Solid Sirens topple Sliema off their perch
The curtains were brought down on the second of two rounds in the Premier Division yesterday with Sirens Ritter Sport surprising Sliema McDonald’s to topple them off their perch and leave them second in the table.
The Blues will thus contest the best-of-three play-off against San Ġiljan Giuseppe’s to determine the team to meet leaders Neptunes Emirates in the final.
All credit to Sirens and their coach Marco Risso for infusing life and determination in a team languishing near the foot of the table. Yesterday, they had no pressure to bear on them unlike the Blues who in the end could not surmount the mental condition of having to pick maximum points.
The Blues had a bright take-off when they netted on each of their first three sorties. The Northerners, though, fought back to reduce the arrears for a 4-3 scoreline in favour of Sliema at the end of the first quarter.
Stifling press by both sides marked open play, with centres at each end having no easy service.
Sirens stuck manly to their guns. After they made it four-all and then went 5-4 down they scored three in succession with Arpad Babay and captain David Cutajar each reaching a brace of goals.
At the other end, Sliema’s Ferenc Salomon, was already on a hat-trick while Jerome Gabaretta had scored two. At the half-way mark it was 7-5 for Sirens.
The Blues were forced to grind their teeth in order to redress the imbalance. They cut the leeway to 7-6 early in the third session, before John Soler scored his first goal to level matters with the last session left.
It was evenly-poised at this stage, although Sirens had stalled in terms of scoring. Soler put his team ahead at 8-7 after which Sirens at last netted on a man extra after they had tossed away three vital sets.
The Blues more than emulated them when they squandered for similar occasions. Those lost chances proved very costly for them as the Northernerns had extra doses of vitality, particularly through Babay, who picked his spot another three times for a total of five, with Dino Zammit rounding up his hat-trick.
Sliema were stunned and their supporters muted.
The First Division three-round phase came to an end in yesterday’s first match, only valid for prestige as the standings in the table had already been established.
Valletta Sterling, having shown real verve only in patches, beat bottom-placed Ta’ Xbiex Amigos when they overturned the result with four late goals.
Laszlo Suranyi (four) and Yuri Szeles (5) netted the bulk of the goals for Ta’ Xbiex.
For the winners, who were still without the suspended David Zoltan, Robert Kovacs scored eight followed by player of the month for July Timmy Agius who found the net five times.
Ta’ Xbiex 13
(4-1, 4-4, 2-5, 3-5)
Ta’ Xbiex: J. Cremona, L. Borg, A. Galea 1, M. Asciak, L. Suranyi 4, C. Bugeja, K. Galea 2, S. Cini, L. Pace, C. Saliba, R. Attard 1, Y. Szeles 5.
Valletta: E. Arrigo, R. Calleja 1, A. Galea, T. Agius 5, S. Cachia 1, A. Galea, M. Cordina 1, R. Kovacs 7, A. Arrigo, A. Sammut, K. Hyzler.
Refs: M. Angileri, P. Giordano.
(4-3, 1-4, 2-0, 1-4)
Sliema: I. Gergely, J. Gabaretta 2, N. Lubrano, P. Privitera 1, M. Meli, J. Soler 2, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg, C. Debono, F. Salomon 3, C. Cluett, M. Spiteri Staines, R. Coleiro.
Sirens: A. Grech, A. Attard, A. Sammut, P. Micallef, A. Babay 5, C. Kiss 1, J. Borg, D. Cutajar 2, L. Caruana, C. Zammit, M. Grech, D. Zammit 3.
Refs: I. Sciriha, D. De Meo.