As expected, there were a couple of upsets in Round 17 of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition on the weekend.
Bankstown City Lions scored a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Saturday night; while Macarthur Rams beat Hills Brumbies 2-1 at home.
In other matches, Central Coast Mariners stole a share of the spoils from Northern Tigers, snatching a 2-all draw with two goals in the last six minutes; while Blacktown Spartans secured successive wins for the first time in months with a 5-4 victory at Bankstown Berries.
On Sunday, Marconi continued their recent run of form under Peter Tsekenis with a convincing 3-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers, sending an ominous warning to the rest of the competition; while Spirit FC remain unbeaten in their last three matches following a 2-0 defeat of North Shore Mariners.
Match of the Round
Mount Druitt Town Rangers 1 Bankstown City Lions 2, Popondetta Park
Bankstown City Lions stole the spoils in a 2-1 stoppage time victory over Mt Druitt Town Rangers in the PS4 NPL2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Popondetta Park on Saturday.
David McMurray opened the scoring for Bankstown before Kuag Reec equalised for the home side. Rangers' Japanese import Hiten Satoh then put the ball into his own net with virtually the last kick of the game.
Before the match kicked off, Mt Druitt were riding high in fifth spot on the table; while Bankstown were dead last. But such is the parity of this season's competition, it comes as no surprise that the Lions were able to turn the tables on a side that has genuine aspirations for Premiership glory.
The first half was largely unremarkable, with unforced errors plentiful and scoring opportunities rare.
Bankstown's Michael Cimino went down clutching his knee in the fourth minute after an innocuous challenge, an incident that held up play for a few minutes. Cimino, who last season broke his leg in a training incident at former club Marconi. was making his first start in the top grade for almost a year. Thankfully the 22-year-old wasn't off the field for long and was able to make an invaluable contribution to his side's win.
Mt Druitt had an injury scare of their own when in the 16th minute Nick Trimble and Bankstown goalkeeper Dion Shaw clashed, a collision that left Trimble dazed and on the deck for some time.
So poor were the opening stages of the match that it took 26 minutes before the first shot was fired in anger. And funnily enough, it was that man Cimino who almost opened the scoring with a close range effort that forced Rangers' keeper Carlos Saliadarre into a brilliant save; the first of many he'd pull off during the game.
Three minutes later Lions' winger Huseyin Jasli saw his shot deflected over the bar for a corner; before Mt Druitt's Daniel Rezo headed wide a great cross from the right.
Cimino then threaded a perfect pass to the versatile David McMurray whose shot was well-saved by Saliadarre.
With Rangers making a number of uncharacteristic turnovers, Bankstown began to dominate, with Cimino and D'Mello showing a bit of of verve and panache.
In the 40th minute and completely against the run of play, Mt Druitt veteran Matthew Clowes took off on a long solo run, only to spoil his gut-busting effort with a finish that flashed wide of the target.
Much to the relief of the crowd, referee Adam Susz blew the halftime whistle, bringing to an end a largely forgettable half of football.
The second half started off with a hiss and a roar. Clowes went close with a diving header in the 51st minute; and a moment later, Saliadarre again denied the Lions, brilliantly saving an effort from D'Mello.
Just shy of the half hour mark, Mt Druitt striker Kuag Reec was put in the clear but lost control of the ball; while teammate Daniel McCann skipped away down the left flank, only to shoot high and wide. A few minutes later, Hiten Satoh had a crack of his own, lifting the ball over the woodwork.
Despite the home side's dominance and their ability to create chances, it was Bankstown who opened the scoring against the run of play, as McMurray volleyed home in the 70th minute to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. This time Saliadarre had no chance as the ball rocketed beneath his body and into the back of the net.
D'Mello tried to increase his side's advantage with a long range effort in the 78th minute, while Rangers' Rezo forced a brilliant save from Shaw a moment later.
It may have taken ages to come, but local fans finally had something to cheer about when in the 86th minute, favourite son Reec glanced home the equaliser from close range. Despite turning in a luke warm performance, Rangers would've been happy with a share of the spoils. And with a meagre four minutes remaining, onlookers would've assumed the match was heading for a stalemate.
But the fat lady had yet to deliver her melodious tune and the game was about to take a twist.
In the 90th minute Bankstown launched a swift counter-attack only to see Jasli hook his shot wide. But there was more to come.
