The Maltese Summer League finished with the playoffs final. San Giljan beat Neptunes in the first two matches of the best-of-three series to become the summer champion.
The title holder achieved an extraordinary milestone in the Maltese water polo by winning all five major competitions in a year. San Giljan clinched both titles in the winter season (the Winter League and the Enemed Cup) and all three in the summer competitions – the President’s Cup, the Super Cup and the Premier Division (summer championships). The summer season lasted for three months (it started in early June)
Twelve teams participated in the Summer League. They were split into two groups in the first part of the season. The top three teams from each group advanced to the Premier Division. Besides San Giljan and Neptunes, Sliema, Valetta, Sirens, and Marsaskala qualified for the “upper group”.
Neptunes finished first in the Premier League, ahead of San Giljan, Sliema, Valetta, Sirens and Marsaskala. The top four secured themselves spots in the semifinals.
Several great water polo stars and big champions played in the Maltese Summer League, like in many previous years. Each club was allowed to add two foreigners who play for other clubs in the autumn-spring season.
Australian ace Aaron Younger (Pro Recco) and Croatian veteran Maro Jokovic (Jug) won the title playing for San Giljan, coached by Croat Zeljko Kovacic.
Pro Recco’s current captain, Aleksandar Ivovic, and Serbia’s former captain, Filip Filipovic (Novi Beograd), wore the caps of Neptunes.
Andrija Prlainovic (Marseille) and Dmitri Kholod (Jadran Herceg Novi) were the members of Slima. This club was guided by Dejan Savic, who took over the team for the summer league.
Russian leftie Ivan Nagaev (Jadran Herceg Novi) and Croat Andrija Vlahovic (Dinamo Tbilisi) played for Valetta.
Italian veteran Pietro Figlioli (Savona) and Hungarian Matyas Pasztor (Szolnok) were on the Sirens’ roster. Former Brescia’s Edoardo Manzi (De Akker Bologna) and Tamas Sedlmayer, who moved from Vasas to Spandau during the transfer window, reinforced Marsaskala in the Premier League, etc.
Only one match was played in each semifinal pair. Those were the best-of-three series, but each team with a better score than its opponent in the regular season had a 1:0 lead before the start of the semifinals. San Giljan beat Sliema 14:11, and Neptunes trashed Valetta 24:11 to advance to the final.
San Giljan took a 1:0 lead in the final after a 12:10 win in the first match against the Neptunes. A few minutes before the end, the sides were tied at 10:10. San Giljan gained an advantage in the final with two late goals.
The second game was a neck-and-neck race until 4:4. Then, San Giljan took control and scored five goals in a row to jump to 9:4. After 32 minutes, six goals separated the rivals (13:7), so San Giljan retained the throne and clinched its 13th title as the Maltese champion (eight in the Summer and five in the Winter League).
Summer League of Malta, playoffs
Standings in the regular season in the Premier Division (10 games): 1. Neptunes 25, 2. San Giljan 25, 3. Sliema 21, 4. Valetta 9, 6. Sirens 6, 6. Marsaskala 3.
San Giljan – Sliema 14:11 (2:0, 4:5, 6:2, 2:4)
Neptunes – Valetta 24:11 (7:4, 7:1, 4:4, 6:2)
Neptunes – San Giljan 10:12 (2:4, 4:3, 2:1, 2:4)
San Giljan – Neptunes 13:7 (2:2, 4:2, 2:0, 5:3)