Sliema look to wrap up series victory
Sliema McDonald’s will have their sights firmly set on sealing their place in the BOV National League final this evening when they face San Ġiljan Giuseppe’s in the second of the best-out-three semi-final series at the National Pool.
On Wednesday, the Blues came from behind to see off the spirited Saints in a thrilling contest to put themselves just one win away from setting up a title showdown with big rivals Neptunes Emirates for a second successive year.
Six-goal hero John Soler was the protagonist in the 12-10 victory in midweek as the Blues’ warhorse led his team-mates to an outstanding showing in the second part of the match for Sliema to avoid a second successive defeat in the league.
Blues coach Sergio Afric, boosted by the late arrival of Maltese-Australian James Falzon, must have been delighted with the response from his players after falling behind by the half-way mark.
Trailing 5-3 at the start of the third session, Sliema suddenly stepped up their play by several notches and, inspired by some stout defending, they dashed San Ġiljan’s hopes of a headstart in the series.
Despite the upset, San Ġiljan cannot be ruled out of contention yet as Karl Izzo’s men have shown time and again this season that on their day they are good enough to have their own against all teams in the championship.
In fact, prior to the play-off semi-finals, San Ġiljan had enjoyed the upperhand in head-to-head meetings with Sliema.
In the preliminary round, the Saints had edged past the Blues 8-7 before going on to register a double over their more-quoted opponents in the Premier Division when beating them 9-5 in a first round match.
Sliema broke the negative sequence in the return when emerging 11-7 winners.
This evening, San Ġiljan will do everything in their power to claim the spoils and force a decisive tie on Sunday as the Blues will look to wrap up the series in earnest to recover lost energies ahead of the best-of-five final against Neptunes, starting next week.
While the top three teams in the Premier Division are still fighting it out for the major honour at stake, Sirens and Exiles have now wrapped up their commitments for the summer season.
On Wednesday, the team from St Paul’s Bay needed extra-time to down Exiles Ferretti 11-10 after the two teams had shared 20 goals in regular time.
Hungarian Arpad Babay scored the winner for Sirens who were registering their second successive victory in the league following last week’s stunning victory over Sliema which denied the latter top place and an automatic berth in the final.
Meanwhile, this evening’s pro-gramme curtain-raiser pits together Valletta Sterling and Otters Nivea from the First Division semi-final play-offs.
The Citizens enter the series with a slight psychological edge having won two of the three matches against the Gozitan team this summer.
The winner from the best-out-three contest will face Marsascala Mor€ in the final series which gets underway next month.
Today: 18.00 Valletta vs Otters; 19.15 San Ġiljan vs Sliema.
Sunday: 18.00 Otters vs Valletta; 19.15 Sliema vs San Ġiljan (if needed).