Marsaxlokk rally to beat Ta’ Xbiex
A hotly-disputed goal netted on the stroke of time brought controversy but helped San Ġiljan edge Sliema in an exiciting match played behind closed doors.
The Saints thus took sweet revenge for their defeat against the Blues in the Emended Cup final and at the same time finish at the top of Group B.
The Saints’ tactical game and sharper driving instincts helped them win the battle of giants and if Dorian Pisani’s side can maintain the same level of determination and killer instinct shown yesterday they could really be prime contenders for the title.
San Ġiljan punished an elementary error by Jamie Gambin who conceded a penalty which was duly converted by Andreas Galea and were two goals up when Matthias Ortoleva inflicted further damage on the sloppy Blues. Jerome Gabarretta pulled a goal back for Sliema at the end of the first session.
The Blues could only show tentative efforts from a distance, with the woodwork coming to San Ġiljan’s rescue twice when Jake Tanti looked beaten by efforts from Nicholas Bugelli and Jacob Sciberras.
A quick counter-thrust left the Blues reeling when Dino Zammit restored his side’s two-goal cushion. Liam Galea pulled a goal back before the session ended.
Service to the respective centres had not been easy in the crowded five-metre zones with Matthew Zammit and Dino Zammit swapping defensive duties to close on Gabarretta.
But the Saints suffered a blow when Dino Zammit was red-carded for passing repeated remarks. That gave Sliema some respite going in front for the first time from a penalty by Mark Meli. Yet, it was six-all at the end of the third session when youngster Marco Mannino scored a beauty to level matters.
Jake Galea effect two excellent blocks in quick succession to keep San Ġiljan’s heads above water but could do nothing from Gabarretta’s shot.
A bold reaction by San Ġiljan earned them a lead of 8-7 through goals by Ben Plumpton and Galea. Sciberras equalised for Sliema, before Matthew Zammit made the decisive blow.
But there were doubts whether it was a valid goal with Sliema protesting that Zammit was inside the two metres’ zone. Sergio Afric vented his protests towards Massimo Angileri who allowed the goal.
Earlier, an edgy opening session by Marsaxlokk, which coincided with Ta’ Xbiex’s encouraging take-off, was turned around by the southseasiders in the second quarter and consolidated in the subsequent sessions for a comprehensive 8 – 5 win.
Ta’ Xbiex’s early spark deserted them and when Marsaxlokk had the oil running in their engines, the writing was on the wall for the minnows. The goals kept coming at regular intervals, with Matteo Martellacci leading his side’s scorers list with a poker.
TA’ XBIEX 5
(2-2, 0-2, 0-2, 3-2)
Ta’ Xbiex: M. Vassallo, M. Mifsud, R. Greco, D. Rizzo, F. Cutajar, M. De Marco, M. Carani 2, N. Saliba, K. Borg, G. Sammut 1, N. Schiavone 1, S. Azzopardi, M. Farrugia, J. Saliba 1.
Marsaxlokk: R. Coleiro, J. Rizzo Naudi, M. Martellacci 5, M. Pace, T. Agius 1, L. Saliba 1, J. Galea, K. Cremona, S. Micallef, R. Scerri, M. Cacici 1, O. Zammit, F. Buhagiar.
Refs: Stefan Licari, Giuliana Nicolosi.
SAN ĠILJAN 9
(1-2, 1-1, 4-3, 2-3)
Sliema: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta 2, L. Galea 1, J. Sciberras 2, M. Meli 1, B.Cachia 1, M. Spiteri Staines, J. Cutajar, J. Gambin, Z. Mizzi 1, N. Bugelli, A. Teuma.
San Ġiljan: J. Tanti, K. Tanti, A. Galea 2, D. Ciantar, M. Mannino 1, M. Zammit 2, B. Plumpton 1, J. Bonavia, Z. Micallef, Darren Zammit 1, P. Fava, Dino Zammit 1, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva 1.
Refs: Massimo Angileri, Stefano Pinato.