Sirens beat Exiles 9-8 on penalties to win the third and decisive match from the quarter-final playoffs and set up a semi-final showdown with San Ġiljan.
And what a fascinating play-off series this has turned out to be. There was nothing to separate the two sides throughout and the win could have gone either way.
In the first match, Sirens shocked Exiles after hitting their stride in the fourth session before sealing a 7-6 win. The next match between the same two teams was one-sided though as Exiles claimed it 13-7.
Yesterday’s encounter lived up to its billing and was a great advert to the local game as Exiles went down only after a penalty shoot-out with both contenders still locked on a 6-6 stalemate.
Exiles were off to a better start as they took an early 3-0 lead with Jake Bajada, Timothy Sullivan and Aurelien Cousin sharing the goals. John Napier pulled a goal back for Sirens by the end of the opening quarter.
The St Paul’s Bay outfit recovered admirably to level matters at 3-3, only to concede a penalty 14 seconds from time. Mark Fenech converted to keep Exiles’ heads in front at halfway mark.
Exiles’ defensive shield, led by Cousin, kept obliterating all their opponents’ efforts.
The Whites, with Bajada having been expelled earlier in the third session on three fouls, remained the better side but Exiles were unlucky when their goalkeeper Matthew Castillo allowed a shot by Matthias Azzopardi slip into the net.
With the last session locked at 4-4, it was all to be played for.
The intensity of this contest went up by several notches when Matthew Sciberras scored with a stunner from an acute angle.
Exiles kept responding every time the Blues went in front. Cousin soon restored the equilibrium again. Gianni Farrugia gave Sirens a 6-5 lead.
However, Exiles equalised soon through another goal from Sullivan. Sirens, then prevailed in a shoot-out to reach the semis.
TA XBIEX 7
(3-2, 1-2, 2-2, 2-1)
MARSASKALA: J.Micallef, JC Cutajar, A.Camenzuli 1, P. Privitera 1, M. Aquilina 1, L. Grixti 2, K. Navarro, M. Manara, L. Felice 3, G. Galea, R. Attard, D. Camilleri, A. Muscat.
TA’ XBIEX: M. Vassallo, M. Mifsud 2, R. Greco, D. Rizzo, F. Cutajar, M. Demarco, M. Carani 2, N. Saliba, G. Sammut 1, N. Schiavone 1, S. Azzopardi, M. Farrugia, J. Saliba 1.
Refs: P. Balzan, A. DeRaffaele.
(1-5, 1-1, 0-4, 2-4)
OTTERS: D. Spiteri, M. Lanzon 1, R. Caruana, L. Hyzler, E. Meli, K. Scicluna 2, G. Mizzi 1, D. Dimech, D. Zahra, D. Tully, S. Xerri, M. Caruana Baluci.
MARSAXLOKK: R. Coleiro, J. Rizzo Naudi 2, M. Martellacci, M. Pace, T. Agius 3, B. Lanzon 1, J. Galea 3, K. Cremona 1, S. Micallef 1, R. Scerri 1, M. Cacici, O. Zammit 1, F. Buhagiar, L. Saliba, J. Portelli 1.
Refs: S. Licari, R. Spiteri.
(after penalties; 3-1, 1-2, 0-1, 2-2)
Exiles: M. Castillo, J. Bajada 1, A. Magri, P. Paris, T. Sullivan 2, S. Xerri de Caro, M. Fenech, K. Griscti, N. Paris, A. Cousin 2, S. Apap, D. Fenech, G. Borg.
Sirens: J. Parnis, J. Ciantar, K. Erdogan, G. Mellilo, J.
Zerafa Gregory, T. Said, L. Falzon, I. Riolo 1, J. Napier 1, M. Cutajar, M. Sciberras 2, M. Azzopardi 1, G. Galea Curmi, G. Farrugia 1.
Penalty Sequence: Fenech (E) missed 6-6; Sciberras (S) missed 6-6; Sullivan (E) missed 6-6; Azzopardi (S) scored 6-7; Griscti (E) scored 7-7; Erdogan (S) 7-8; Cousin (E) 8-8; Riolo (S) 8-9; N. Paris (E) 8-9.
Referees: M. Dalli, M. Angileri.