Marsascala made a dramatic return to the premier division for the first time in 16 years as they joined Valletta in Saturday’s celebrations, who marked their return to the top-flight after three seasons.
It was business as usual for Neptunes who reinforced their dominance on arch-rivals Sliema with another commanding victory.
In Neptunes’ first raid, Jordan Camilleri gave the Reds the lead. Michael Spiteri Staines made it 2-0 as his team started in overdrive mode. Jamie Gambin powered in his team’s first goal but Camilleri and Spiteri Staines both scored again to make it 4-2. Jake Muscat increased the lead to 5-2 before Jerome Gabarretta scored his first goal to cut down the leeway.
Mark Meli pulled another goal back at the start of the second session to maintain the tempo on exciting levels. Goals alternated and before the half-way mark was reached the Reds were 7-6 in front.
But Sliema found no answer to Steve Camilleri who found the net twice in the third session to give his side a three-goal cushion before the start of the last quarter.
In the last session, the Reds drew in on their grit and nerves to keep their opponents at bay with some calm play before Gabriel Pace made it 11-7 with over a minute to go.
Earlier, Valletta clinched a berth in the Premier Division after a commanding performance against Marsaxlokk.
The Citizens’ success also sealed Sirens’ fate as the latter are now sure of playing in the First Division this summer.
Looking more potent, Valletta took a 5- 2 lead in the opening session. Edward Aquilina directed operations by scoring a brace together with Michele Stellini, with the other coming from Niki Lanzon. Rainer Scerri had momentarily reduced the deficit to 3-2.
The scoreline started taking gaping proportions from the second session onwards, but Valletta’s scoring momentum did not show any signs of waning. The Citizens started piling up the goals mainly through their old guard – Aquilina who rolled in a nap-hand, he was followed by Stellini’s hat-trick. Lanzon scored a double.
What a turn-up for the books, the second match turned out to be when Marsascala managed to stun Exiles courtesy of a last session astonishing comeback to clinch a place in the premier division.
Max Aquilina for Exiles was off to a bright start as was Marsascala’s Mark Carani . However, the south seasiders kept it tight scorewise in the first session which ended 2-1 for the Sliema side.
Arpad Babay’s troops kept up their fighting stance when twice in arrears by two goals, they managed to level on 3-3 midway through the session and on 5-5 in the third session.
The efficient Carani was proving his emerging worth in position five, as he potted goal number four to make it six-all. It was all to play for as the final quarter got under way.
Carani, this time from the centre, converted his side’s man-up situation to put Marsascala in front for the first time midway through the final session. David Fenech levelled the score with two minutes left before Carani’s penalty had given Marsascala an 8-7 advantage with just over a minute to go. Jake Ciantar sealed the south seasiders’ extraordinary recovery.
(5-2, 3-2, 4-0, 4-1)
Valletta: T. Micallef, P. Borg 1, E. Aquilina 4, M. Stellini 3, A. Agius 1, R. Mock 1, D. Paolella, M. Mifsud 1, N. Farrugia, M. Zammit 1, N.Zammit 1, N. Lanzon 2, R. Sciortino, K. Tanti 1.
Marsaxlokk: B. Busuttil, S. Stellini, M. Pace, M. Martellacci 1, S. Busuttil, L. Saliba, J. Galea, K. Cremona 1, Z. Micallef 1, R. Scerri 1, M. Cacici, J. Portelli 1, F. Buhagiar.
Referees: N. Mercieca, M. Angileri.
(1-2, 2-3, 3-1, 3-1)
Marsascala: J. Micallef, JC. Cutajar 1 A. Camenzuli, P. Privitera, G. Sammut, L. Grixti, K. Navarro 1, M. Manara, S. Micallef, L.Felice, J. Ciantar 1, M. Carani 6, A. Muscat.
Exiles: M. Castillo, N. Saliba, S. Apap, P. Paris 1, T. Sullivan 1, S. Xerri de Caro 1, M. Fenech, K. Griscti 1, N. Paris, J Bajada, M. Aquilina 2, D. Fenech 1, G. Borg.
Referees: R. Spiteri, P. Balzan
(5-3, 2-3, 2-0, 2-1)
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat 1, L. Calleja, G. Pace 1, M. Castillo, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri 2, J. Abela 2, M. Spiteri Staines 2, A. Fenech, S. Gialanze, A. Bugeja.
Sliema: N. Grixti, J. Gabarretta 1, L. Galea 1, M. Meli 1, B. Cachia, N. Schiavone, M. Mifsud, J. Brownrigg, J. Gambin 2, Z. Mizzi 1, N. Bugelli 1, Z. Sciberras.
Referees M. Angileri, S. Licari