Hats off to Sirens! Since their return with the big boys, Marco Orlovic’s youngsters are really punching above their weight.
While Neptunes were intent on maintaining their three-point at the top of the standings, Sirens’ objective was to wipe out their painful memories of last week’s narrow defeat against San Giljan.
The conclusion was another close shave this time for Neptunes as Sirens won the plaudits but left the National Pool empty-handed again.
The volte-face came in the third session when Sirens temporarily lost their early shape and surrendered the initiative to Neptunes who picked up the pieces with three goals. The blows came mainly in the third session when Neptunes’ principal shooters Steven Camilleri and Jake Muscat woke up for their responsibilities.
Sirens made the perfect start to take a 2-0 lead with goals coming from Matthew Sciberras and Matthias Azzopardi, but Sam Gialanze and Jake Muscat wiped out their advantage.
Play was evenly balanced in the first two sessions with Azzopardi scoring two more times, to put his side ahead on 3-2 and 5-4 before Alec Fenech and Muscat equalised again for the Reds.
One minute into the third session, Thomas Micallef showed great reflexes with a fine one-handed save to keep out Gabriel Pace’s shot. Jacob Sciberras made it 6-5 for Sirens.
However, Jovan Popovic’s side managed to pull the strings in the third session to score three times without reply, finally overturning the scoreline 8-6.
In the final session, Sirens were still full of fight. In fact, after Stevie Camilleri completed his hat-trick, they netted twice through Isiah Riolo to cut the leeway to just one goal. Muscat scored his fifth goal for a 10-8 score, but Jerome Zerafa Gregory netted to set up a nervy finale.
The culmination of excitement was reached when Ken Erdogan came face to face with Alan Borg Cole but lost possession amid strong penalty shouts from Sirens.
Earlier, San Giljan maintained their hopes of finishing above Neptunes in the Premier Division before the Play-offs phase, when their power play accounted for a comfortable 15-6 victory over Exiles.
San Giljan had a good 5-1 starting base with their goals coming from Nicholas Zammit, Peter Borg, Matthias Ortoleva, and Ben Plumpton twice.
Exiles pulled back two goals on either side of the first break, through Matteo Martellacci and Kurt Griscti.
Yet, Zeljko Kovacic scored four times in succession for a comfortable 9-3 advantage by the halfway mark.
Exiles rallied momentarily to draw level on 2-2 in the third quarter. Still, by then, San Giljan’s undoubted edge was beyond question as Andreas Galea denied the Sliema side a meagre consolation of drawing that third session when he converted a penalty 0.4 seconds before the end.
In the last session, Kovacic rotated his substitutions but stuck to some of his experience core players, giving Matthew Zammit more time in the water. Russell Caruana scored a brace with Nikolai Zammit completing a poker in the last session. San Giljan had long been high and dry. Ben Plumpton was their chief scorer with five goals.
In Division One, Valletta maintained their winning streak with an 11-7 win over Marsaxlokk.
(3-3, 2-2, 3-1, 2-3)
NEPTUNES A Borg Cole, J. Muscat 5, S. Gialanze 1, G. Pace, J. Cachia, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 3, J. Camilleri, J. Abela, M. Spiteri Staines, A. Fenech 1, M. Castillo, M. Rossi.
SIRENS T. Micallef, P. Serracino, K. Erdogan, J. Sciberras 1, J. Zerafa Gregory 1, G. Farrugia, M. Chircop, I. Riolo 2, J. Napier, M. Cutajar, M. Sciberras 2, M. Azzopardi 3, M. Bonello Dupius.
Referees: F. Riciotti, A. DeRaffaele.
SAN GILJAN 15
(5-2, 4-1, 3-2, 3-1)
SAN GILJAN J. Tanti, P. Borg 1, A. Galea 2, N. Schiavone, R. Caruana 2, M. Zammit, B. Plumpton 5, D. Tully, J. Bonavia, N. Zammit 4, D. Zammit, N. Bugelli, G. Vassallo, M. Ortoleva 1.
EXILES M. Castillo, N. Saliba, L. Gialanze, P. Paris, T. Sullivan 1, S. Xerri de Caro, M. Fenech 1, K. Griscti 2, N. Paris, J. Bajada 1, M. Aquilina, D. Fenech, G. Borg, M. Martellacci 1.
Referees: P. Rogondino, S. Licari.
(2-1, 3-2, 2-0, 4-4)
VALLETTA B. Busuttil, N. Farrugia 1, T. Said, L. Hyzler 1, S. Busuttil 2, Z. Micallef 1, D. Paolella 1, M. Mifsud 1, S. Micallef 1, A. Agius 1, M. Pace, K. Cremona, A. Bugeja, L. Felice 2, R. Attard.
MARSAXLOKK S. Mifsud, R. Spiteri, C. Cutajar 1, G. Gatt, T. Agius, D. Bugeja, M. Zammit 1, L. Mallia 1, L. Saliba 1, R. Galea 2, S. Mifsud, E. Mallia 1, M. Farrugia, A. Cook, R. Scerri.
Referees: F. Riciotti, N. Mercieca.