Exiles Ferretti retained their top- flight status after conjuring an astonishing last-session recovery yesterday and send Valletta reeling into the first division.
Determined not to forfeit their status in the top-flight, the Sliema side were rewarded for their fighting spirit, skill and staying power against opponents seemingly in comfort zone after enjoying a 5-3 lead at the start of the fourth session.
Then, Valletta surprisingly lost their touch in the last session.
Ryan Mock gave Valletta the lead midway though the first session. Sean Xerri de Caro levelled the scores with a well-taken goal after Miguel Zammit saw his effort from a penalty well blocked by Matthew Castillo early in the second session.
The return of Valletta’s Niki Lanzon proved to be significant as the former Neptunes captain put the Citizens back in the driving seat with two quick goals. Valletta showed better composure at this stage and their lead was fully deserved.
Exiles, however, gained a lifeline in the third session when Mark Fenech and Timothy Sullivan trimmed City’s lead to 4-3.
With Valletta losing their concentration, Exiles kept upping their game and Philip Paris and Kurt Griscti levelled matters on five-all after Valletta led 5-3.
Exiles were aware that this was a must-win match for them, and eventually went 6-5 ahead with over a minute to go. Then, Timothy Sullivan beat Ryan Sciortino with a goalmouth scramble to seal a dramatic comeback.
Neptunes see off Sirens
Neptunes took little time to assert their authority and an eight-goal spree enabled them to see off Sirens, a result which left Jovan Popovic’s team at the top of Group A after the Preliminary Round was completed.
Neptunes had Jordon Camilleri marking his return from injury as Sirens paraded for the first time Maltese-Australian goalkeeper Joseph Parnis.
The Northenders held out for almost the first two sessions but Neptunes’ press gave them little opportunity to steady themselves for a pot at goal.
The Reds had a flying start when they were 2-0 up, goals coming from Jake Muscat and Steve Camilleri. Neptunes looked in control when the Camilleri brothers – Jordan and Steve made it 4-0 early in the second session.
But immediately Isaiah Riolo pulled one back for Sirens with a fierce drive. Sirens tried to keep their damage to a minimum but their vulnerability when dealing with their opponents’ breaks made them capitulate further.
Three more goals in the third quarter from Steve Camilleri, Jordan Camilleri and Nikolai Zammit helped Neptunes to extend their lead to 7-1.
After Steve Camilleri made it eight, in the last session, Lucas Falzon, Matthew Sciberras and Jerome Zerafa Gregory put some respectability in the scoreline.
Camilleri scored his fifth goal to seal his team’s victory.
Earlier on, Birżebbuġa were given a reality check when Pierre Borg’s newly-promoted side slumped to 5-4 defeat against Marsaskala.
(0-1, 1-2, 2-1, 4-1)
EXILES: M. Castillo, J. Bajada, A. Magri, P. Paris 2, T. Sullivan 2, S. Xerri de Caro 1, M. Fenech 1, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, A. Cousin, S. Apap, D. Fenech, I. Schembri
VALLETTA: R. Sciortino, P Borg, E. Aquilina 1, M. Stellini 1, A. Agius, R. Mock 1, D. Paolella, A. Bianchi, N. Farrugia, M. Zammit, K. Galea, N. Lanzon 2, T. Micallef.
Refs: Stefano Pinato, Mario Dalli
(0-0, 1-0, 2-1, 2-3)
MARSASKALA: J. Micallef, JC Cutajar, A. Camenzuli 1, P. Privitera 1, M. Aquilina 1, L. Grixti, K. Navarro, M. Manara 2, L. Felice, D. Camilleri, R.Attard, D. Ciappara, A. Muscat.
B’BUGIA: M. Rossi, J. Farrugia, N. Cassar 2, D. Pace Lupi, C. Mifsud, P. Serracino, S. Vassallo 1, D. Cutajar 1, M. Bonnici, M. Borg, R. Spiteri, S. Fava, M. Sladden.
Refs: Peter Balzan, Giuliana Nicolosi.
(2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 2-3)
NEPTUNES: A.Borg Cole, J. Muscat 1, L. Calleja, G. Pace, S. Busuttil, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 5, J. Camilleri 2, J. Abela, N. Zammit 1, A. Fenech, J. Cachia, B. Busuttil.
SIRENS: J. Parnis, J. Ciantar, K. Erdogan, G. Mellilo, J. Zerafa Gregory, T. Said, L. Falzon 1, I. Riolo 1, J. Napier, M. Cutajar, M. Sciberras 1, M. Azzopardi, G. Galea Curmi.
Refs: Ronnie Spiteri, Stefano Pinato.