San Ġiljan coach Zejlko Kovacic said that his players’ superior physical condition made the difference as the Saints claimed the Knock Out title for the 14th time in their club history after defeating rivals Neptunes 13-10 on Wednesday.
For the Saints, their triumph in the knock out final was a real statement of intent and underlined the club’s current upper hand over their Balluta Bay rivals as this was the team’s second successive win over the Reds in the space of four days.
Kovacic admitted that the match turned out to be a topsy-turvy affair but hailed the players’ resolve to swing the match in their favour in the last two sessions.
“I have to give my congratulations to my team for a great performance,” Kovacic told the Times of Malta.
“I also want to heap praise to Neptunes for their approach to the match which made it very difficult for us. But obviously, I am very happy that we managed to win the match as it was a very hard encounter.
“We started very well but then when the two teams started to make changes, our performance level was not so consistent. In the second session, when we were leading by three goals, Neptunes managed to claw themselves back into the match and our players started to get nervous and lost concentration.
“But in the last two quarters, our superior physical preparation came to the fore and also lady luck smiled us when Neptunes had some efforts that hit the post and we could close out the match.”
Neptunes and San Ġiljan will now turn their sight to renew their rivalry in the championship play-offs with the Reds facing Sliema while the Saints taking on Sirens.
Asked what effect this defeat could have on Neptunes’ aspirations of successfully defending the league title, Kovacic said: “Neptunes are the champions and they are always very dangerous. They missed a very important player today in Jordan Camilleri who is key for their game-plan.
“But over the last few years they have won too many titles and I’m sure they will be fully motivated to make up for this defeat in the play-off finals and show that they are still the best team in Malta.”
On his part, Nikolai Zammit, one of the star performers for San Ġiljan, said that he was delighted to have finally won his first major title with the Saints.
“To win my first honour with San Ġiljan means the world to me,” Zammit said.
“I am really grateful to San Ġiljan for believing in my qualities after what had happened to me during my time at Neptunes. The year I spent with Valletta was also very important for my development as a player and now I’m just pleased to perform week in week out with San Ġiljan.
“San Ġiljan is a team that always looks to win all competitions and now that we have won the knock out we will do our best to make it a double this season by clinching the summer league.”