Round 19 Review – PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s

As always the latest round of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues NSW 2 Men's competition threw up some interesting results, with Hills Brumbies' 4-1 thumping of Western Sydney Wanderers the eye-catcher; and Mounties' come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Central Coast Mariners a close second.

Marconi Stallions continued their march towards premiership honours with a 3-0 win at Mt Druitt, while second-placed St George not only showed their quality but they also proved yet again that they'll give the Stallions a serious run for their money following a comprehensive 4-0 victory at Macarthur Rams.

In other games, Northern Tigers and Bankstown Berries drew nil-all; Blacktown Spartans beat North Shore Mariners 1-0 and Spirit FC stole the spoils 3-2 at Bankstown City. 

Match of the Round

Macarthur Rams 0 St George 4, Lynwood Park

A Bruno Pivato hat-trick led St George to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Macarthur Rams in Saturday night's PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Lynwood Park, reinforcing beyond any reasonable doubt that Saints are a serious premiership threat in 2017.

The curly haired maestro showed his class yet again, tormenting the Rams' defence with his skill and instinct to be in the right place at the right time.

Ever since returning from Bankstown City five weeks ago, the diminutive Pivato has scored seven goals, making his acquisition an invaluable one as the team from Sydney's south continues to hum a winning tune.

St George remain in second position on the premiership table, seven points ahead of third-placed Northern Tigers, their fighting spirit, confidence and ability to create opportunities and score goals issuing a clear warning to favourites Marconi that they'll be hard to stop when push comes to shove.

The 4-0 scoreline over the hapless Rams might have been impressive but it could so easily have been even more; with Saints turning on an exhibition late in the second half, and carving the Rams up at will, only to miss a multitude of chances in front of goal.

Indeed, such was Saints' dominance in the final 15 minutes that they created enough opportunities to score ten goals. But it wasn't to be.

Saints dominated from the start. Right winger Jordan Crighton showed his pace and ability to cross with accuracy when in the first six minutes of the game he created chances for Pivato and Juan Carlos Romero, but to no avail.

The visitors didn't have to wait long to open the scoring, when in the 14th minute Romero flicked on a free kick from the left and Pivato drove home a volley from inside the box to give St George a 1-0 lead.

In the 23rd minute Romero attempted a shot from long range, his effort forcing goalkeeper Nikodin Matic to scramble a save.

A few minutes later Rams' Argentinian import Marcelo Turdera had a golden opportunity to equalise but his attempted lob over Saints goalkeeper Andrew Depta floated harmlessly wide, letting Saints of the hook and squandering one of the rare opportunities Macarthur would have during the entire game.

Ten minutes later Pivato threaded a perfect pass to Crighton but Matic was up to the task and pulled off a fine save.

The two teams went to the sheds with St George holding a deserved 1-0 lead. 

Saints coach Terry Palapanis told his players to forget the score before they returned for the second half and six minutes after the restart Pivato struck home his second goal from a seemingly impossible angle.

Was it a cross or was it a piece of Messi-esque skill that enabled Pivato to bend the ball with into the back of the net virtually from the goalline? Given his form in recent weeks, and his uncanny ability to score, Pivato would no doubt claim the audacity of his strike was genuine. That'd be his story and who are we to question it? Regardless, St George led 2-0 and things started to look gloomy for the home side as Saints slipped into overdrive.

Pivato and Romero combined beautifully, their creativity and understanding remarkable given they've only been teammates for a little over a month.

Romero hit the crossbar and just shy of the hour mark referee Roberto Mattei awarded the visitors a penalty, red carding Rams' Danny Lazarevski after receiving his second yellow card.

The send-off was the last thing the Rams needed and Romero stepped up and slotted home the spot kick to give his side a 3-0 lead.

Two minutes later Pivato started a move in midfield and made a run into the box, receiving a superb cross from Crighton, but his header cleared the bar. Great skill by both players and great football.

In the 74th minute Pivato made amends, showing sublime touch inside the box to score his hat-trick and to extend Saints' lead to 4-0.

The rest of the second half belonged to St George, who turned on an exhibition, playing some brilliant football and carving up Macarthur at will. Such was Saints' dominance, the final score could easily have been 10-0, they were that good. Only poor finishing cost them but in the end Terry Palapanis's team showed more than enough to suggest that it'll take something special to stop their momentum as the season winds down to its conclusion.

As expected, Palapanis was delighted with the result.