Mt Druitt then went agonisngly close to scoring the winner, only to see the ball cleared off the line. But again, there was more to come.
Bankstown responded with the urgency of a scrambling emergency helicopter crew. With a rapid counter-attack and low cross from Spiros Agathos on the right wing, Satoh deflected the ball into his own net with what was virtually the last play of the game.
Game, set and match, Bankstown.
Joy and delight for the visitors, but disbelief and despair for Mt Druitt, with Satoh in particular feeling heart broken and aggrieved. An intoxicating way to win; but such an agonising way to lose.
As expected, Mt Druitt assistant coach Steve Appleby was disappointed with his side's performance.
"In general we were very poor tonight; (compared to) how we've been playing (in recent games), that's not good enough," Appleby told Football NSW. "We didn't keep the ball well, we didn't open them up when we needed to. But fair play to them, they're in a relegation battle; they battled well. We didn't deal with it and we weren't good enough."
When asked what the difference was between the two sides, Appleby replied: "They wanted it more, to be honest with you. Again, it's just disappointing from us because we've been playing quite decent football and we just didn't do that tonight."
Meanwhile, Bankstown coach Mile Todoroski was delighted with his side's win, especially their fighting spirit and discipline.
"Playing at Popondetta (Park) is very hard so today I'm very pleased with how we played and very pleased with my boys," Todoroski told Football NSW. "They played like we talked all week. They played with the right tactics and discipline and at the end of the day I think we fully deserve this win.
"I was impressed with our fighting attitude and discipline. It was the discipline that brought us home and every player deserves credit for the win."
Mount Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Kuag Reec) Bankstown City Lions 2 (David McMurray, Hiten Satoh o.g.)
Saturday 24 June 2017
Referee: Adam Susz
Assistant Referees: Janush Adabjou, Anthony Mansour
Mount Druitt Town Rangers: 1. Carlos Saliadarre, 8. Matthew Clowes, 3. Brian Griffin-Colls, 14. Daniel McCann, 10. Nathan Ralph (18. Jamie Dib 79'), 9. Kuag Reec, 11. Daniel Rezo, 2. Hiten Satoh, 12. Nick Trimble, 6. Alex Vlismas (5. Leyton Hinton 68'), 7. Kris Vlismas
Unused Subs:, 17. Jak O'Brien, 41. Joshua Wilde, 16. Alessandro Tolomeo
Coach: Aidan Desmond
Bankstown City Lions: 1. Dion Shaw (GK), 15. Spiros Agathos, 10. Hussein Akil, 3. Alex Becerra, 41. Michael Cimino (12. Steven Veleski 54'), 6. Aaron D'Mello, 11. Huseyin Jasli, 14. Mato Lucic, 29. Kody Maude, 8. David McMurray, 17. Davide Talone
Unused Subs: 21. Harry Timms, 9. Nikola Todoroski, 22. Damian Jakimovski, 24. Mobbs Jamieson
Yellow Cards: David McMurray
Coach: Mile Todoroski
Central Coast Mariners 2 Northern Tigers 2, North Turramurra
Central Coast Mariners stole a share of the spoils and managed to extend their unbeaten streak to seven matches after a 2-2 draw with Northern Tigers at North Turramurra.
After a goalless first half, the Tigers raced to a 2-0 lead through goals by Jordan Smylie and Michael Rolston but failed to convert a penalty that would've given them a commanding 3-0 advantage.
Two-nil is often a much maligned scoreline in football, and the young Mariners confirmed that theory with lightning quick strikes at the death to Thomas Lyons (86th minute) and Yerasimakis Petratos, who struck the equaliser two minutes into stoppage time.
Mariners coach Ben Cahn acknowledged that the missed penalty was a big turning point in the game.
"At 2-0 it became a difficult challenge for us," Cahn told Football NSW. "Then (Mariners goalkeeper) Adam Pearce made a really good save from the pen. Three nil probably takes the game away from us at that point. But the boys stuck together, never turned on each other, never stopped believing in each other. And showed real desire to protect that seven game unbeaten record and scored two really good goals to help us. I think a draw over the whole 90 minutes was probably fair but that was certainly the toughest game we've had in a long time.
