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Dominant Sliema book place in Playoffs final

Neptunes' Steve Camilleri tries to hit at the Sliema goal. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A perky Sliema side stepped into the driving seat from the second session onwards to take Neptunes by a storm and book a place against San Giljan in next Saturday’s BOV Play-Off final.

This was a sound performance by a Sliema side, backed by maturity, resilience, and skill to finally cast away their reputation as their perennial underachievers.

In Thursday’s match, Sliema had to overcome the psychological drawback of always failing the last hurdle to finally shrug off the pressure of starting the season with the favourites’ tag and finish it off empty-handed.

It’s still a long way to go for Sliema and anything can happen if they can spark another epic series of matches against the Saints.

Sliema were off to a fast start and quick-fire goals from Benji Cachia and Dino Zammit put them 2-0 up over an edgy Neptunes. Steven Camilleri did pull a goal back but Sliema goalkeeper Nicky Grixti blocked Camilleri’s effort from a five-metre throw. 

Eventually, Neptunes overturned the scoreline when Sam Gialanze’s 2-2 equaliser was followed by Camilleri’s second goal to end the first session on top.

Neptunes edged ahead further to make it 4-2 through Jeremy Abela. They wasted some ideal situations to increase their lead but what was ominous for them was Jake Muscat’s second exclusion in the second sector. John Brownrigg and Zammit summoned all their know-how to reduce the arrears to 5-4. In between, Gabriel Pace had restored Neptunes’ two-goal cushion.

Zach Mizzi made it 5-5 in a mouth-watering second session.

Jordan Camilleri was back in the water in the third session after a long lay-off to relieve his brother Steven from any defensive duties. Steven Camilleri duly accepted to make it 6-5. Beto Fernandez made effective use of on-the-fly-substitution to rotate his man-jack as Zach Mizzi and Mark Meli gave the Blues a two-goal advantage.

In the last session, Sliema, wary of Neptunes’ recuperative powers and true to Beto’s attacking credo, kept pushing forward as Liam Galea and Mizzi made it 10-6. Camilleri’s fourth goal of the match was a bit too little too late.

SCORE

SLIEMA 10

NEPTUNES 7

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

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

NEPTUNES A. Borg Cole, J. Muscat , S. Gialanze 1, G. Pace 1, J. Cachia, J. Spiteri Staines, S. Camilleri 4, J. Camilleri, J. Abela 1 , M. Spiteri Staines, A. Fenech, M. Castillo, M. Rossi.

Referees:  M. Angileri, D. Bianco

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