"All in all it was a great performance, the boys are buzzing," Palapanis told Football NSW. "Again we were very good, we were clinical except for in the last 15-20 minutes when we missed quite a few chances. We're just on the right path, everything's working out for us."

When asked about Pivato's performance, Palapanis replied: "He's quality, he scored a hat-trick today; probably could've had four or five. A lot of team's signed players and we signed quality instead of quantity and Bruno is definitely quality. He's a very, very good player and he's just got that X-factor, he's got everything."

Palapanis added that despite the bucketload of goals, the highlight of the match for him was achieving the first clean sheet of the season. "The highlight (for me) is clean sheet, it's the first one of the season. You effin beauty. The main focus was (getting) the clean sheet. We know we can score goals so that's definitely the highlight of the night for me."

Meanwhile, Macarthur coach Eddie Briscoe was disappointed with the result and the performance of his team.

"First of all I think goals change games and to concede the two goals that we did was really disappointing because we've really been quite solid at the back (in recent weeks)," Briscoe told Football NSW. "At 1-0 we had a chance to make it one-all and we didn't take that chance and then obviously going 2-0 down we could've got back in it at 2-1 but we didn't. And then having a man sent off sort of set us back and then they just ran all over us at the end of the day. It was basically goals change games and it did tonight.

"They've improved a lot and Terry has recrutied well and all over the pitch their individual ability has really grown and as a team they were solid. They're a good unit and we expected that. They're not in the top two for no reason and they proved it tonight."

When asked what the positives were for his side after such a heavy defeat, the affable Englishman replied: "Getting through the game with no injuries is always a good thing for us because we are a small squad. Having Danny (Lazarevski) sent off is not ideal because obviously we've got to change the system again at the back and they've been doing really well (lately).

"But look, I think we really switched off again tonight, I think we went back to the old days a little bit and thought we were better than what we were. Obviously (we were) coming off two great wins (over Northern Tigers and Hills Brumbies) and that's what we've got to focus on again is where we got those wins and how we performed and get back to that standard. I think they're the positives we've got to look for going for the rest of the season."    

Macarthur Rams 0 St George 4 (Bruno Pivato 3, Juan Carlos Romero pen)

Lynwood Park

Saturday 8 July 2017

Referee: Roberto Mattei

Assistant Referees: Samuel Quinn, Vishaal Prasad

Macarthur Rams: 1. Nikodin Matic (GK), 2. Craig Cooley, 10. Ben Cornish, 19. Scott Goodwin, 3. Danny Lazarevski, 14. Blake McGinn, 6. James Ralston, 12. Lochlan Reus, 8. Matthew Trotter, 9. Marcelo Turdera, 15. Mason Versi

Subs: 40. Nikola Bratic, 16. Mitchell Di Pietro, 17. Rhys Lloyd, 4. Benne Owusu, 7. Nathan Paull

Yellow Cards: 3. Danny Lazarevski, 14. Blake McGinn

Red Cards: 3. Danny Lazarevski

Coach: Eddie Briscoe

St George: 1. Andrew Depta (GK), 14. Jacob Bandur, 12. Jordan Crighton, 7. Robbie Deasy, 20. Juan Carlos Romero, 48. Alfred Hess, 16. Daniel Loe, 34. Daniel Mitwali, 3. Ali Nasreddine, 6. Bruno Pivato, 15. Jacob Sullivan

Subs: 49. Anthony Morabito, 10. Nico Paras, 21. Matthew Williamson, 55. Liam Thomas, 45. Jason Oh

Yellow Cards: 7. Robbie Deasy, 20. Juan Carlos Romero, 34. Daniel Mitwali

Coach: Terry Palapanis

Mt Druitt Town Rangers 0 Marconi Stallions 3 Popondetta Park

Marconi Stallions extended their unbeaten streak to five matches with a 3-0 victory over Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Saturday afternoon.

Rangers battled hard with the premiership favourites only to concede after 77 minutes. Marconi struck again a minute later when a Mirjan Pavlovic shot took a deflection; before Jesic twisted the knife when he scored his second 10 minutes from time.

Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond was pleased with his side's efforts but disappointed to concede three goals in rapid succession.

