Round 20 of the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition kicked off on Friday night when the Marconi Stallions outclassed Bankstown City Lions 5-0 at Jensen Park.
The scoreline actually flattered a poor Bankstown side as Marconi could so easily have scored at least another three.
In other games Northern Tigers beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1; Central Coast Mariners defeated Macarthur Rams 5-2; Spirit FC lost to Mounties Wanderers 1-0; and North Shore Mariners beat Hills United 2-1.
Meanwhile, in Sunday games Blacktown Spartans and Mt Druitt Town Rangers shared the spoils 2-all, while St George and Bankstown Berries score one goal each in a stalemate at Fraser Park.
For the first time in weeks, there were no upsets but the competition remains incredibly even, especially from third place down. With six rounds remaining of the regular season, Marconi and St George have settled into a steady rhythm, while Bankstown City will find it very difficult to escape relegation.
The rest of the clubs meanwhile, have their respective destinies in their own hands. The next six weeks will be played on a knife's edge with every club fighting desperately for a place in the semi-finals.
Bankstown City 0 Marconi Stallions 5, Jensen Park
Marconi Stallions outclassed Bankstown City 5-0 in a one-sided PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Jensen Park on Friday night.
The Stallions could so easily have won by more but a combination of missed opportunities, a terribly bumpy pitch and pure bad luck prevented the home side from being humiliated in what was a limp performance from a team desperate to avoid relegation at the end of the season.
Funnily enough Bankstown had the better of the opening 10 minutes with former Stallion Michael Cimino showing some nice touches in the centre of the park. In the fifth minute Cimino threaded a good pass to Kody Maude whose shot was well saved by Marconi goalkeeper Nenad Vekic.
Unfortunately that was to be the Lions' only decent shot until the tail end of the match.
From that point on Marconi played with a zest and vigor that Bankstown found difficult to contain and it came as no surprise when Peter Pelekanos opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Pelekanos almost grabbed another two minutes later, only to see his header crash against the bar.
The league's leading scorer Sean Rooney then got in on the act and fired a free kick just wide before Marko Jesic tucked home his side's second after receiving a neat pass from Mirjan Pavlovic in the 26th minute.
Rooney then unleashed a long-range effort that Lions' keeper Dion Shaw saved comfortably, before having another crack that sailed wide of the target. At this stage of the game Rooney was causing mayhem everywhere but on the scoreboard.
Jesic then repaid Pavlovic for creating his goal earlier in the game when he hit a low cross for the Stallions' number seven to tap home from close range, the ball trickling past Shaw and over the line, barely touching the back of the net.
At 3-0, referee Adrian Arndt blew the whistle for halftime, the gulf in class between the two sides enormous. Indeed, the Lions were probably relieved to take a breather and to regather their wits, such was the dominance of the visitors.
The second half proved to be just as one-sided as the first, and again Rooney showed his intent just after the restart when he blasted a rocket against the crossbar. But after a series of near misses, the number 8's perseverance finally paid off in the 48th minute when he headed home a perfect cross for a 4-0 lead.
Marconi were cruising, with the combination between Rooney and Pavlovic causing plenty of grief in the Lions' defence; but midway through the second half Bankstown finally offered some resistance. Jeffrey Issa and Spiros Agathos put together a nice piece of interplay and Cimino continued to be a presence with the simplicity of his passing and ability on the ball. Far too often his teammates tried the big play or the impossible pass instead of just keeping things short and simple. And time upon time, poor option-taking, a stray bounce or a poor touch conspired to deny the Lions from gaining any momentum.
Marconi received a penalty on the hour, only to see dreadlocked skipper Christopher Nunes blast his spot kick over the bar. This was the right back's only blemish in an outstanding performance. His pace, defensive ability and knack for intercepting Bankstown's attacking raids down his side of the pitch, were composed and impressive.
In the 80th minute the Lions created their best passage of play, but winger Huseyin Jasli was unable to keep his finish below the bar. Coach Mile Todoroski could only stand by and shake his head in disappointment.
Seven minutes later Pavlovic showed how it was done, slotting home a penalty to hammer the final nail into the Lions' coffin for a comprehensive 5-0 victory.
Marconi thoroughly deserved their win and as one wag in the crowd said: "Bankstown were lucky to score nil!", with the scoreline actually flattering the Lions, who were probably lucky not to concede at least another three goals.
Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis has done a fantastic job since taking the reins at Marconi Stadium and his side look focused and determined, an ominous sign for their rivals as the competition winds down to its conclusion.
