The Times - Article by Alex Vella
The 2012 league season has arguably been the best in recent years in terms of quality, balance among the teams and excitement.
Most of the matches were closely-contested, with the goals scored in both divisions exceeding that of previous years.
Unlike last year no team ran away with all opposition, a factor which has somewhat justified the refined play-offs format as far as the top division is concerned.
It is also worth noting that in the newly-designated Premier Division there were no stale matches this time since the system rewarded the top three teams out of five. That resulted in most of the contestants fighting for a berth in the play-offs.
The prevailing balance could also be seen in all the teams suffering defeats out of eight matches.
Leaders Neptunes were beaten twice, as were second-placed Sliema.
San Giljan and Sirens suffered three and four defeats respectively, with bottom team Exiles losing six, never mind some creditable displays.
At the end of the two rounds, the top two teams, Neptunes and Sliema, were divided by the initial bonus points won at the end of the preliminary round, five and three respectively, with the others more or less maintaining the same momentum.
While the improved play-offs system has rewarded the top teams, it has relegated the bottom two, Sirens and Exiles, to a rather meaningless tie for fourth place.
If a round robin format, say with four rather than two rounds, had been in place Sirens, especially, could have had a fighting chance to improve their position in the table. Of course, the same applies to the top teams who are still in the race for the title.
Similarly in the lower division, which unfortunately could not be spared of a couple of academic matches at the end of the three rounds.
On the plus side, there were several high-scoring matches in this division, with results in the balance till the very end.
The only drawback is that the gap between the first and second-tier teams is too wide.
This makes for pointless preliminary round matches early in the season.
If these matches are done away with there could still be four rounds in each of the Premier and First Division leagues which would bring the total number of matches to 64 as against the 73 (minimum 68) there are with the current play-offs format.
Meanwhile, we now look forward to a series of interesting play-offs with a maximum of 15 matches and a minimum of 10 in the two divisions played over possibly 21 days between today and September 11.
The first matches this evening are those between Sirens and Exiles, a decider for fourth place, to be followed by the Sliema vs San Giljan semi-final clash, the first of a possible three ties between these two teams.
On Friday, Valletta come up against Otters in another best-of-three semi-final valid for the First Division championship, with the return tie between San Giljan and Sliema following suit.
How they finished
Today: 18.00 Sirens vs Exiles; 19.15 Sliema vs San Giljan.
Friday: 18.00 Valletta vs Otters; 19.15 San Giljan vs Sliema.
Sunday: 18.00 Otters vs Valletta; 19.15 Sliema vs San Giljan.