Marsaskala secured their Premier Division status after producing a last-ditch comeback to overcome Exiles 14-12 after having been three goals adrift before the start of the last session.
Arpad Babay’s side must have been relieved to prevail against Exiles in a match they kept fighting all the way to keep the result in the balance until the very end.
In a match dubbed as a must-win, Marsaskala lost their chief scorer Bence Batori at the end of the second session in a controversial decision. Yet, they delved deep into their fighting qualities to finally shake off Exiles’ stern challenge.
Exiles pulled the strings in the opening session and conducted the scoreline early on. A three-goal kickstart, with two coming from Valentino Gallo, was cut back to 3-2.
In the second session, Exiles slowed down the pace and Marsaskala took a 6-4 lead with Batori scoring twice in quick succession. The lead was trimmed down to 6-5.
However, a turning point of the match arrived just before the change of ends, when Sean Xerri de Caro beat the buzzer to level 6-6.
At the same time, Marsaskala chief scorer Batori was dismissed for protests, a very controversial decision which, however, did not seal the outcome of the match.
Hanging on two fouls, Gallo reached five goals in the third session when Exiles went 11-9 up. The volte face continued.
In the fourth session, Marsaskala stalled completely with Guillermo Molina fouled out, allowing their fresher opponents to forge ahead convincingly, relying on quick counter-thrusts from Jake Ciantar.
Ciantar, scored twice, Ferenc Salamon notching his hat-trick with Daniel Tully’s goal on 12-11 effectively sealing their place in the Premier Division.
In the last match of Tuesday’s programme, Marsaxlokk registered the biggest win so far in the competition when overwhelming Barracudas 33-13.
Yet, it was still not enough to perch Marsascala off the third position albeit both teams finished with seven points in Group A.
Marsaskala took the last berth for the Premier Division with a better goal difference.
Marsaxlokk demolished Barracudas in a show of class who had the impeccable Nikola Moskov as the supreme primadonna.
As anticipated, the Southseasiders piled up the goals in a match which they dominated from start to finish with Moskov scoring 20 goals.
The duel between Ta’ Xbiex and Otters which ended in a draw was a perfect example of how fortunes shift in waterpolo.
Ta’ Xbiex forged ahead, looking likely to grab their first three points after taking a 7-2 lead before the change of ends.
But they frittered that advantage also thanks to Otters’ spirited comeback in the last session.
The Gozitans were a revitalised lot in the fourth session, netting four times without reply to grab a point.
TA’ XBIEX 10
(3-1, 4-1, 3-4, 0-4)
TA’ XBIEX: M. Vassallo, N. Schiavone 1, L. Montebello, L. Grech Carr, K. Grech, R. Mock, J.Saliba, C. Milakovic 2, U. Vasic 5, J. Culic, Z. Bartolo, J. Farrugia, G. Galea Curmi, M. Ortoleva 2, K. Agius .
OTTERS: M. Xerri, M. Bonnici, K. Scicluna, D. Dimech, M. Meli, M. Jelaca 4, I. Azzopardi, S. Dimech, L. Dimech 2, J. Saric 3, M. Farrugia, A. Dimech, G. Gatt Ellis, K. Micallef, A. Bianchi 1.
Refs: Stefan Licari, Tiziano Petrini.
(3-2, 3-4, 5-3, 1-5)
EXILES: F. Buhagiar, Z. Cutajar Licari, Z. Micallef, V. Gallo 5, G. Molina 1, S. Xerri de Caro 1, M. Fenech 1, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, M. Martellacci 1, M. Aquilina 2, N. Saliba.
MARSASKALA: J. Micallef, JC Cutajar, G. Galea, J. Pace Mizzi, R. Greco, F. Salamon 3, K. Navarro, D. Tully 1, D. Pace Lupi 1, G. Sammut, J. Ciantar 4, M. Carani 1, A. Muscat, B. Batori 4, F. Scardino.
Refs: Ronnie Spiteri, Attilio Paoletti.
(7-5, 5-3, 11-2, 8-2)
MARSAXLOKK: Miguel Farrugia, C. Cutajar, B. Zammit, M. Zammit, N. Moskov 19, J. Valletta 3, Max Farrugia, M. Aquilina, S. Misic 4, E. Bonnici, L. Mallia 4, M. Brimmer, A. Cook 1, N. Lanzon.
BARRACUDAS: I. Schembri, S. Debono Grech, A. Magri, P. Micallef, D. Ciantar, R. Sciortino 1, I.Gusarov 6, R. Latinovic 4, C. Bugeja 1, S. Apap, A. Mifsud, TJ Mifsud, M. Borg, T.Perici Ferrante 1, W. Ruggier.
Refs: Richard Magri, Tiziano Petrini.
PLAYING ON WEDNESDAY
San Ġiljan vs Sirens 18.00
Birżebbuġa vs Valletta 19.05
Sliema vs Neptunes 20.10
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