"The Tigers are a serious football team, they've got excellent players all over the pitch, a clever coach, and a really good club. I think they'll be challenging for all sorts of honours at the end of the season."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Cahn replied: "It was another home game for us that we had moved down to Sydney. We played our home game at their home ground so while playing away is never a determining factor, it adds to all the small factors that contribute to the end result.
"The fact that the boys just get on with the job and believe in what they're doing and keep adapting and adjusting to different types of opposition and different challenges and just their general attitude and place they're in is impressing me at the moment.
"It was an eventful game, lots happened for both teams and a draw was probably a fair result."
Meanwhile, Tigers coach Mark McCormick said he was disappointed that his side let slip a two-goal lead but praised the young Mariners for their fight back.
"The Mariners are as good a team as we've played," McCormick told Football NSW. "They try to move the ball and play at pace. They cause a lot of problems, that's why I'm happy with the effort but disappointed to let a two-goal lead slip. We were dominant in the second half and played some good stuff at times, as shown by the 2-0 lead. It was disappointing to miss the penalty at 2-0 and then to allow them back in the game. But that's football."
When asked who stood out for the Tigers, McCormick said: "Joel Hardwick's playing well right now and he's been fantastic for us; while Jordan Ferrier has been excellent the entire season. Those two were excellent."
Bankstown Berries 4 Blacktown Spartans 5, The Crest
Blacktown Spartans showed plenty of courage to come back three times before grabbing a 5-4 victory over Bankstown Berries at The Crest on Saturday night.
Michael Konestabo scored twice for the Spartans while Alex Boyadijan, Kojiro Hori and Brendon Bezzina grabbed one each; and for the Berries Jake Bradshaw netted a hat-trick and Yasser Al Taay added a goal of his own.
Spartans coach Luis Contigiani was pleased with his side's victory, their second on the trot.
"Our game plan is simple. We get the ball, we look to play out quickly and we use our speed in the final third," Contigiani told Football NSW. "Teams can prepare but if we're on our game we can hurt anyone."
Bankstown opened the scoring in the seventh minute and thanks to a couple of Spartans' errors on defence, the home side held a commanding 3-1 lead by the 38th.
"We're our own worst enemies at times," Contigiani said. "But I'm impressed with my boys for coming back from 3-1 down away to a team that has had some good results here and there, and to win. That shows that morale is high and we're willing to fight for everything. We're not just going to go quietly in the night. We're going to fight for everything and we did that against the Berries. I hope that continues."
Meanwhile, Berries assistant coach Charles Samushonga was frustrated with his side's performance, especially the frailties at the back.
"We weren't good enough, it's as simple as that," Samushonga told Football NSW. "We shouldn't score four goals and lose a game. That's the fact of the matter because if you score four goals you should win the game. We defended very, very poorly and conceded five goals.
Samushonga added that his side struggled to keep pace with the Spartans on transition.
"The Spartans transitioned very quickly and we weren't quick enough to defend and that's what caused us to lose goals. We just didn't defend well at all."
When asked if the side missed suspended player coach Perry Moustakas, the heartbeat of the side's back division, Samushonga replied: "Maybe we've missed the experience he brings at the back because he's played at a high level and is a very experienced player. But the boys who've played in his absence had played very well until yesterday. Too many of them just had bad games and it was one of those games when nothing went right at all."
Macarthur Rams 2 Hills Brumbies 1, Lynwood Park
Macarthur Rams scored one of the upsets of the round with a 2-1 victory over Hills Brumbies at Lynwood Park on Saturday night.
New Argentinean import Marcelo Turdera scored twice in as many minutes to give the Rams a 2-0 lead at the 54th minute mark, before Nathan Rayner equalised for Hills after 65 minutes.
Rams coach Eddie Briscoe was delighted with his side's performance.
"We stuck to our game plan and pressed when we needed to press and dropped when we needed to drop," the Englishman told Football NSW. "We created a lot of chances in the first half - we actually had 12 really good chances. We hit the post, their keeper made some great saves, and they blocked shots. Hills created a few good chances too and it was a really open first half."
Briscoe said that while Hills were very structured when going forward and were a good football team, the Rams opened them up on attack.
"Hills are a very good football team and they ask a lot of questions of you but we defended well when we needed to. And when we went forward and attacked them with width, we opened them up. Our pace up front caused them problems.
