PS4 NPL Men's Round 15 Review

The PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men's competition again threw up some interesting results over the weekend, with bottom-placed Bankstown City Lions' 2-1 victory over Premiership contenders Western Sydney Wanderers the biggest upset of the round.

St George showed they've become a force to be reckoned with in a rampant 4-1 victory over Hills Brumbies in Saturday's Match of the Round at Seymour Shaw Park. Saints now sit in equal second alongside Northern Tigers, who comfortably accounted for Mounties Wanderers 3-0.

In other games Marconi kept their place at the top of the table with a 3-0 win at Macarthur; Mt Druitt Town Rangers beat North Shore Mariners 3-2; and Central Coast again sent a message to the rest of the competition with a 4-2 win over a struggling Blacktown Spartans; the Coasters' fifth win on the trot.

Match of the Round

St George 4 Hills Brumbies 1, Seymour Shaw Park

In a tale of two halves, St George showed they're a force to be reckoned with in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW competition with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Hills Brumbies at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday night.

For Saints, Nicholas Paras scored two goals and Juan Carlos Romero and Bruno Pivato grabbed one each; while Hills skipper Daine Merrin slotted home a penalty on the stroke of fulltime.

Saints entered the match with seven first teamers sidelined by a combination of injuries and suspensions, but they showed they had enough depth and tenacity to put the sword to a very tough opponent.

In the fifth minute Spanish import Juan Carlos Romero had a golden opportunity to open the scoring, but his header from close range cleared the crossbar. A few minutes later David Ilic tried his luck from long range, an effort that Hills goalkeeper Josh Stancic saved comfortably.

A third of the way through the first half, Hills' Wade Giovenali began to take control of the midfield, passing with pinpoint accuracy and causing mayhem in the Saints' defence. So precise was his distribution, Giovenali appeared to have the ball on a string. But none of the opportunities created by the Australian futsal representative bore any fruit.

In the 19th minute, Saints' Nico Paras had a chance from inside the box but Hills keeper Stancic pulled off a fine save.

While Giovenali shone for Hills, Romero and Bruno Pivato turned on the magic for Saints. In his first game back at St George after a short stint at Bankstown City, Pivato was busy and industrious, his mane of curly hair easily recognisable to the home crowd. Romero's class though, shone like a beacon on a dark stormy night, his close control, distribution and work off the ball outstanding.    

With halftime fast approaching, both sides continued to thrust and parry, battling for an edge. But it was Saints who broke through in the 40th minute when Romero floated in a lovely cross for Paras to head home from close range.

The move was swift and clinical, and the two men involved would ultimately play a huge role in Saints' victory.

St George led 1-0 at the break and while they came out pumped for the second half, Hills were a pale imitation of the side that had competed ferociously in the first 45 minutes.

The combination between Romero and Paras posed big problems for Hills and a minute after the restart a beautiful pass from Paras found Romero lurking on the left. Romero took on the defence and from a tight angle fired a rocket into the top corner of the net to give the home side a 2-0 lead.

Romero's goal proved to be a turning point in the match. As Saints' spirits soared and their confidence grew, Hills' resistance fell by the wayside and their performance deteriorated.

Not surprisingly, Saints struck again 10 minutes later. Romero dispossessed a Hills defender and fired in a perfect low cross for Paras (who else?) who tapped home from close range. Romero and Paras were virtually unstoppable.

The Spaniard should have added a fourth goal two minutes later but he finished second in a one-on-one with Stancic. Saints continued to dominate and added a fourth goal with three minutes remaining on the clock, when Pivato beat Stancic to not only give his side an unassailable 4-0 lead, but to also seal a fine return to his former club.

Hills completed the scoring in the 90th minute when captain Daine Merrin slotted home a consolation goal from the penalty spot.

St George were superb in the second half and outplayed a quality side that had no answers to a sharp and selfless performance that well and truly sent a message to their NPL 2 rivals.

As expected. St George coach Terry Palapanis was delighted with his side's performance.

"I think we showed good character," Palapanis told Football NSW. "We were compact in defence and we kept creating chances. Make no mistake, Hills are a very good side, so this was a fantastic result."  

Palapanis said his side has improved as the season has progressed, doing now what they weren't doing at the start of the season: "executing to a tee".

"We tweaked things at halftime and the tactics were spot-on and the execution was fantastic," he said.

"Because they're a good side that performance was definitely one of our best this season. We missed some chances and while JC (Romero) scored a cracker, he missed a few chances and he's a bit upset actually. We're okay, we're on track and I'm still hoping people think we're flying under the radar. But I think people will probably start taking note of us now. We're a decent side."