"We were right in the game," Desmond told Football NSW. "It was a fairly even game until we let them get a ball to the back post that we didn't read very well and they scored. We then turned possession over in the box and suddenly it was 2-0. That was pretty much it. At 1-0 we felt like we were right in the game but to concede another one within a minute kind of broke us a little bit. Then they got the third. They were goals from our errors rather than being broken down, which was disappointing."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Desmond replied: "We spoke before the game about the fact that we could walk out there today and make a lot of excuses because we're really low on numbers and there were a lot of younger players playing. But we went out there with a plan and we stuck to the plan. I can't fault the effort, the effort was fantastic. But some little errors hurt and when you consider the differences in budget I was super proud about the effort our guys put in.

"It was a flattering scoreline, it certainly wasn't a 3-0 game. They're a class above but we matched them for 70 odd minutes. The scoreline definitely flattered them."

When asked who stood out for his side, Desmnd replied: "Our Japanese boy Hito Satoh put in a good shift but unfortunately he scored an own goal. But apart from that he was good for us. Lachie Roberts played right fullback for the first time all year and did a good job on Pavlovic. I also thought young Lleyton Hinton did well for us. He came off the bench and played his first competition game in first grade and he did really well."         

Meanwhile, Marconi coach Peter Tsekenis was happy with the result if not the performance.

"We eventually got there," Tsekenis told Football NSW. "We were a little bit flat in the first half and we really didn't get to the level I expect and demand of the boys. I don't think we were troubled too much other than us making a few errors in the wrong areas. In the second half we ramped it up a bit and really took it home. Their goalkeeper was probably their best player and made some really good saves. We scored three goals so I wouldn't call the win lucky and we probably could've scored some more. It wasn't a polished performance and at this stage of the year it's all about getting the points. Mt Druitt were sitting pretty high on the table for a reason and we really took it home and got the points we needed."

Central Coast Mariners 2 Mounties Wanderers 3, Pluim Park

Mounties Wanderers came back from the dead to upset Central Coast Mariners 3-2 at Pluim Park on Saturday, a win that leaves Lee Sterrey's side in equal sixth on the table, their highest position on the ladder so far this season.

Central Coast led 2-0 at the break after Lachlan Wales and Peter Kekeris fired home in the 38th and 40th minutes respectively, but Mounties struck back 10 minutes after the restart through sharpshooter Tai Smith.

Smith then equalised in the 74th minute before Mariners' Michael Glassock was dismissed six minutes later for handling the ball on the goalline and conceding a penalty. Michael Cklamovski stepped up and missed his spot kick but made amends when nine minutes later he scored the winner in an unlikely but deserved victory.

While Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with his side's first half performance, he was far from impressed with the second half.

"It was a tale of two halves," Cahn told Football NSW. "We were outstanding in the first half. We had about 90 per cent of the ball, scored two goals, created a few more chances and never came under any threat (from Mounties). We were completely dominant and in control."

But despite sitting in the boxseat at halftime, Cahn was fearful of a reaction from Mounties and how his young side would cope. His fears were spot on.

"Mounties just went completely direct against us in the second half," Cahn said. "They put four up front and at every opportunity just played long balls which was effective for them with their big Number 9. We struggled to deal with it and didn't get enough pressure on the first ball. We weren't equipped to deal with it and made mistakes at the back which led to one of their goals.

"It was a really disappointing second half, we didn't manage the game at all. We didn't adjust to the change in tempo and the change in style from them. Despite that we still had a couple of really good one-on-ones in the second half and had a penalty turned down.

"Then we had an unfortunate red card to Michael Glassock for a ball that hit his shoulder. A couple of things went against us but we've really only got ourselves to blame. It was a tough second half and disappointing to be falling back into those habits.

"Mounties defend very deep, they're very compact and quite difficult to break down. But we still had enough chances to put the game to bed. Credit to them. They completey changed their aggression, their tempo, their playing style in the second half and we didn't deal with that very well."

Meanwhile, Mounties coach Lee Sterrey was pleased with his side's victory and achieving back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

"I'm very proud of the boys, they showed a lot of character to come back from 2-0 down and it's the first time we've gone back-to-back all year," Sterrey told Football NSW. "So I'm really happy."

Sterrey added that while the Mariners shaded Mounties in territory and possession in the first 35 minutes, they didn't have one shot on goal, whereas his side broke away and managed three.

"They dominated territory and possession but it's what you do with that territory and possesion that counts. We gave away a poor penalty and while they led 1-0 they hadn't done a lot at that stage. Within a minute we let them in again and we went into the sheds 2-0 down."

Sterrey didn't believe his side deserved to be down 2-0 so he changed his side's system and structure and chased the game hard.

"I went to a 4-2-4 and went with Noah Chianese next to Tai Smith in the middle and we just decided to chase the game and put pressure on them."  

