiles Ferretti vs Sliema McDonald’s.