SAN ĠILJAN 12
(2-4, 4-3, 2-1, 2-4)
San Ġiljan drew first blood in the Premier Division final when they battled past Neptunes to take the lead in the best-of-three final series at the National Pool
As expected the match turned out to be a fascinating affair with both teams giving everything they had in search of victory, but in the end it was San Ġiljan’s superior finishing in key moments that handed them the win.
Australian player Aaron Younger shone for the Saints when he bagged five goals while goalkeeper Jake Tanti also distinguished himself with some fine stops, particularly in the closing second to ensure his team take a 1-0 lead ahead of Monday’s second match.
Both teams were determined to take control of the match in the opening session.
It was San Ġiljan who held the edge early on with Australian player Aaron Younger taking centre stage with his sharp-shooting qualities.
In fact, it was Younger who put the Saints ahead with a thumping drive.
Neptunes tried to fight back but they found in front of them an inspired Jake Tanti in San Ġiljan’s goal as the Malta international denied them with some fine interventions.
The Balluta Bay team needed a penalty to pull the game level, converted by Filip Filipovic.
But San Ġiljan soon regained control with Nikolai Zammit putting them back in front before Younger took centre stage with two fine conclusions to put his team in control – 4-1.
Stevie Camilleri scored a crucial goal for Neptunes late in the first session to leave them trailing 4-2.
Ivovic struck immediately at the start of the second session for Neptunes before Matthew Zammit scored a blinder to restore his team’s two-goal lead – 5-3.
Stevie Camilleri came to the fore for Neptunes midway through the quarter when the veteran player beat Tanti twice with well-taken efforts to pull his team level.
San Ġiljan kept their poise and Andreas Galea converted a man-up set to put his team back in front.
Plumpton showed great intelligence to attract two players on him before setting up Younger to make it 7-5.
Neptunes needed a response and Ivovic provided it pulling his team one goal behind – 7-6 – at the interval.
The match was on a knife edge now and a fine pick from Stevie Camilleri to set up Gialanze saw Neptunes making it 7-7.
Matthew Zammit handed San Ġiljan a lift with a vital goal with less than three minutes to go till the end of the session to put his team 8-7 ahead.
But Neptunes soon hit back with Jake Muscat restoring parity from a man-up set, with just one session to go.
San Ġiljan were desperate to reclaim control and it was Younger once more who gave them the initiative with a thumping drive from two metres out to put the Saints 9-8 ahead.
Neptunes failed to respond and Nikolai Zammit beat Alan Borg Cole from close in to give San Ġiljan a crucial two-goal lead 10-8.
Filipovic revived Neptunes’ hopes when he converted a quick transition to pull his team one goal behind – 10-9.
Neptunes kept battling and Jake Muscat was given time and space to make it 10-10 with less than three minutes to go.
San Ġiljan were craving for a goal and it was Zammit who provided it to put his team back in front.
Neptunes were thwarted by an alert Tanti soon after and the Saints hit a crucial goal when Jokovic scored from a quick break to give his team a two-goal advantage with less than a minute to go.
NEPTUNES: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat 2, S. Gialanze 1, G. Pace, M. Castillo, J. Bajada, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri, A. Ivovic 2, F. Filipovic 1, A. Fenech, E. Mallia, M. Rossi, D. Bugeja, A. Fava.
SAN ĠILJAN:J. Tanti, N. Bugelli, A. Galea 1, B. Plumpton, M. Jokovic 1, M. Zammit 3, J. Bonavia, A. Younger 5, J. Abela, N. Zammit 2, D. Zammit, R. Caruana, G. Borg, G. Bonavia, N. Bonavia.
Referees Fabio Brasiliano, Massimo Calabro.
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