Mounties pulled one back through Smith but at 2-1 Central Coast broke two or three times and could have extended their lead to 3-1. That didn't happen.

"We got back to 2-2 and we got a penalty and they went down to 10 men for deliberate handball. We were 2-2 against 10 men. Michael Cklamovski missed the penalty but he scored the winner with about seven or eight minutes to go. We've had some hiccups this season but the way we've come up with two wins in the past two weeks is testament to the players' character and the spirit we've got in the room. Let's hope we can take some confidence from the past two weeks and keep this going on a roll."

When asked who stood out for his side, Sterrey replied: "The second half performance from the whole unit was tremendous. Simon Yaeger pulled off two brilliant one-on-one saves at 2-1 down that kept us in the match. Nefta Gonzalez has only been back two weeks and he played the full 90 minutes last night. When we went to a 4-2-4 he was enormous in midfield with our Japanese boy Hiro (Tokuichi). I mean a two-man midfield against a structured 4-3-3 is tough going but they ran their socks off.

"Tai Smith has been enormous for us up front; while young Michael Cklamovski played well after coming on for Reed Taylor who tore a hamstring about 25 minutes into the first half. Young Macca did a huge job, missed a penalty but then scored the winner. Right across the field we had good players. At the back new signing Tommy Mijic is combining well with Todd Halloran. These wins will pick the boys up ten-fold. I'm very happy."  

Northern Tigers 0 Bankstown Berries 0, North Turramurra Recreation Area

Northern Tigers and Bankstown Berries shared the spoils in a nil-all stalemate at North Turramurra on Saturday. 

The Tigers had a golden opportunity to get their season back on track after last week's shock loss to Macarthur Rams but were unable to subdue a tenacious Berries side fresh from consecutive wins over Hills Brumbies and Spirit FC respectively. But despite the draw, Tigers' coach Mark McCormick was delighted with his side's performance.

"We worked fantastic last night, we played really, really well," McCormick told Football NSW. "We created loads of chances but just couldn't score. The players were fantastic. Their workrate and ball retention, their creaitivity and the fact we played the way we wanted to play was excellent.

"Berries are tough to break down and they're disciplined. But we probably deserved to win, we just couldn't convert our opportunities."

The recent departure of star striker Ryan Peterson and goalkeeper Harrison Devenish-Meares to college soccer in the U.S.A. has made life more challenging for the Tigers, especially in the outfield, but McCormick has thrived on creating depth in his squad by promoting new and young talent.

"We had three teenagers and a 20-year-old start for us last night so it's great for the young guys," McCormick said. "I'm delighted with how we played and on another night we could've won that game four or five nil.

"The league is really interesting because everyone has the potential to beat everyone else. We're lucky enough to have had some good results earlier in the season that have allowed us to be high up the table (in third place). But we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us if we're to make the playoffs." 

Meanwhile, the Berries backed up from Wednesday night's 2-0 win over Spirit in a positive and lively manner and while they were unable to score a goal, they left the Tigers' den with an away point for their efforts.

All season Berries player coach Perry Moustakas has praised his young side for their fighting qualities and spirit and again they proved just how tough they can be against one of the premier side's in the competition.

The Berries have now gone unbeaten in three outings, proving that through hard work and fighting spirit, anything is attainable.    

Blacktown Spartans 1 North Shore Mariners 0, Blacktown Football Park

Blacktown Spartans beat North Shore Mariners 1-0 at Blacktown Football Park to earn their third win in four matches.

Michael Konestabo outjumped the Mariners' defence in the 75th minute to score the only goal of the game.

Spartans coach Luis Contigiani was happy to get the spoils against a tough opponent, especially after having Richard Blanco sent off on the hour.

"I think we played with 10 men for most of the second half, so it was a great effort," Contigiani told Football NSW.

"North Shore play direct football, every throw-in in our defensive third was like a corner. They send the tall timber forward and they throw it in and they look for a scramble in the box and hope to capitalise.

"They try to get goals through aerial scrambles and direct balls into the box. That's how they try to unsettle you."

Contigiani added that when his side lost Blanco he knew North Shore would try to recirculate the ball and play with width. He also knew that they'd return to being direct whenever possible.