Meanwhile, Brumbies assistant coach Joe Giovenali was disappointed with his side's second half performance.

"It was a game of two halves and the first half was fairly even," Giovenali told Football NSW. "Second half we just didn't turn up. St George dominated possession and knocked it around and we were just chasing most of the second half."

When asked what was said at halftime after conceding a late goal in the first half, Giovenali replied: "We thought at 1-0 down we're still a chance, we're in the game and we'd try to get an early goal. But unfortunately it didn't happen. I think that once they got that second goal a few of the boys' heads dropped and St George started to dominate a lot of possession and we were chasing a lot of players around the field.

"We can't play any worse so hopefully the next game we'll regroup and pick up and see how we go from there. Hopefully the boys can pick it up (but today) the better team on the day won."

Match Stats

St George 4 (Nicholas Paras 2, Juan Carlos Romero, Bruno Pivato) Hills Brumbies 1 (Daine Merrin)

Seymour Shaw Park

Saturday 10 June 2017

Referee: James Lewis

Assistant Referees: James Gwynne, Tara Brown

St George: 68. Daniel Sadaka (GK), 14. Jacob Bandur, 7. Robbie Deasy, 24. Tarik Ercan, 20. Juan Carlos Romero, 18. David Ilic, 4. Jonathan Kontalis, 16. Daniel Loe, 19. Anthony Morabito, 10. Nicholas Paras, 6. Bruno Pivato

Subs: 5. Jayden McLeod, 27. Liam Thomas, 32. Michael Kotzambasis,  21. Matthew Williamson, 49. Antony Barca

Yellow Cards: 18. David Ilic

Coach: Terry Palapanis

Hills Brumbies: 1. Josh Stancic, 21. Nikolas Dimitriadis, 7. Wade Giovenali, 17. Brendan Hoyer, 11. Daine Merrin, 9. Sean Mitchell, 8. Eoin Montford, 24. Nathan Rayner, 6. Bradley Robertson,  15 Matias Toro Suazo, 12. Matthew Viera

Subs: 28. Kieran Pace, 69. Alastair Bruce, 14. Victor Anyimba, 45. Jacob Basden, 3. Nicolas Pradenas

Yellow Cards: 21. Nikolas Dimitriadis, 8. Eoin Montford

Coach: Dan Sheppard

Northern Tigers 3 Mounties Wanderers 0, North Turramurra

Northern Tigers again showed their quality with a resounding 3-0 victory over Mounties Wanderers at North Turramurra on Saturday.

After a torrid first half Max Glanville opened the scoring for the Tigers in the 34th minute and the home side went to the break with a 1-0 lead.

Ryan Peterson extended the home side's lead to 2-0 when he slotted home a penalty in the 67th minute, and six minutes later Joel Hardwick struck a brilliant volley to seal the spoils of victory. 

Tigers coach Mark McCormick was pleased with his side's performance, especially after they'd been put under the pump by Mounties' physicality and robust style of football.

"It was a good match from us," McCormick told Football NSW. "It was even in the first half and Mounties were playing direct and getting physical. We had to adjust to that early on and when we did, we controlled the game, especially in the second half. We were the more dominant team and created a lot of chances.

"The game was maybe in the balance at 1-0 at halftime but we came out in the second half and played some good football, which is always pleasing."

Despite flying high in equal second place on the league table, McCormick refuses to get carried away and orefers to take things one step at a time.

"We haven't fielded the same team two weeks in a row this season due to injiures and suspensions so I'm not taking anything for granted," he said. "Everything can change in the blink of an eye."

Meanwhile, Mounties coach Lee Steerey was disappointed with the result and didn't believe the 3-0 scoreline was a true reflection of the game.

"I thought we had the better of the first 15-20 minutes and had some quality ball in the front third; we were playing well," Sterrey told Football NSW. "A couple of times we were a bit gun shy and we missed an open goal; a minute later we let a soft goal in so it was like a double whammy. Everybody knows goals change games and I felt we should've gone into the sheds 1-0 up; not 1-0 down."

"We missed some golden opportunities but the scoreline didn't reflect the game. In the second half we started okay, first 10 minutes or so I put Reid Taylor on and changed my formation.

"We conceded a cheap penalty and they led 2-0. Then they scored a cracking goal, the guy chested it down and hit a running volley into the top corner. It was a great finish but we should've cleared the ball better than we did. They played well in the second half but the big incidents in the game cost us. We should've been 1-0 up but we ended up chasing the whole game. As I said, goals change games and if you don't take your opportunities you can't expect to win.

"Tigers are well structured, they're a good football side; they're well coached but I still don't believe the 3-0 scoreline reflects the game."     

