Neptunes assert dominance with third straight league victorySunday, September 9, 2012, 11:15
Sliema 6 – Neptunes 9
(1-2, 0-3, 3-3, 2-1)
Neptunes Emirates claimed their second successive double when they dominated proceedings in the 4th game of the Premier Division final to beat Sliema Mc Donalds 9-6 and win the Championship. This was also their third successive league title and their 21st overall.
Neptunes had dictated matters in the first two games of this final series, but Sliema were coming from a strong winning performance in game 3. The Blues were on a high given their latest win and also because Neptunes had Michele Stellini suspended, with his place being taken by the alternating Alexander Ciric and Clint Mercieca.
The reigning champions showed their intentions from the first whistle, building a 2-0 advantage with two close range shots by Ciric and Mercieca while Mark Meli pulled one back with 9 seconds left in the first session. The influential Jerome Gabarretta had already picked up two fouls after the first six minutes with Neptunes’ Sean Gravina following suit.
In the second session Neptunes pulled away particularly thanks to their better physical conditioning and their strong defending. Steven Camilleri scored following a Ferenc Salamon penalty foul and a blunder in the Sliema defence followed by a Tamas Molnar assist regaled Camilleri with an easy chance in front of Istvan Gergely’s goal to make it 4-1 for Neptunes. Neptunes kept pressing hard, forcing their opponents to shoot form outside the five metre zone, with Molnar making it 5-1 for the Balluta side from a man up situation.
Sliema coach Sergio Afric applied more stringent press in the second half to try and halt the Neptunes assault. The Reds scored another two with a harba by captain Niki Lanzon and another from the unstoppable Molnar with a superb backhander to bring the score to 7-1. Afric had to call a timeout to pep up his players. Salamon responded to bring Sliema to within 5 goals of their opponents but Molnar made it 8-2 a few seconds later. Sliema kept fighting and as Neptunes let down their guard for a while, they punished them with two successive goals from John Brownrigg and Meli to send both teams into the last session with an 8-4 scoreline in favour of Neptunes.
In the final eight minutes Sliema were showing signs of life as John Soler scored his first goal to make it 8-5, with the Neptunes clan looking nervous as Sliema’s last three goals went unresponded. Sliema must be commended for their trademark fighting spirit which demonstrates itself even during the toughest moments, but with Paul Privitera picking up his third foul and Molnar scoring his fourth goal of the night, it was impossible for Sliema to come back. With two minutes to go and both teams stretched across the pool, Brownrigg made it 9-6 but Neptunes managed the advantage till the final whistle to take the Championship home. A beaming Niki Lanzon lifted the coveted trophy for the third consecutive year as celebrations then continued in Balluta Bay.
Sliema: I. Gergely, J. Gabarretta, N. Lubrano, P. Privitera, M. Meli 2, J. Soler 1, D. Paolella, J. Brownrigg 2, C. Debono, F. Salomon 1, J. Falzon, M. Spiteri Staines, C. Cluett.
Neptunes: I. Bugeja, N. Lanzon 1, E. Aquilina, B. Lanzon, Z. Mizzi, A. Ciric 1, S. Camilleri 2, J. Camilleri, G. Pace, S. Gravina, R. Sciortino, T. Molnar 4, C. Mercieca 1.
Refs: M. Angileri, M. Savarese.