by Alex Vella
Sliema 12 – Neptunes 11
(4-3, 3-2, 2-5, 3-1)
What a fascinating series of play-offs this has turned out to be! Sliema McDonald’s were again the protagonists as they toppled Neptunes Emirates 12-11 to force a decider which will be played tomorrow. Indeed a great climax to the 2011 season.
Again it was a match which kept the vast crowd on the stands enthralled. The omens for a duel of this sort were on. Fortunes alternated with end to end play being the order of the day. Sliema were aware that this was a must-win match for them as they wanted to stand a chance to end their season in glory.
They put their hearts into it but at one point in the third session, and after they had made a flying start, they trailed the Reds 10-8. Still they were unperturbed as they came back, with John Soler and Bogdan Rath leading their scorers’ with three goals each.
Sliema were off to that meteoric start as they took an early 3-0 lead. Neptunes pulled a goal back before Sliema made it 4-1 but a break from Steve Camilleri reduced the Reds’ deficit to 4-3 by the end of the first quarter.
Sliema edged ahead further to make it 7-5 in the second session with their seventh goal coming a fraction of a second before the buzzer went. Neptunes wasted some ideal situations but what was ominous from them was Michele Stellini’s second exclusion barely a minute into the second quarter. That left the Reds without their left-hander. However, the Blues had looked tight at the back and deserved their lead midway through the match.
Stellini was eventually out for good early in the third session while Jordan Camilleri was on two exclusions.
However, the Reds summoned their know-how to overturn the scoreline in their favour with Steve Camilleri and Tamas Molnar each reaching the four-goal mark. Rath, meanwhile, reduced the arrears to 10-9 late in the penultimate session.
Mark Meli and Paul Privitera were also on two penalties each in the fourth session, with the latter going out for good with four minutes left.
The Blues, sensing it was do-or-die for them, again staged a recovery to score three times.
The Balluta Bay team then missed two vital man-up sets late in the game. It was here that the Blues realised that victory was theirs. Sliema then went into raptures.
Man-up statistics: Sliema – five on nine; Neptunes – six on 11.
Sliema: R. Coleiro, J. Gabarretta 1, N. Lubrano 1, R. Fodor 2, M. Meli 1, J. Soler 3, D. Paolella, M. Rizzo, C. Debono 1, P. Privitera, B. Rath 3, J. Spiteri Staines, D. Abela.
Neptunes: I. Bugeja, N. Lanzon 2, E. Aquilina, M. Stellini, J. Camilleri, B. Lanzon, S. Camilleri 4, V. Gojkovic, B. Buhagiar, S. Gravina, R. Sciortino, T. Molnar 5, M. Pisani.
Refs: M. Dalli, L. Bianco.
Playing tomorrow BOV Division One play-off final (game 5): 5.30 p.m. Neptunes vs Sliema.