Perhaps playing below par when facing a resolute Sliema side, San Ġiljan had to wait until the third quarter yesterday to inject their knowhow and turn the tables on their erstwhile disciplined opponents who conceded the game 8-6.
The two sides were facing each other again for the second time in the space of three days after San Ġiljan eliminated Sliema in the knock-out competition last Wednesday.
After conceding an early goal, the Blues found some rhythm with the deadly Jamie Gambin grabbing their first man-up opportunity.
In Nicholai Zammit, scorer of another three goals, San Ġiljan again had their chief goal-getter.
At the beginning of the second session, Zammit converted a penalty to make it 2-1 for the Saints.
But with Zeljko Kovacic’s team showing some wastefulness against an otherwise unyielding Sliema rearguard, the Blues took a deserved 3-2 lead by the end of the second session with their two goals coming from Liam Galea.
John Brownrigg made a crucial goalline block which he celebrated with the same vigour as if he had scored.
However, Sliema’s ascendancy took a nose-dive in the third session, allowing for a comeback from San Ġiljan. This had Ben Plumpton scoring a thunderous goal following by other goals from Peter Borg and Matthias Ortoleva.
Backed by a band against a huge vintage blue streamer with the words “Sliema forever”, the Blues fans cheers their team’s fourth goal through Dino Zammit who made it 4-5.
But a goal from Russell Caruana left the Saints enjoying a 6-4 advantage at the end of the third session.
The balance prevailed, despite San Ġiljan’s third session comeback.
Dino Zammit and Ben Cachia pulled two goals back, sandwiching a third from Zammit to close the gap on 7-6.
However, San Ġiljan’s superior staying power prevailed with Sliema unable to stage a comeback as Plumpton re-discovered his scoring instincts to end it on 8-6.
It was an important win for San Ġiljan who remained three points adrift of leaders Neptunes and opened a six-point buffer over the third-placed Sliema.
In the second match, a great comeback, which enabled Birżebbuġa to win the third session 6-1, turned out to be decisive as Sirens had neither the guile nor the stamina to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.
In that third session, Marco Orlovic’s side could do nothing right as Ken Erdogan and Jacob Sciberras also failed to convert a penalty each. They thus finished on the wrong end of 11-9 scoreline.
Birżebbuġa had a better lift-off but Sirens turned it their way to open a 5-3 advantage at the halfway stage.
In the last session, Sirens fought back but could only trim the leeway by one goal.
In the curtain-raiser match, a first session 4-0 cushion made sure that Marsascala would romp home against Ta’ Xbiex and in so doing register their sixth victory.
Their advantage was extended to 10-2 before the last session started before the south seasiders ran out easy winners.
(1-1, 4-2, 1-6, 3-2)
SIRENS: T. Micallef, P. Serracino, K. Erdogan, J. Sciberras 2, J. Zerafa Gregory, G. Farrugia, M. Chircop 1, I. Riolo 1, J. Napier 1, M. Cutajar 1, M. Sciberras 2, M. Azzopardi 1, M. Bonello Dupius.
BIRŻEBBUĠA: M. Vassallo, J. Farrugia, N. Cassar, B. Grech 1, C. Mifsud 3, R. Mock 1, N. Fenech, D. Cutajar 1, D. Farrugia, K. Tanti 2, G. Mannino 3, M. Curmi, M. Sladden.
Refs: S. Licari, G. Nicolosi.
(4-0, 3-1, 3-1, 3-4)
MARSASKALA: J. Micallef, F. Scardino, A. CamenzulI, R. Greco 1, G. Galea, K. Navarro, M. Manara, D. Pace Lupi 4, G. Sammut 4, J. Ciantar 4, M. Carani, A. Muscat.
TA’XBIEX: R. Coleiro, J.C. Saliba, E. Aquilina 1, J. Pace Mizzi, E. Meli, S. Engerer, J. Saliba 3, J, Cassar 1, E. Schembri 1, Z. Cutajar Licari, B. Attard Littschw, J. Chircop, Z. Dzanovic.
Refs: A. Nicholai, M. Angileri.
SAN ĠILJAN 8
(1-1, 1-2, 4-1, 2-2)
SAN ĠILJAN: J. Tanti, P. Borg 1, A. Galea, N. Schiavone, R. Caruana 1, M. Zammit, B. Plumpton 2, D. Tully, J. Bonavia, N. Zammit 3, D. Zammit, N. Bugelli, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva 1.
SLIEMA: N. Grixti, J. Gabaretta, L. Galea 2, D. Rizzo, M. Meli, B. Cachia 1, J Cutajar, M. Mifsud, J. Brownrigg, J. Gambin 1, Z. Mizzi, D. Zammit 2, A. Theuma.
Refs: A. Nicholai, A. de Raffaele.