As expected, the Stallions mentor was pleased with the performance.
"Five nil result, another clean sheet, we'll take it any day of the week," Tsekenis told Football NSW.
"We were expecting probably a little bit more resistance from them with club championships on the line, but we played our game with high intensity, we forced it and we came away with a very good result."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Tsekenis replied: "Our intensity to start the game and get a couple of goals early. We really forced it upon them and were good enough to put them away. Having the clean sheet is very important to us; I think it's four in a row now. It's something that we pride ourselves in, making sure that we're not conceding many and scoring goals. Tonight we probably could have scored maybe a few more if we were a bit more composed in front of goal."
Tsekenis added that since taking over as coach, he has been impressed with the team's improvement.
"The improvement of every individual player in every role (has been impressive). Everyone's putting the effort in in every position and that's very pleasing for me."
Unfortunately the positives were few and far between for a poor Bankstown side that struggled to compete when they should have been fighting tooth and nail for survival. With only six games remaining of the regular season, Bankstown City are in a parlous state with relegation to the third tier staring them fairly and squarely in the face.
Bankstown City's assistant coach Jason Naidovski said that while he was disappointed with his side's performance, competing against a Marconi side blessed with the likes of Rooney, Jesic and Pavlovic was a tough assignment.
"Our backs were up against the wall from the start of the game," Naidovski told Football NSW.
"We're in a position as a club that we don't want to be in but it's something that we're in at the moment and we've just got to do what we've got to do to try to get out of it."
When asked what positives his side would take from the game, Naidovski replied: "There wasn't many, I'll be honest with you. But like I said we're in a position now where we've got our backs against the wall and we've got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go again."
Bankstown City 0
Marconi Stallions 5 (Peter Pelekanos, Marko Jesic, Mirjan Pavlovic 2, Sean Rooney)
Friday 14 July 2017
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead, John Park
Bankstown City: 1. Dion Shaw (GK), 15. Spiros Agathos, 10. Hussein Akil, 41. Michael Cimino, 5. Jeffrey Issa, 11. Huseyin Jasli, 35. Mohamed Kardoli, 37. Kyohei Kimura, 14. Mato Lucic, 7. Kody Maude, 12. Steven Veleski
Subs: 36. Marko Filipovic, 8. David McMurray, 21. Harry Timms, 9. Nikola Todoroski, 29. Jamieson Mobios
Yellow Cards: 15. Spiros Agathos
Coach: Mile Todoroski
Marconi Stallions: 1. Nenad Vekic (GK), 4. Troy Danaskos, 2. Stefan Dubocanin, 10. Marko Jesic, 23. Chritopher Nunes, 7. Mirjan Pavlovic, 14. Peter Plekanos, 8. Sean Rooney, 18. Peter Triantis, 22. Brandon Vella, 9. Shane Webb
Subs: 19. Eros Bergamin, 25. Sam Burfoot, 6. Raimond Coletta, 21. Kristian Sekutkoski, 3. Brett Studman
Coach: Peter Tsekenis
Northern Tigers 2 Western Sydney Wanderers 1, North Turramurra
Northern Tigers beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at North Turramurra on Saturday to consolidate third position on the league table.
Teenager Jordan Smylie and veteran Jamie Craig scored for the Tigers, while Hall grabbed a consolation goal for Western Sydney.
"I thought we deserved to win, I thought we were the better team," said Tigers' coach Mark McCormick.
"In the first half at times we played quite well and then the second half it became very scrappy from both teams. When they scored in the last 20 minutes I was a bit nervous. They were desperate to get an equaliser and we were desperate to hang on."
McCormick said beating the Wanderers was a good effort, especially because luck had seemingly deserted his side in recent weeks.
"It was a good win for our guys because over the last few weeks the luck hadn't been going our way and I think we deserved to win and getting a tight 2-1 result is good for the guys' confidence."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, McCormick replied: "Scoring two goals, I think we hit the post and the bar and we had two cleared off the line, so we were creating chances. In terms of style and aesthetic beauty we were better against Bankstown Berries last week and it was a nil-nil game. I think we've played much better this season but yesterday it was important to get a result."
McCormick also praised Josh Ward for his performance.
"Josh Ward has just come back from injury and he was really good yesterday," the Scotsman said. "I thought he was the standout performer."
Meanwhile, despite the defeat, Western Sydney only drop one place to fifth on the ladder, a positive that coach Trevor Morgan will grab with both hands.
