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Dramatic shoot-out gives Sliema the Winter League title

Sliema captain Mark Meli (left) lifts the trophy at the National Pool. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Sliema struck a psychological blow on their rivals San Giljan when they clinched their second honour of the season after lifting the Winter League trophy, adding this title to the ENEMED Cup won in January.

Sliema, who had already won the Enemed Cup, had the last laugh at the expense of San Ġiljan in a dramatic penalty shoot-out which was resolved on a total of 15-14 in their favour after the match ended in a 10-all score.

Sliema went off the blocks in decisive fashion to take a 4-1 lead. Before the end of the first session, Nikolai Zammit made it 4-2 when his penalty was fractionally adjudged to have passed the imaginary line.

Sliema though regained the driving seat to pull away by three lengths at the start of the second session.

But then Sliema went into a long slumber, losing their early shape and surrendering the initiative to the Saints who picked up the pieces with three goals in the second session courtesy of Nikolai Zammit, Darren Zammit and Matthew Zammit to draw level.

In the next quarter, the game brewed with excitement, not only for the alternating fortunes, but also for some excellent goals, four for the Saints and three for Sliema, with Zammit and Jerome Gabaretta standing out.

Andreas Galea netted at a crucial late moment in the third session to take it 9-8 for San Ġiljan.

The game remained touch and go as San Ġiljan were employing the right tactics to annul anything Sliema could throw at them. But Meli restored the equilibrium in the last session before Ben Plumpton gave the Saints the lead.

There was a final volte face 30 seconds from the end when Mark Meli made it 10-10 and extended the drama to a penalty shoot-out.

The tension was too much to bear. It was 14-all before the last round of penalties when Matthew Mifsud made it 15-14 for Sliema and the penalty taken by Plumpton was saved by keeper Grixti amid the jubilation of his team-mates and supporters, which reached a climax when the cup was presented to captain Meli by Charles Azzopardi, the BOV official.

In the First Division, Marsaskala under the charge of Arpad Babay, looked quite comfortable when they took a 4-2 lead before change of ends, with goals coming from Jake Ciantar (2), Gerald Sammut and veteran Paul Privitera. Sebastian Busuttil and Daniel Paolella replied for Valletta.

But the Southseasiders found some sort of momentum to score twice in succession to reduce the gap to 4-5. Although goals were at a premium in the final session as only two were shared, excitement never waned, especially after Valletta had trimmed again the deficit of 6-4 to one goal.

Marsascala held out in those last moments to have the last word over opponents to win the First Division title.

SAN ĠILJAN 10

SLIEMA 10

(2-4, 3-1, 4-3, 1-2; Sliema win 5-4 on penalties)

SAN ĠILJAN: J. Tanti, P. Borg, A. Galea 1, N Schiavone, R. Caruana, M. Zammit 1, M. Ortoleva, D. Tully, J. Bonavia 2, N. Zammit 3, D. Zammit 1, N. Bugelli 1, G. Vassallo, B. Plumpton 1, D. Fero.

SLIEMA: N. Grixti, J Gabaretta 1, L. Galea 2, D. Rizzo, M. Meli 3, B. Cachia 1, J. Cutajar, M. Mifsud, J. Brownrigg, K. Borg, Z. Mizzi 1, D. Zammit 2, A. Theuma, J. Saliba, J. Gambin,

Refs: Peter Balzan, Stefan Licari,

VALLETTA 5

MARSASKALA 6

(0-1, 2-3, 2-1,1-1)

VALLETTA: B. Busuttil-, N. Farrugia, M. Pace, L. Hzyler, Z. Micallef-, T. Said, D. Paolella 1, M. Mifsud 1, S. Micallef, A. Agius, J. Culic, O. Zammit-, A. Bugeja, S. Busuttil 2, Z. Micallef 1

MARSASKALA:J. Micallef, JC. Cutajar-, A. Camenzuli 1, P. Privitera 1, R. Greco, G. Galea-, K. Navarro-, M. Manara, D. Pace Lupi1, G. Sammut 1, J. Ciantar 2, M. Carani, A. Muscat-.

Refs: Massimo Angileri, Ronnie Spiteri.

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