"To the neutral fan, it was a great game played on a knife's edge, but for a coach it was horrible. We had chances, they had chances right to the death, but overall I thought we were the better team. We played aggressively when we needed to and we played football when we needed to. And I think that's what caught them out a little bit."
Briscoe praised new import Marcelo Turdera, an Argentinian formerly based in Italy. "Marcelo plays right on the backline; he's sharp and has an eye for goal. He could've had a couple more too, because we caught Hills out a lot.
"We were really good going forward but we've still got a lot to do structurally as a team. Overall, great team performance and very very happy. Everybody brought their A-game and performed to their best. That's the pleasing point. There were no standouts, just a great team performance."
Meanwhile, Brumbies coach Dan Sheppard said his side simply wasn't good enough on the night.
"Macarthur were tough, but we weren't very good. It's that simple," Sheppard told Football NSW. "To be that bad but to only lose by that amount is probably quite lucky. We didn't really create any opportunities in the first half but in the second half we played well in patches. We just didn't find the end touch. At 2-1 down we missed a free header inside the penalty box to equalise. We'd normally put those chances away."
When asked how his side were feeling before kickoff, Sheppard said their preparation was sound and no different to any other week.
"We prepared well enough but when we got out of the field we weren't good enough. Macarthur were different tactically and they got away with a lot of time wasting, which was amazing."
St George 4 Mounties 3, Seymour Shaw Park
An understrength St George had to dig deep to grind out a courageous 4-3 victory over Mounties Wanderers at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday night.
Spanish import Juan Carlos Romero scored twice for Saints while Jacob Sullivan and Bruno Pivato grabbed one apiece.
Saints entered the match without Tarik Ercan, Daniel Loe, Jonathan Kontalis, Jayden McLeod and Nico Paras, who were all suspended; while newcomer Jordan Crichton from Parramatta FC had a run and striker Stevan Ilic returned from a spell on the sidelines. Despite the disruption, St George played with courage and finesse to not only steal an unlikely win but to also claim outright second on the competition table, two points ahead of rivals Northern Tigers.
Mounties led 1-0 at halftime courtesy of an own goal but the second half proved to be a sensational half of football.
Romero equalised from a free kick in the 56th minute; but Tokuichi hit back immediately to give Mounties a 2-1 lead. Sullivan then equalised for St George and the score remained the same until the 73rd minute when Mounties struck again to push ahead. Romero then nailed his 15th goal of the season on 75 minutes, a thundering left foot drive that crashed into the back of the net. Three minutes later Bruno Pivato sealed victory with a cheeky back-heel, his third goal in as many games since returning to the club from Bankstown City less than a month ago.
St George coach Terry Palapanis was delighted with his side's win but disappointed to concede cheap goals.
"We won the game but I'm not happy that we're letting in stupid goals," Palapanis told Football NSW. "I don't know how long this can last because there will be a day when we won't score goals. And when that happens and we concede stupid goals like we have been, it won't be good."
Despite his disappointment, Palapanis was impressed with his side's ability to come back three times before winning the game.
"We showed good character and quality, especially with so many players out through suspension. But the squad is even, it doesn't matter who plays, who doesn't play and who comes in. All the players, including those who started on the bench, were very good tonight."
While he didn't want to single out anyone for special praise, Plapanis couldn't help but mention Pivato and Romero.
"Bruno's quality," Palapanis said of the curly headed maestro. "What a player, he's fantastic on the park and in the changing room. I was ecstatic when he came back to St George.
"And JC (Romero) is just on another level. He's a very good player."
St George's ascendancy up the ladder has been remarkable and one that not many outside the club predicted, but Palapanis said he was always confident his side had the talent to do something special.
"I truly believe that this team believes they can actually win every game. I can see it in the changing room and I can see it at training. You sense things. You walk into the changing room before the game and there's a buzz about the place. The changing room is fantastic and as a coach, you walk in and go 'mate, we aren't losing today'. That self belief is a combination of their ability and their character."
Meanwhile, Mounties coach Lee Sterrey was disappointed with his side's defensive frailties and inability to take advantage after leading three times during the game.
"St George played some good football but we broke them down quite a few times so they didn't really have any chances of note in the first half," Sterrey told Football NSW. "And even though we led 1-0 at halftime it was a very even game."