Northern Tigers 3 (Max Glanville, Ryan Peterson, Joel Hardwick) Mounties Wanderers 0

North Turramurra Recreation Area

Saturday 10 June 2017

Macarthur Rams 0 Marconi 3, Lynwood Park

Marconi Stallions continued their march towards Premiership honours with a 3-0 victory over Macarthur Rams at Lynwood Park on Saturday night.

Sean Rooney scored two goals and Brandon Vella grabbed one in a performance that keeps the Stallions five points clear of nearest rivals Northern Tigers and St George.

Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis last week lamented the amount of goals his side had leaked in the previous month, including those conceded in the 3-1 loss to Central Coast Mariners. He would've been delighted his side kept a clean sheet at Macarthur. 

"It's obvious we've got some deficiencies in defence, we've been leaking a lot of goals in the last month or so," Tsekenis told Football NSW.

"There's a few deficiencies there and hopefully we can go back to training and really sort them out. (Against Central Coast) we conceded three goals too easily for my liking, so that has to be rectified."

While the defence got their act together, Rooney was at his goal-poaching best, his brace taking the sharpshooter's tally to 16 for the season.

Macarthur were always facing an uphill battle, even before a ball was kicked. Marconi boast the most talented and most experienced side in the competition, with ex Socceroo Michael Beauchamp leading the likes of former A-Leaguers Rooney, Mirjan Pavlovic and Marko Jesic, a talented bunch capable of destroying teams in a heartbeat.

Tsekenis also added to his squad Shane Webb and Brett Studman, acquisitions that will strengthen the Stallions and reinforce their push for promotion.

Meanwhile, Rams coach Eddie Briscoe was disappointed with the result but conceded that the Stallions were simply too good on the night.

"They're a good team," Briscoe told Football NSW. "They play good structured football and the best team won on the night. We're making too many silly mistakes; there's no communication or leadership. Those simple things that get you around the pitch and get you results, we're not getting that.

"We've had the same issues all season and if we don't fix them we're not going to be competitive. We've really had a stop-start season. Even last night we had three players in and three players out. We've never really had a settled squad. We don't have the money that other clubs have got. We've got to develop from within and we've got to use what we've got. If we're not only our game 150 per cent every week we're not going to get the results and that's the honest truth. We haven't got that individual quality - we've got a couple of decent, quality players - and it's starting to show.

"We had our moments, we always do. We actually played in little patches some good football. We actually created three good chances; one got cleared off the line just before halftime and had that one gone in, it would've been 2-1. They scored at the right times. Their timing killed the game, they scored at the right times. They're a quality outfit, coached very well by Peter. We just keep battling on."

Macarthur Rams 0 Marconi Stallions 3 (Sean Rooney 2, Brandon Vella)

Lynwood Park

Saturday 10 June 2017

Western Sydney Wanderers 2 Bankstown City Lions 3, Sydney United Sports Centre

Bankstown City Lions caused the boilover of the round when they stole a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Premiership contenders Western Sydney Wanderers at Edensor Park on Saturday night.

Bankstown shocked the home side when Huseyin Jasli scored a screamer from halfway inside the first minute, a strike that turbo-charged the Lions' confidence and saw them hold onto the lead until halftime. Jasli took the ball from the kickoff, looked up and noticed Wanderers' keeper Daniel Axford was off his line. The flying left winger then unleashed a rocket that rattled the back of the net for a spectacular start to the game.

Bankstown held onto their 1-0 lead at the break, but true to form, Western Sydney equalised through Matthew Lecce, who tapped home from close range a minute after the restart. Manny Gonzalez then gave the Wanderers a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute, but 10 minutes later Mate Lucic equalised for Bankstown with a half volley from the edge of the box. Jasli completed the escape act when snatched the winner after a nice pass from Nikola Todoroski a minute into stoppage time.

Lions coach Mile Todoroski was delighted with his side's performance.

"I told you last weekend (after his side's 1-0 loss to Bankstown Berries) I smell something different in the team," Todoroski told Football NSW. "We lost last time (to the Berries) but now we are looking more like a team.”

Todoroski said that the result could have gone either way, with Western Sydney creating enough chances to win, only to be denied by a resolute Lions' defence. The wily coach added that his side had opportunities to "kill the game in the first half" but "at the end of the day, I'm happy with the result".

Todoroski praised the Wanderers for being a very talented young side but he also complimented his own side for their resistance and attack in the first half.

"We looked pretty good on attack in the first half. But the game was all the time up and down. We scored in the first minute of the game. They scored in the first minute of the second half. We scored (the winner) at the end of the game. We closed the game very strong in the last 10 minutes. We were 2-1 down and won 3-2. It was a good performance."  

