Blues out to derail Reds and avoid whitewash
Coach Sergio Afric must have dedicated most of his time with his Sliema McDonald’s players the past couple of days trying to pep up their confidence levels after the Blues got beaten a second time by Neptunes Emirates in the best-of-five BOV Premier Division final series.
On Saturday, Neptunes edged closer to retaining the cham-pionship for a third year running following another sound per-formance that saw them cruise past inept opponents who only lived up to their billing until the end of the first session.
Neptunes had obtained a valuable headstart in the opening match from the series last week with an 11-6 victory. That was complemented with another win of similar proportions on Saturday as the Reds won the contest 11-5.
Sergey Markoch’s team have shown the better fare in this series against their arch rivals and should be considered firm favourites to claim the title for a 21st time this evening when the third play-off is played.
At the end of the regular season, Neptunes were topping the standings and that meant an automatic berth in the final, unlike the Blues who had to go through a gruelling best-of-three semi-final against the season’s revelation side San Ġiljan Giuseppe’s.
The extra travails against the Saints seem to have left a negative effect on Sliema’s energies.
In fact, in the final Afric’s men were a complete shadow of the same team that had oozed confidence and fought admirably in difficult situations.
Last year all five matches in the final were required to determine a winner but Sliema will have to lift their game significantly today to avoid an embarrassing whitewash.
So poor were the Blues on Saturday, that they only succeeded in scoring twice from eight man-up situations besides messing up most of their attacking ploys as they frantically sought to get back into the game after falling 3-6 behind at the half-way mark.
Should the series drag into a fourth match, this will be played on Saturday.
Meanwhile, today’s first fixture will be the second tie from the best-of-three final for the First Division title between Marsascala Mor€ and Valletta Sterling.
Marsascala could wrap up the championship today if they beat Valletta as the Southenders are already leading the series 1-0 following their victory in an abrasive first match (14-12) on Saturday.
A decisive third match, if needed, is pencilled for Saturday evening.
First Division final (2): 18.00 Marsascala vs Valletta.
Premier Division final (3): 19.15 Neptunes vs Sliema.