Missing a few regulars in Kyle Cimenti, Tariq Maia, Tate Russell and Matthew Lecce, who were required for first team duty against English Premier League giants Arsenal, Morgan was able to blood a few youngsters against the Tigers and he came away impressed by their efforts.
"A few boys got their first runs for us," Morgan told Football NSW.
"And the step from 20s to first grade is a big step. It's like going from a state league player to a fulltime player. Stepping up was a good experience for some of the boys."
When asked what positives came out of the game, Morgan replied.
"Obviously the boys getting experience was a big positive. The boys who got the chance of sitting on the bench for the Arsenal match was part of why kids come to a club like Western Sydney, they're dreaming to make the top team.
"The boys should take some confidence out of the Tigers game. They didn't win, they started poorly and were under pressure early on but in the end it was a 2-1 game and that means they made something out of it. Two-nil to the Tigers in the first half, one-nil to us second half, they're the positives.
"In the end 2-1 was probably a fair result. It was 50-50 possession. They came at us strong at the start, we made a couple of mistakes and had to work our way back into the game. We put out a chance to equalise and they had a couple of chances to take it to 3-1 so we have to live with that.
"I think the Tigers' experience was what made the difference. They've got more senior boys, they've got more games under their belts than my boys.
"Also, the Tigers are one of the best organised state league clubs in the NPL. They have a plan and purpose to everything they do, they're always very, very competitive and they know how they're going to try to win the game. They're strong in their commitment to that so you know you're going to get a tough day in all grades from them and we got that. It was really a good day for us.
"Everyone wants to win the competition they play in and between now and the end of the season we'll try to win every game we can. We'll aim to be as competitive as possible for the remainder of the season and if we get a little bit of momentum going then I'll back the boys to improve and to rise to the occasion."
Indeed, with just six weeks remaining before the end of the regular season, Western Sydney has a golden opportunity to put some form on the board and to gain some momentum in the leadup to the finals series.
Central Coast Mariners 5 Macarthur Rams 2, Pluim Park
Central Coast Mariners sent Macarthur Rams packing with a 5-2 victory at Pluim Park on Saturday.
For the Mariners, Duncan Stewart and Peter Kekeris scored two goals each, while right back Shelford Dais grabbed one; and for the Rams, Argentinian import Marcelo Turdera scored twice, bringing his tally to five from as many games.
Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with the win for a number of reasons.
"It was particularly pleasing given that we'd had five boys play (for the first team) less than 24 hours beforehand against the Olyroos, so it was a very impressive effort from them to look after their recovery in such a way that they were able to back up and give us everything against Macarthur."
Cahn said his side started really well, with sharpshooter Duncan Stewart opening the scoring in the 15th minute.
"We started the game really well. A good ball from James Enticknap and great first touch by Duncan Stewart to go around the keeper and then slide it into the back of the net gave us the lead after just 15 minutes.
"But we had two real lapses on defence that allowed them to score two goals. It was disappointing and almost unthinkable that we were 2-1 down having been so dominant.
"I was similar to the first time we played them actually. Our games against them have probably been our two most dominant performances of the season, but they've always caused us problems and always been competitive against us despite not really being in the game."
Cahn said his side missed several chances in front of goal but he remained confident they would keep on believing in themselves and eventually score, which is exactly what happened.
"Peter Kekeris scored a really good goal just before halftime, cut in from the right-hand side and buried it in the near corner," Cahn said.
"And then halftime was just a case of making sure the players were aware of the mistakes we'd made and how they'd allowed Macarthur to still be in the game."
Cahn said the second half was outstanding, with his side dominant and in complete control, both with and without the ball.
"We set up really well and scored three good goals in the second half. Pete Kekeris again cut in from the right and put one into the top corner, a great finish. Duncan Stewart got the fourth which killed the game for us; and Shelford Dais scored to put the result beyond any doubt and gave us the chance to bring some of the players off who'd played the day before.
"It was a really professional performance in a difficult week. We'd not had the full squad together given lot of them had been on the first team schedule so it was really nice to come together and perform like that. Hopefully we can develop the consistency we had a few weeks back going into the tail-end of the season. It was a good week overall."
Meanwhile, Macarthur coach Eddie Briscoe conceded that the better side won on the night.
"We went down 1-0 but then we came back," Briscoe told Football NSW.
