San Ġiljan 10
(2-2, 1-3, 4-2, 5-3)
Sliema: I. Gergelj, J. Gabaretta 1, N. Lubrano, P. Privitera 1, M. Meli, J. Soler 6, D. Paolella 1, J. Brownrigg 1, C. Debono, F. Salamon 2, C. Cluett, M. Spiteri Staines, J. Falzon.
San Ġiljan: D. Camilleri, J.C. Cutajar, N. Sutic 6, K. Galea, K. Dowling, M. Zammit 2, B. Letica 2, A. Bianchi, K. Mock, C. Gialanze, P. Fava, D. Abela, M. Pisani.
Refs: M. Dalli, G. Lo Dico.
In an unrelentingly fierce contest, Sliema McDonald’s gained a headstart in a best-of-three semi-final play-off against San Ġiljan Giuseppe’s yesterday.
Victory for the Blues was earned principally courtesy of six-goal John Soler who helped his team in their final session surge which also gathered momentum in the penultimate quarter.
Sliema, who opted for the Australia-based Maltese James Falzon, pulled the strings in those latter sessions against opponents who fought all the way and conducted the scoreline early on.
With both sets of supporters urging their favourites on, there was a frantic start as the Blues twice edged in front amid close marking all over the pitch. The Saints battled back to level matters.
A missed open chance by Sliema and an unconverted penalty by Boris Letica heralded the second quarter. The Saints went ahead 4-2 before the Blues made it 4-3.
The battle was brewing as no quarter was given. Matthew Zammit and Mark Meli were already on two faults.
Nikola Sutic netted his third goal for a San Ġiljan 5-3 advantage by the time ends were changed.
Stringent man-to-man cover continued unabated. With Sliema raising the tempo and San Ġiljan contriving a dip in their sharpness, two goals from Soler and another from Daniel Paolella and it was suddenly 6-5 for the Blues.
The Saints again nosed ahead through Sutic and Letica before Soler reached his poker for a seven-all parity with the last session left.
Sliema’s motivation, especially that of Soler, could not be matched by the submissive Saints players who were also thwarted time and again by a solid Blues’ rearguard.
Four goals in that final session made it 11-7 for Sergio Afric’s lads before San Ġiljan hit back with two goals.
It was too little, too late for the Saints. They had thrown in the towel before goals by Paul Privitera and Sutic at each end sealed the scoreline on 12-10.