As expected, the Wanderers dominated possession and played with patience. But the Lions' passion and physicality proved to be the edge they needed. Bankstown played in the young Wanderers' faces and roughed them up a bit, tactics that ultimately worked in their favour.

Meanwhile, Wanderers coach Trevor Morgan was disappointed with the result but pleased with some elements of the performance.

"I think there's a lot of games where we have a lot of possession, but there's not a lot of games where we were the only team with chances," Morgan told Football NSW. "I think Bankstown last night scored a rare goal from the kickoff which set the scene a little bit. Congratulations to them, they're fighting for survival in the league and they certainly turned up last night with great determination and ultimately put their chances away and deserved their win."

Morgan added that his coaching brief was to unearth young talent for the Wanderers' first team, something he's definitely doing.

"We've got a brief to try and unearth young talent and we're definitely doing that, giving young kids a go," Morgan said. "But what will be interesting is to find the players we believe are talented who show they have the mentality to deal with the things that aren't easy. That's the most interesting thing to me. It's not like we're winning 5-0 or losing 5-0, the games are always tight for us and quite competitive so the kids are not far away from the level to win things. But because it doesn't come easily, it's interesting for me to see which players can deal with that because it's one thing to have talent, it's another thing to apply that talent under pressure. I want to see who keeps going when things aren't easy." 

"You definitely want the players to have the maturity to not lose the game at 2-all and to possibly be able to win it and unfortunately at the moment, they showed last night that whilst they're trying to win a game they also leave themselves open to being beaten as well. I think we could've settled our performance a bit more at 2-1 and then 2-2, but instead, being very young, they tried to rush but that's stuff they'll get better at in time."

Western Sydney now lie in third place on the league table, three points behind Northern Tigers and St George; while Bankstown City have closed the gap at the bottom to just one point behind Blacktown Spartans.

North Shore Mariners 1 Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2, Northbridge Oval

Mt Druitt Town Rangers beat North Shore Mariners 2-1 in a torrid encounter at Northbridge Oval on Sunday.

Kuag Reec and Daniel McCann scored for Mt Druitt, while Mitch Smith grabbed one for the Mariners.

Reec opened the scoring for Mt Druitt in the seventh minute, but the rest of the first half belonged to North Shore, whose high press and vigor put Mt Druitt under enormous pressure, forcing them to hang on with grim determination.  

Mitch Smith equalised for the Mariners just on the half hour mark and the two teams went to the sheds level at one-all.

"Once we went a goal up we were outplayed," Mt Druitt assistant coach Stewart Montgomery told Football NSW. "Their runs from deep, their movement in the top third caused us trouble and we hung on until halftime. Our keeper Carlos Saliadarre made some fantastic saves to keep us in the game."

Montgomery added that the Mariners compressed the middle of the park and forced Mt Druitt to play centrally, where they were ambushed and put to the test in a fierce battle.

"They keep the tempo really high, you just don't get to settle and they tend to draw you into their style of game," Montgomery said. "That wasn't how we wanted to play. They won the battle and caught us out on transition, so it was very effective for them."

In the second half, Mt Druitt changed their shape and brought Kris Vlismas into centre midfield to pick up the Mariners' late runs. According to Montgomery, once that happened, his side was "pretty comfortable".

Daniel McCann scored the winner in the 64th minute, a header that flashed into the back of the net.

In the latter stages of the match, and trailing by 2-1, North Shore chased an equaliser by throwing numbers into the front third. But the visitors dealt with everything, even Saliadarre, who capped his performance with a penalty save two minutes into stoppage time.

"Today was about hanging in there, using the tenacity and camaraderie in our squad to get an outcome in what was a really important game for both clubs," Montgomery said.

"The ladder's so tight it was just really important that we won that one. That's the first time we've beaten them so I'm happy."

When asked who stood out for his side, Montgomery replied: "Carlos Saliadarre was outstanding in goal, he kept us in the game. Kuag was always effective up front and Kris Vlismas was very good when he came in to do a job for us in the second half. Also, never let it be said that Daniel McCann can't score goals with his head. It's very rare but he did it today."  

Meanwhile, Mariners coach Joe Haywood was unimpressed with the result and rued the fact that his side squandered several opportunities.

"It was a frustrating game that we could've and should've comfortably won. From open play we had five good chances in the first half, but we couldn't put them away. We had three good chances from set pieces with free headers that were headed over the bar. The game should've been out of sight at halftime. But football is football and it was one-all at the break.