Sterrey added that striker Tai Smith had a golden opportunity to extend his side's lead to 2-0 early in the second half but couldn't convert a free header 10 yards from goal, an opportunity that proved to be costly.
"Tai would normally take those chances and we should've led 2-0," Sterrey said. "Sixty seconds later St George scored the equaliser. But at the end of the day, nobody should score three goals and lose a game. Our marking and defending in the second half was too loose and really poor. We had three leads in the game and again it was a game we didn't close out and didn't capitalise on. Scorng three goals away from home should be good enough to win a game of football.
"Credit to St George, they kept coming and they're playing with confidence. They've picked up (Jordan) Crichton and Bruno Pivato and they've got a good side. Even after playing them in Round 1 I said they'd hurt a few teams, which they've gone and done. Credit to Terry (Palapanis), he's doing a good job. But three leads in the second half should've been enough to win, so I'm really disappointed with the defending in the second half. It was really poor and ultimately cost us the game."
North Shore Mariners 0 Spirit FC 2, Northbridge Oval
Spirit FC continued their impressive run with a 2-0 victory over North Shore Mariners at Northbridge Oval on Sunday.
Andre Carle opened the scoring in the 13th minute before Dylan Whitlock added thesecond just on the stroke of halftime.
Spirit coach David Perkovic was delighted with the result and pleased that the team's midseason review has provided some tangible goals to aim for.
"Our commitment has been good since the turn of the season so I'm pleased we're getting some good results," Perkovic told Football NSW. "There are still some things we need to improve on but defensively we're doing very well and have only conceded one goal in our last three games. We still need to do some work at the other end of the pitch but getting those three points at such a critical part of the season is good."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Perkovic replied: "It's a cliche' but it was a tale of two halves really. In the first half we contained North Shore very well and they didn't really have many opportunities at all. However, I was a little bit disappointed that we only got two goals in the first half, it should have been three, four or five to be honest.
"We were very wary with a 2-0 lead at halftime because that scoreline can often be turned around with momentum. Unfortunately we allowed them to creep back into the game and they had a goal disallowed with about 10 minutes to go. Had it been given, that could have been a nervous last 10 minutes and even though we didn't play anywhere near as well as we did in the first half, we still had an opportunity (in the second half) where we missed an open goal. But at the end of the day I'm pleased we kept a clean sheet, and we got a couple of goals and too home the three points."
Western Sydney Wanderers 0 Marconi Stallions 3, Marconi Stadium
Marconi's recent resurgence under new coach Peter Tsekenis continued with a convincing 3-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers at Marconi Stadium on Sunday.
Judah Cleur gave the Stallions the lead just shy of the half hour mark and Sean Rooney added a second in the 34th minute to extend the lead to 2-0 at halftime. Mirjan Pavlovic sealed the victory just before the referee blew the final whistle on his side's fourth win from five matches.
Ever since Tsekenis arrived at the club things appear to have changed. There's more intensity. More focus. And the players seem to be playing for one another and not themselves. Performances are sharper and more effective.
Earlier in the season, the Stallions had a soft underbelly and were prone to serious lapses unbecoming of a super-talented side favoured to win the Premiership in a canter. Now that has changed.
"I've had a lot of success and there's a formula that I believe in and it seems to work," Tsekenis told Football NSW. "It's about culture, it's about belief, it's about frame of mind and the people around you. We know what it looks like, we put it together and we're confident it works. Slowly we're improving. We're still not where we want to be but you can see the improvement week-in, week-out and people are buying into it. Not just players, but staff and board members, everyone involved at the club."
When asked what impressed him about his side's win over the Wanderers, Tsekenis replied: "We thrive to get a clean sheet every week and we achieved that. We set goals and we're achieving them. We played against a very handy Western Sydney Wanderers team that are well-drilled and if you let them play, they can hurt you. We stuck to a game plan and we restricted them and controlled the game and the tempo. We probably could have scored a couple more to be honest.
"We don't only play one style, we adapt to what's in front of us. A lot of these youth teams try to play one way and one way only regardless of what's put in front of them. I think we've been able to adjust according to what we see. If something's not working, we adjust it slightly to get something out of it. We did that against Western Sydney and like I said, we probably could have scored a couple more goals to finish it convincingly. But I'm very happy with the performance, it was quite solid."
-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter