As anticipated, the semi-final against an increasingly resilient Sirens turned out to be a stiff contest. Our eventual place in the final was secured by way of some adequate collective play and spearheaded by Peter Biros.
The Hungarian ace match-winner was at the core of our scoring machine when striking five goals of varied quality, including long and mid-range shots, a cute lob and two five-metre throws. He was followed by Jordan Camilleri with three goals, one of which came from a well-rehearsed man-up movement from the number two position.
This was more of a stability rather than a salvage operation against opponents who kept chasing our two-goal advantage after their bright beginning which put them in the lead three consecutive times.
A double-goal advantage in the second quarter put us 5-4 ahead before the lead was extended to 7-5 with the last eight minutes left.
With just over three minutes to go we opened a 10-7 advantage but then conceded two goals, the last one coming 54 seconds from time. This was the signal to maximise on our possession time amid some dissent from Sirens’ stand-in coach John Farrugia who was red-carded for his pains
A significant feature of our game was the extended use of Andrew Zarb Cousin and Timmy Agius – they both did their covering jobs adequately – who alternated in lieu of Steve Camilleri, still unavailable due to his shoulder injury. The absence of our top marksman restricted our repertoire of ammunition.
It was yet another calculated risk from our coach Sergey Markoch which had the team coming out unscathed from a difficult match that also demanded the use of Tamas Molnar in unedited deep blocking positions besides that of centre.
And now the next challenge is Sliema in the final.
Neptunes 10 – Sirens 9
(1-2, 4-2, 2-1, 3-4)
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon, G. Mizzi, M. Stellini 1, T. Agius, M. Zammit, S. Camilleri, J. Camilleri 3, A. Zarb Cousin, P. Biros 5, B. Muscat, T. Molnar 1, C. Mercieca.
Sirens: N. Grixti, Z. Mizzi 2, C. Presciutti 3, G. Pace, M. Grech 2, C. Kiss, 2, M. Caruana, D. Cutajar, J. Napier, E. Aquilina, L. Caruana, A. Sammut, M. Pisani
Referees: M. Angileri, G. Del Bosco