Valletta secure play-off spot as Marsascala shock Sirens
Neptunes rose to the occasion to pick up where they left off in their previous encounter against main rivals San Ġiljan to take top spot in the Premier Division ahead of the start of the play-offs.
The last time the two teams met, Neptunes’ late charge earned them a point. This time, the Reds were superior in all departments.
The Reds’ rearguard blocked superbly, leaving few avenues for a steady shot. And when this happened, Alan Borg Cole was superb yesterday. Upfront sharp-shooters Jake Muscat and Filip Filipovic shared between them eight goals.
San Ġiljan looked out of sorts and could only react in the third session when they managed to draw level on two occasions.
But from then on Neptunes took over again and allowed their erratic opponents little space in which to carve a way to goal.
With this win, Neptunes took the top spot at the end of the Premier Division and will face Valletta in the play-offs. On their part, San Ġiljan will face a tricky encounter against Sliema.
Neptunes went ahead through Filip Filipovic before Maro Jokovic hit the equaliser.
But it was Neptunes who showed their killer instincts as they built a three-goal cushion through goals from Jake Muscat, Stevie Camilleri and Aleksandar Ivovic.
Nikolai Zammit had been hanging on two early fouls since the fourth minute of the first session. That complicated Zeljko Kovacic’s plans with the Croatian coach preferring Andreas Galea on the right flank, limiting Zammit’s time in the water.
At this point, San Ġiljan had a mountain to climb. But the Saints recovered as they pulled back two goals, both through the hard-working Jokovic. But Filipovic made it 5-3 for Neptunes.
Neptunes custodian Alan Borg Cole was splendid yesterday, again pulling off excellent saves.
The Reds’ stringent press was proving costly in terms of expulsions and Aaron Younger made it 5-4 on an extra-man set early in their session.
Jokovic was a defiant figure as he scored his fourth goal but Stevie Camilleri made it 6-5.
The Saints were full of fight and Nicholas Bugelli netted to level matters again. Muscat’s shooting power was again evident as he breached the opposing line to make it 7-6 before Filipovic increased the Reds’ lead.
Neptunes were completely on song as Muscat made it 9-6 to restore their three-goal cushion before the start of the final session.
Indeed, the dice had long been cast as the impeccable Muscat and Filipovic made it 11-6 before Ben Plumpton reduced the arrears.
Marsaskala finally broke their duck in the Premier Division.
In a match that had little at stake other than statistics for the southseasiders, Arpad Babay’s side did a big favour to their rivals Valletta as their win handed the Citizens a place in the play-offs at the expense of Sirens.
For Marsaskala, it was a no-win situation. Despite this win, they finished at the bottom place in the standings.
It was ironic that they wrestled the play-off spot out of the hands of Sirens only to hand it to their biggest rivals Valletta, following last weekend’s keen tussle against the Citizens.
Valletta were interesting spectators yesterday. Marsaskala were clearly up for it as they not only held their own but also stunned Sirens by taking a 3-2 lead at the end of the first session.
The Southseasiders clearly made it hard for Marco Orlovic’s side to produce their best waterpolo.
However, the Northerners drew level 5-5 before the change of ends.
Yet again, Marsaskala edged Sirens out in the third session to take a slim 8-7 lead before the start of the fourth session. Jerome Zerafa Gregory led Sirens’ final charge as he first made it 8-8. Then, he gave Sirens a crucial lead on 10-9 inside the last two minutes.
However, Marsascala had other plans and Jake Ciantar, author of a poker, and Daniel Tully sunk Sirens’ hopes.
(2-3, 3-2, 2-3, 4-4)
SIRENS: T. Micallef, P. Serracino, K. Erdogan 2, P. Figlioli 4, J. Zerafa Gregory 2, G. Farrugia 2, M. Chircop, G. Melillo, M. Cutajar, M. Pasztor 1, M. Sciberras, M. Azzopardi, M. Bonello Dupius, J. Cachia, G. Sammut.
MARSASKALA: J.Micallef, J.C. Cutajar, G. Galea, P. Privitera, R. Greco, E. Manzi 4, K. Navarro, D. Tully 1, D. Pace Lupi, G. Sammut, J. Ciantar 4, M. Carani, A. Muscat, T. Sedlmayerm 3, F. Scardino.
Refs: Vittorio Frauenfelder, Neville Mercieca.
(6-1, 8-2, 4-3, 5-1)
BIRŻEBBUĠA: M. Sladden, P. Borg 4, N. Cassar, B. Grech, D. Brguljan 2, M. Manara, D. Cutajar 1, B. Erdelyi 6, K. Tanti, G. Mannino 2, M. Curmi 1, CD. Borg, J. Sciberras 6, D. Farrugia.
MARSAXLOKK: M. Farrugia, C. Cutajar, B. Zammit. M. Farrugia, S. Mifsud, J. Valletta 1, M. Zammit, M. Aquilina, R. Galea 2, M. Lanzon, E. Bonnici, L. Mallia 2, S. Mifsud 1, A. Cook, G. Gatt 1.
Refs: Alessandro Cavallini, Alex de Raffaele.
SAN ĠILJAN 7
(1-4, 2-1, 3-4, 1-2)
SAN ĠILJAN: J. Tanti, N. Bugelli 1, A. Galea, B. Plumpton 1, M. Jokovic 4, M. Zammit, J. Bonavia, A. Younger 1, J. Abela, N. Zammit, D. Zammit, R. Caruana, G. Borg, G. Bonavia, K. Calleja.
NEPTUNES: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat 4, S. Gialanze, G. Pace, M. Castillo, J. Bajada, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri, A. Ivovic 1, F. Filipovic 4, A. Fenech, E, Mallia, M. Rossi, D. Bugeja, A. Fava.
Refs: V. Frauenfelder, M. Angileri.
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