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San Ġiljan overpower Neptunes to close in on title

San Ġiljan proved too strong for Neptunes in the opening match of the Premier Division play-off final. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina



(2-2, 4-1, 4-1, 1-1)

The first match of the play-off final series between San Ġiljan TUM Invest and Neptunes WPSC turned out to be a one-sided contest, with the Saints decisively on song from the second quarter onwards to register a very comfortable 11-5 win yesterday.

The Reds’ much-publicised issues off the water have been eclipsed by their problems in it as they looked a disjointed side.

The absence of a left-hander for Neptunes had a telling effect on their game.

In fact, the void left by Nikolai Zammit necessitated some positional switches with James Spiteri Staines positioned in front of Alan Borg Cole and Gabriel Pace detailed to push up front in position 5. Jeremy Abela was often caught in position 2 shadowing on Matthew Zammit.

Yet, Jovan Popovic’s tactical shrewdness did not have the power to swing the pendulum in their favour as Neptunes were never in the same league with their rivals.

Inspired by captain Zammit and Ben Plumpton, San Ġiljan produced a disciplined performance, back by fast swimming and bold attacking play.

What is surprising is the staying power of San Ġiljan’s core players who were in the water throughout the four sessions.

The opening seven minutes of the match were evenly balanced.

There was little to choose between the sides early on even though the Saints always conducted the scoreline.

Matthew Zammit converted the Saints’ first man-up situation. Goals alternated in the first session as San Ġiljan twice edged in front with Neptunes drawing level every time through Pace.

The Saints went three goals ahead on 5-2 early in the second session. It had been close shadowing throughout but Matthew Zammit’s elusiveness and scoring instinct stood out at this juncture of the match.

Neptunes pulled a goal back when Steve Camilleri converted a penalty. But San Ġiljan were a cooler lot. Zammit extended the lead to 6-3 with a snap goal before the change of ends.

San Ġiljan pulled away on 10-4 in the third session with Paul Fava, hanging on two major fouls, looping a goal over Borg Cole and Matthew Zammit increasing his tally.

Fava was then fouled out, but this did not slow down San Ġiljan’s momentum.

Ben Plumpton who stood out in his shadowing duties on Camilleri, put the issue beyond doubt when he struck twice before the end of the third session.

The last session was a mere formality with San Ġiljan coasting home 11-5 as Matthew Zammit and Dino Zammit headed their team’s scoring list with three goals each.

San Ġiljan: J.Tanti, K. Tanti, A. Galea 2, D. Ciantar, M. Mannino, M. Zammit 3, B. Plumpton 2, J. Bonavia, Z. Micallef, Darren Zammit, P. Fava 1, Dino Zammit 3, G. Vassallo.

Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat, L. Calleja, G. Pace 2, S. Busuttil, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri, J. Abela 1, S. Stellini, S. Gianlanze, B. Busuttil.

Referees: Massimo Angileri, Alex DeRaffaele.

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