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Reds, Saints share spoils in thriller

Marsaxlokk stride towards Div. One title

Nailbiting stuff... Neptunes’ Steve Camilleri tries to repel an effort from San Ġiljan’s Dino Zammit during their 11-all draw at the National Pool, yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Nailbiting stuff... Neptunes’ Steve Camilleri tries to repel an effort from San Ġiljan’s Dino Zammit during their 11-all draw at the National Pool, yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

A match which had all the good elements in waterpolo ended with leaders Neptunes Grimaldi and champions San Ġiljan Salini Resort sharing 22 goals and the spoils, a result which leaves the Balluta team a point in front of their neighbours.

It was the best duel of the season so far, with quality goals and exciting fare, excellent goalkeeping, alternating fortunes, sporting camaraderie and good refereeing.

The balance between the sides and their resolve not to let their numerous fans down were there for all to see. In the final reckoning, it was a fitting result that rewarded the efforts of both teams.

San Ġiljan are to be commended for their fighting spirit while Neptunes have continued to confound many who thought that their short squad in relation to the other big teams would crumble.

There was nothing in it as one team and then the other forged ahead by a solitary goal, with Boris Vapenski, scorer of six goals for the Saints and Cosmin Radu, who struck four for the Reds, constituting the main scoring threat.

The predatory scoring skills of Steve Camilleri, who netted twice, were not as evident as usual, but then his role for a team with a fragile tail is more bent on providing the playmaking. Another player who is an integral part of Neptunes’ top order, Jeremy Abela, also scored a brace.

Neptunes nosed ahead repeatedly after conceding the first goal but San Ġiljan replied every time before taking a two-goal lead with just over three minutes left.

However, the Reds fought back bravely to net twice through their other talismanic players, Niki Lanzon and Jordan Camilleri.

The sharing of honours was indeed the most fitting result.

Tough for Sliema

In the previous match, Sliema Betsson once again were made to stretch every sinew to pick maximum spoils at the expense of a brave Exiles Jet Freight. They were relieved to score twice in the last two minutes to punish their gutsy opponents.

It was a replica of the first-round match between these sides which the Blues won 9-6.

Sliema had Nicholas Bugelli missing but otherwise all their heavyweights were in the side, including Jerome Gabarretta who was excluded without substitution in the previous match, an infringement that resulted in a fine for the player.

The Blues were generally unconvincing, with Marko Cuk again an anonymous figure despite scoring twice. Gabarretta, with four goals, and John Soler with three, made up for this shortcoming on Cuk’s part.

On their part, Exiles played an exemplary tactical game with good covering at the back and with the outside players, Sean Gravina and Andrea Bianchi, underlining their scoring ability with a hat-trick each.

Milos Vukicevic went one better when hitting four.

Dorian Pisani’s team always managed to level the score until those heartbreaking last minutes

In Division One, Marsaxlokk Fischer again saw off the challenge of Marsascala Nutrition Empire to practically make sure of the title and evoke past years when their team wallowed in success.

Their 18-12 win has put them 12 points ahead of their challengers, with all teams having to play four matches till the end of the first division campaign.

Their new signings, especially Brian Buhagiar, Sean Meli and Karl Galea, besides the scoring influence of Ivan Vuksanovic, who hit seven goals yesterday, gave the team added momentum.

Summaries

Neptunes 11
San Ġiljan 11

(3-3, 3-3, 2-2, 3-3)

Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon 1, C. Radu 4, M. Cutajar, T. Agius, M. Lanzon, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri 1, J. Abela 2, M. Zammit 1, B. Lanzon, M. Azzopardi, M. Castillo.

San Ġiljan: J. Sammut, P. Borg, A. Galea, B. Vapenski 6, Darren Zammit, M. Zammit 1, K. Galea, C. Mercieca, B. Plumpton, A. Cousin, P. Fava 2, Dino Zammit 2, D. Camilleri.

Referees: Anna Goncharenko, Bruno Navarra.

Sliema 13
Exiles 11

(4-2, 5-6, 2-3, 2-0)

Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabarretta 4, E. Aquilina 1, C. Cluett 1, M. Meli, J. Soler 3, K. Dowling, T. Sullivan 1, J. Brownrigg, A. Attard 1, M. Cuk 2, M. Fenech, Z. Sciberras.

Exiles: I. Bugeja, J. Rizzo Naudi, S. Vassallo, D. Pace Lupi, D. Borg Millo, E. Gravina, S. Gravina 3, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, A. Bianchi 3, L. Felice, M. Vukicevic 4, K. Lanzon.

Referees: Ronnie Spiteri, Carmelo Polimeni.

Marsascala 12
Marsaxlokk 18

(3-5, 3-5, 3-5, 3-3)

Marsascala: K. Schembri, J.C. Cutajar, J. Busuttil, C. Bonello 1, J. Bajada, L. Grixti 2, G. Kovacs 4, J. Cremona 1, S. Micallef 2, M. Pace 1, D. Cassar 1, O. Zammit, B. Dougall.

Marsaxlokk: D. Abela, C. Spiteri De Barro 3, L. Calleja, K. Galea 2, C. Gialanze, C. Bugeja, S. Meli 4, I. Vuksanovic 7, B. Buhagiar, R. Scerri 2, K. Navarro, K. Debattista, A. Xuereb.

Referees: Peter Balzan, Bruno Navarra.

Knock-out draws

Premier Division: Preliminary round (July 29) San Ġiljan vs Sliema (Winners to meet Exiles in semi-finals on August 12); Sirens vs Valletta (Winners to meet Neptunes on August 13).

Division One semi-finals: (August 12) Otters vs Marsascala; (August 13) Marsaxlokk vs Ta Xbiex.

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