"When we went down to 10 men we knew that as long as we kept a central block we'd be fine," Contigiani said. "So we sat centrally, we let them come at us; we made it a very big point to try to stop the crosses. If we let them cross, they could get a cheap goal on us. But because we stopped a lot of those aerial balls we made life a lot easier for ourselves. North Shore were desperate to equalise and we had some counter attacks and could've easily scored a couple more."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Contigiani replied: "To be down to 10 men at nil-all and to be able to take the lead and then hold onto that lead made me really happy. I was very impressed with centre backs Emmanuel Elali and Ben Ansah. Ben has changed us. When we brought Ben over he was playing 20s for Mounties but I saw potential in him and he has changed things for us at the back. We're now a lot more secure, more disciplined. There's better communication. He had a tremendous game. Striker Alex Boyadijan was a workhorse. Although he didn't score a goal, his work off the ball was unbelievable. I'm very proud of those boys."    

Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Hills Brumbies 4, Sydney United Sports Centre

Hills Brumbies smashed Western Sydney Wanderers 4-1 in a well-planned tactical victory at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday night.

Smarting from a 3-2 loss to Bankstown Berries last week, Hills were looking for something different to upset a Wanderers side fresh from a 3-2 win over Blacktown Spartans, their first win in eight matches.

Brumbies coach Dan Sheppard said his side executed their game plan perfectly.

"We executed our game plan really well, capitalised on a few moments and got the result that we wanted," Sheppard told Football NSW.

"Everyone had a really top performance and everyone did everything that was asked of them and they mostly completed it in the full 90 minutes.

"Against a team like Wanderers you need to be excellent all over the field because they have so many players who can change a game.

"That win would be right up there as one of our best games of the season. Wanderers' goal came from a mistake that they capitalised on and we didn't really give them too much of a sniff. We did a couple of different tactical things but we hadn't done in the past."   

The past month hasn't been an easy one for the Brumbies, who hadn't won since they beat Mounties Wanderers in Round 13.

But Sheppard's team has continued to create opportunities and it was only a matter of time before those chances were converted into goals. Unfortunately for Western Sydney, the Brumbies rediscovered the art of scoring at Edensor Park on Saturday night.

The Brumbies' win has them placed in sixth equal on the ladder, alongside Mounties, Mt Druitt and Bankstown Berries.

Meanwhile, Western Sydney again slumped to defeat, but despite their woes, they remain in fourth place on the table, courtesy of their good form earlier in the season.

Bankstown City 2 Spirit FC 3, Jensen Park

Spirit FC escaped with a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Bankstown City at Jensen Park on Sunday, a win that sees them jump from second-last to equal sixth on the league table.

Bankstown opened the scoring in the 23rd minute before Michael Streeter equalised for Spirit 10 minutes later. Streeter grabbed another goal in the 37th and the visitors went to the sheds with a 2-1 lead.

Bankstown equalised with a penalty on the hour before Spirit's Zoran Kolundzic scored the winner one minute into stoppage time to steal the spoils.

Spirit coach David Perkovic was pleased with the result but not so happy with the performance.

"I'm happy with the result but the performance wasn't great," Perkovic told Football NSW. "Jensen Park is a difficult place to play and we made too many errors and didn't play a lot of smart football. But at the end of the day we went there to get three points and we did that. It keeps our season alive so I'm satisfied. It was good to score three goals but disappointing to concede two."

Perkovic added that after playing three games in eight days his side was feeling a little bit fatigued.

"We just ground it out and it's always nice to score goals. Its been a tough week having three games in eight days so that probably played a part in our performance in terms of mental and physical fatigue. But having said that it'll be nice to return to a regular training week and work on some things and get ready for next week.

"Our midweek game against the Berries was very difficult and the boys were content with letting that be an isolated game and just move forward from this point on. That 2-0 loss against the Berries has been our only glitch in the second round so hopefully we can keep getting those wins. Hopefully we'll have a few positive training sessions this week and recover in time for our next game against Mounties next Saturday night."  

Spirit's form since the second round kicked off six weeks ago has been exceptional, with the Berries' loss their only setback in five games. Momentum at this stage of the season is critical and Perkovic's side could just prove to be a dark horse as the season winds down to its conclusion.

Meanwhile, Bankstown City's season doesn't get any easier with Mile Todoroski's side still firmly entrenched on the bottom of the league table, seven points behind Blacktown Spartans.

Despite their position on the table, the Lions have enough quality to trouble any team in the compeition. But for whatever reason they haven't been able to climb away from the lower depths of the league and find themselves in a race against the clock with just seven rounds remaining.

Hopefully the coming weeks will provide some respite for Todoroski and his team of battlers. Only time will tell.

By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter