Big guns eye points, cup incentive

As the race for top positions intensifies, the leading quartet in Maltese waterpolo have an extra incentive to win their matches tomorrow.

Apart from the usual league points on offer, the winners of the two main fixtures on the card will place their hands on one of the first two honours of the season, the Ghaqda Kittieba Sport Cup and the President's Cup.

Champions Sliema have a tough task to stay in pole position as they meet Sirens in their last Preliminary Round match which is also valid for the President's Cup.

On a high after their nerve-jangling victory over rivals Neptunes the previous week, Sliema were hoping to end last weekend two points clear of their nearest pursuers.

This did not materialise though as a 6-6 draw with Marsascala on Saturday has left Sliema with a minimal one-point lead over Neptunes and Sirens, and just two ahead of their last opponents going into tomorrow's clashes.

Memories of their 7-4 defeat to Neptunes in the final of the President's Cup last year will provide added stimulus for Sliema who, by the time they line up to face Sirens, will know the outcome of the other match between Neptunes and Marsascala.

If Sliema were disappointed to have been denied a two-point harvest by a gritty Marsascala team, Sirens were furious after their dramatic 8-7 defeat to Neptunes on Friday.

Sirens' first loss of the season was hard to stomach not only because of a series of debatable decisions by the match officials but also due to the fact that they had been in the driving seat for all bar the final session of the match.

John Farrugia will urge his players to forget that upset and concentrate on inflicting the first defeat on Sliema whom they beat 11-7 last year to win the KO final.

Sirens also lifted the Ghaqda Kittieba Sport Cup in 2004 after a low-scoring 5-3 success over Marsascala. The latter can atone for that today but theirs is no easy mission against a strong Neptunes team strengthened by their hard-fought success over Sirens.

Indeed, Sergio Afric, the Neptunes coach, will have been pleased that his team came good in the last session after their bitter experience in being upstaged by adversaries Sliema in the final seconds of their thrilling encounter two weeks ago.

Marsascala are still regarded as underdogs for the league but in snatching a point off Sliema, Pierre Borg's team have shown they are not to be taken lightly.

As the cup finals count for the Preliminary Round, teams will receive a point each in the event of a drawn outcome. In order to decide the winner of the cup, a further two extra-time sessions of three minutes each will be played. If the score is still even at the end of these sessions, the game will be decided by the Golden Goal.

Meanwhile, tomorrow's opening match between Ta' Xbiex and Otters marks the start of the final round of the Division Two League.

Programme: (Today) 7 p.m. Marsaxlokk vs Exiles; 8 p.m. Valletta vs San Giljan. (Tomorrow) 6 p.m. Ta' Xbiex vs Otters; 7 p.m. Neptunes vs Marsascala; 8 p.m. Sliema vs Sirens.


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