"In the second half we weren't as potent. They changed tactics which nullified our threat slightly. But either way we shouldn't have been losing the game and we missed a penalty in the 94th minute that could've drawn the game. What could've been a comfortable win turned out to be an uncomfortable loss."

When asked if there were any positives to come out of the game, Haywood replied: "The chances we created was a positive. We've just got to try to convert those chances. Otherwise we'll get punished for it, which is what has happened in the last two games. We've just got to try to put the ball back into the net again. You've got Mitch Smith a striker doing his job but everyone around him have got to start putting the ball in the back of the net as well."

North Shore Mariners 1 (Mitch Smith) Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2 (Kuag Reec, Daniel McCann)

Northbridge Oval

Sunday 11 June 2017  

Central Coast Mariners 4 Blacktown Spartans 2, Valentine Sports Park

Central Coast Mariners extended their unbeaten run to five games with a 4-2 victory over a brave Blacktown Spartans at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday.

The win sees Ben Cahn's Mariners climb past arch rivals Western Sydney Wanderers into third place on the Premiership ladder, their highest position of the season.

The Spartans shocked the Mariners when Kojiro Hori opened the scoring from a free kick on the edge of the box in the ninth minute. But Central Coast hit back quickly through Sullu Kamara four minutes later. Filling in for the injured Duncan Stewart, Kamara received a neat pass from James Enticknap before rounding the keeper to score, a memorable moment on his first grade debut.

Lachlan Wales then gave the Mariners the lead in the 26th minute, completing a fine solo run before curling the ball into the top corner of the net. But the Spartans refused to surrender and just six minutes shy of halftime Michael Konestabo embarked on a solo run of his own before striking home the equaliser.

The two sides went to the break at two-all and Cahn was upset that his youngsters had allowed Konestabo to slice through them like a knife through butter.

"The Spartans' goal was a good solo run and a nice finish but from our perspective it was poorly defended," Cahn told Football NSW. "The whole move was poorly defended and I was really disappointed with that one and it left a sour taste in the mouth going into halftime."

Cahn added that he knew the Spartans would sit very deep and put a lot of numbers behind the ball.

"Their only threat was long balls on the counter attack and while they caught us a couple of times we were always in full control."

Reece Papas joined the action in the second half and made an immediate impact, delivering a corner for Michael Glassock to score the third goal, before Gianni Stensness rifled home his side's fourth goal with a shot from the edge of the box at the death.

When asked what impressed him the most about the win, Cahn replied:

"Knowing that there was a late change of venue, which didn't suit us at all because we had to travel to Sydney for our 'home' game worried us. The change took us away from a surface that we like to play on. But all things considered, the game plan was good, and even though they frustrated us for long periods and got themselves ahead and then back in the game, we still kept believing and kept trying to do the right things.

"Apart from the two goals they scored and a couple of other passages that were sloppy, everybody chipped in and I was really happy with the overall performance. 

Meanwhile, Spartans coach Luis Contigiani was disappointed by his side's defeat but pleased that his side had given their best.

"The Mariners have got the best of the best and they're a good team," Contigiani told Football NSW. "They're the equivalent of Western Sydney and Marconi: they're technical and creative.

"We always knew they would have more of the ball than us, so we sat back, absorbed pressure and had some good opportunities.

"My players did the best they could but the Mariners are a class act. They're better than us at the little things. Their first touch is really good, their movement off the ball is exceptional. We were up against a good team and we're just so understrength at the moment that it's really tough."

When asked what the positives were to come out of the game, Contigiani replied: "The fact that for 75 minutes we competed against a team that has been cleaning the floor with everyone, including Marconi, who they beat 3-1, was outstanding. It took them that long to bury us. We offered the best resistance we could and I thought we did well."

Contigiani is doing it tough at the moment. He's lost first string keeper Domenic Nascimben for the season. Emmanuel Elali is out for five games, Alessandro Pecora is out for three games, while ace playmaker Mohamed Rahimi has left the club and joined Sydney Olympic.

"We desperately need to bring in replacements and they're usually 17 or 18-year-olds or players who've never played at this level," Contigiani said. "You ask these boys to compete and play as well as your regulars and they struggle. But we're doing our best, I'm not going to give up we're just going to keep fighting. I'm praying and hoping that the tide will turn. We need to start winning otherwise we'll be in a lot of trouble."   

Central Coast Mariners 4 (Sullu Kamara, Lachlan Wales, Michael Glassock, Gianni Stensness) Blacktown Spartans 2 (Kojiro Hori, Michael Konestabo)

Valentine Sports Park

Sunday 11 June 2017

Bankstown Berries v Spirit FC - Washed Out

-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter