San Ġiljan 8
(Aet; Sliema Win 15-14 On Pens; 2-1, 3-3, 1-1, 2-3; 0-0, 0-0)
San Ġiljan: D. Camilleri, J.C. Cutajar, N. Sutic 2, K. Galea 1, K. Dowling, M. Zammit 1, B. Letica 3, A. Bianchi, K. Mock, C. Gialanze 1, P. Fava, D. Abela, M. Pisani.
Sliema: I. Gergely, J. Gabaretta 1, N. Lubrano 1, P. Privitera, M. Meli 1, J. Soler 3, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg, C. Debono, F. Salomon, J. Falzon, M. Spiteri Staines 2, R. Coleiro.
Refs: P. Balzan, D. Saeli.
Many claim that waterpolo is an exciting sport. Some, though, contend that it loses its appeal when it degenerates into a veritable battle, extending to the limits of all-in wrestling. Yesterday’s San Ġiljan Giuseppe’s-Sliema McDonald’s match somehow fits into the latter’s fixture.
It was a gruelling match with a pulpitating ending that went into 11 penalties for each team but Sliema edged their gallant opponents to book a place in the five-match final series against Neptunes Emirates.
San Ġiljan will surely claim they were hard-done by after enduring a four-minute spell with a man less in the last session after Andrea Bianchi was excluded for violent play.
Sliema on their part were forced to summon all their reserves of determination before finally pulling through.
After two missed chances by San Ġiljan, the Blues took the lead but the Saints reacted for a 2-1 advantage in the first session, again marked by stringent man-to-man cover all over the pitch.
Their were more intense exchanges with the balance hinging on the players’ ability to shoot accurately from the outside five and six positions, as well as on chances taken on numerical superiority.
Three goals apiece in the second part of the game helped San Ġiljan to keep their heads in front on 5-4 before ends were shifted.
There was little to choose between the teams even if San Ġiljan held sway in terms of maintaining their solitary goal lead as a goal at each end was scored.
At this stage, three Sliema players and two from San Ġiljan were hanging on two majorsas the final quarter got under way.
After John Soler made it six-all, an incident that drew protests from both sides had Andrea Bianchi sent off without substitution for violent play. More protests came from San Ġiljan after Jerome Gaberetta made it seven-all on a Saints error.
Michael Spiteri Staines made it 8-7 before Christian Gialanze equalised with 35 seconds left.
The final moments were frantic with Istvan Gergely pulling off a couple excellent saves.
So it was to extra-time. Ferenc Salomon and Gabaretta were soon out on the sum total of fouls, with Matthew Zammit having been dismissed for good in the fourth session.
The drama which followed was unbearable for both sections, with the Blues’ faces finally sporting a smile.