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Ivovic steers Neptunes to victory against Sliema

Neptunes overcame Sliema in Wednesday's top game. Photo: Domenic Borg

San Giljan overcome Sirens

(3-2, 3-4, 1-2, 4-4)

Hats off to Neptunes’ 36-year-old Alesandar Ivovic for a truly remarkable performance which lifted his team-mates to a 12-11 victory over Sliema on Wednesday.

It was a steely match which exuded confidence from both sets of players who put all their heart into it in front of a very good crowd.

It was, in fact, 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.

The match was dominated by rigid man-to-man shadowing, especially from Sliema. They took a two-goal kick-start with the goals coming from their foreign duo Dmitrii Kholod u Andrija Prlainovic.

Neptunes overturned their disadvantage to level 2-2 with Filip Filipovic and Aleksandar Ivovic.

Both sides were forced to shoot from a distance as Dino Zammit was afforded space on the left flank to give Sliema the upper hand in the first session.

Sliema went 6-2 ahead at the beginning of the second session and missed a man-up to extend their lead.

Neptunes hit back strongly to score four in quick succession with Ivovic profiting from a double man-up situation when Zammit was ordered to join John Brownrigg in the Sliema’s man-up cage.

It was a tight match, sportingly contested as the teams changed ends on 6-6.

Ivovic gave Neptunes’ lead for the first time early in the third session before Filipovic made it 8-6 for Neptunes.

The Blues were still full of fight and Kholod cut the deficit to just one goal. Sliema went for more but their profligacy denied them the draw on another man-up set.

In the fourth session, Sliema fought back bravely to nose ahead in the fourth session 10-9.

Dorian Pisani could also bank on Stevie Camilleri’s scoring instincts as he became the first Maltese player to put his name on the scoresheet for Neptunes. Jake Muscat also made his presence felt when he scored with an angled shot.

Jordan Camilleri was fouled out but two minutes from time, Ivovic gave his side a 12-10 lead. Neptunes suffered a blow when Alan Borg Cole was substituted with chest pains after being hit by a shot from Benji Cachia. Kholod scored his sixth goal from a five-metre throw but Neptunes held their nerve to administer their precious advantage till the very end.

Sliema: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta, L. Galea, J. Gambin, Z. Mizzi, B. Cachia, J. Cutajar, M. Mifsud, J. Brownrigg, D. Kholod (6), A. Prlainovic (4), D. Zammit (1), A. Bugeja, E. Schembri
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat (1), S. Gialanze, M. Castillo, J. Bajada, S. Camilleri (2), J. Camilleri, A. Ivovic (6), F. Filipovic (3), A. Fenech, E. Mallia, M. Rossi, D. Bugeja, A. Fava
Referees: Attilio Paoletti, Massimo Angileri.

(4-1, 6-2, 3-3, 5-5)

Earlier on, San Giljan again showed what quality they are made of as they all but destroyed the northerners to the tune of 18-11.

They displayed their best brand of waterpolo in the opening sessions with all their units combining well and showing great sharpness in front of the opposing goal, particularly through their foreign duo Aaron Younger and Mako Jokovic.

The Champions’ power play soon got them off the mark with Darren Zammit, Nikolai Zammit and Jokovic putting them 4-1 in front in the opening session.

San Giljan’s edge was again evident in the second session during which Jokovic and Younger (2) gave them a resounding advantage to change ends at 10-4.

Matthew Zammit was back in the water for the third session as San Giljan kept up the momentum with the left-hander netting a poke of goals.

One sensed that the Saints would go for some casual fare in the final session as their team led 13-7 into the last session. Sirens meanwhile tried to preserve their ego.

A crucial block by Benji Busuttil on Darko Brguljan book Valletta’s passage to the Premier Division.

There was nothing in it as one team and then the other forged ahead by a solitary goal, with Ivan Nagaev, scorer of six goals for the Citizens and Birzebbuga duo Erdelyi and Brguljan sharing six.

That was until 12 seconds from the end when Busuttil made that vital block to earn the citizens a return to the Premier Division.

San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, K. Calleja, A. Galea, B. Plumpton (3), M. Jokovic (3), M. Zammit (4), J. Bonavia (2), A. Younger (2), J. Abela, N. Zammit (3), D. Zammit (1), R. Caruana, G. Borg, G. Bonavia, N. Bonavia
Sirens: T. Micallef, P. Serracino, K. Erdogan (1), P. Figlioli (1), J. Zerafa Gregory (2), G. Farrugia (3), M. Chircop, G. Melillo (1), M. Cutajar, M. Pasztor, M. Sciberras (1), M. Azzopardi (2), M. Bonello Dupuis, J. Cachia, G. Sammut
Referees: Attilio Paoletti, Peter Balzan.


(3-3, 4-4, 3-3, 1-2)

Birżebbuġa: M. Sladden, P. Borg, N. Cassar, B. Grech, D. Brguljan (3), M. Manara, D. Cutajar (1), B. Erdelyi (3), K. Tanti, G. Mannino (2), M. Curmi, C.D. Borg, J. Sciberras (2), D. Farrugia.
Valletta: B. Busuttil, J. Spiteri Staines (1), D. Rizzo, J. Cassar, S. Busuttil, A. Vlahovic (3), D. Paolella, I. Nagaev (6), S. Micallef, A. Agius, K. Borg (2), K. Cremona, A. Theuma, M. Demarco, J. Chircop
Referees: Tiziano Petrini, Alex de Raffaele.

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