"Our first goal was fantastic, an eight-or-nine pass move, Marcelo finished it off really well. Then we got them over the top and made it 2-1 when Marcelo ran around the keeper and scored.
"But even at that stage the Mariners were still creating and we didn't do too much after that. We were dead in the legs and as you know, the Mariners are a fantastic team. We needed to battle, and keep chasing and fighting and maintaining our shape. But we just didn't do that and once they got their third goal we fell apart."
"Central Coast are a fantastic football team and not only that they play a high-tempo, high pressure game for 90 minutes plus. They don't stop, they're relentless and they're just hard to contain. They create and they build pressure. They got the result and they deserved it."
When asked what the positives were to come out of the game, Briscoe replied: "We actually played some decent football in the first 45 minutes. And to hold them at two goals wasn't too bad. For 60 minutes we were quite decent and then after that we fell apart. We've got to find a way to play for 90 minutes."
Spirit FC 0 Mounties Wanderers 1, Valentine Sports Park
Mounties Wanderers extended their winning streak to three matches with a late 1-0 victory over Spirit FC at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday night.
Mitchell Davidson struck home the winner in the 84th minute and Mounties now sit in equal fifth on the ladder with Western Sydney Wanderers. Spirit FC meanwhile, lie two places behind in equal seventh.
"Early on it was a bit of an arm wrestle but in saying that I'm really happy with the outcome," Mounties coach Lee Sterrey told Football NSW.
"It wasn't one of our better games this year and to be honest we probably can't play much worse. But in saying that, Spirit didn't test us more than three times in the whole 90 minutes so I was happy with that and we got a clean sheet as well, which we haven't had for a while."
Sterrey added that his side showed tremendous character to get the spoils.
"It was a character win, put it that way. Again it's testament to what's in the room. The boys have been up all season and the character's been first class. Yes, some results haven't gone our way earlier this season but I've always had belief that something will turn for the team sooner or later. Now we've had three wins on the trot there's a lot of confidence in the room.
"The strength of the team was there yesterday, we worked awfully hard and we didn't want to give an inch. All the basic ethics of football - the work rate and all that was there. It was just a matter of taking a chance. Reed Taylor had the best chance of the match by far after about 25 (minutes) - a whole empty goal at his mercy and all he had to do was run in and tap it in the net - but they cleared.
"Spirit did not throw a lot at us and we weren't under any pressure at the back. They probably had three chances in the whole game. We had a couple of headers, and a few things across the face of goal that we could've done better with; a couple set pieces we should've got on the end of, but I'm just happy to get the three points in the bag and move on to Macarthur next week."
When asked to name his standouts, Sterrey replied: "I thought Anthony Smith was really good at right fullback. He got high and attacked them well down the right-hand side.
"It was a game of our unsung heroes, blokes who get through a lot of work. Our Japanese boy Hiro (Tokuichi) was very strong in central midfield again; our centre backs were really good. Tommy Mijic is doing a real good job for us. Really strong player at the back, good under pressure, good on the ball. Todd Halloran did a good job at the back as well and those two are striking up a good combination.
"Nathan Sampson also had a good game at number six. I put him on Spirit's Andre Schroeder and Schroeder didn't get a kick. I knew he was their most dangerous weapon and I thought Nathan nullified him throughout the whole game."
Meanwhile, Spirit coach David Perkovic was disappointed with the result.
"It was an interesting opening period where I felt we had two really good chances to go in front in the first 20 minutes," Perkovic told Football NSW.
"But we didn't take those chances. We missed a tap-in with the ball coming across the face of goal and missed a golden opportunity to go in front. From there Mounties asserted themselves more and as the game wore on they became more and more direct in their approach, bypassing their midfield which became very effective for them.
"The game was decided from a set piece. They put a free kick into the box, we didn't deal with it and there was a bit of a scramble and the ball ended up in the back of the net. That was the difference between the two sides in the end. The first half was pretty even and they had a fair share of the second half but they didn't really create too many goal-scoring opportunities. However they were probably more in control of the match in the second half. I think if we could've taken one of our earlier chances it could have been a much different game.
"Louis Bozanic put the ball across the face of goal and all Andre Carle had to do was tap the ball into the net. But the ball got caught between his feet and that was definitely the best chance of the game. Mounties didn't have a better chance than that. We were three metres out from the goal.
"Mounties dominated possession in the second half but they didn't create a lot of goalscoring opportunities."
Perkovic added that losing defensive midfielder Zoran Kolundzic to injury five minutes into the second half was a huge blow for his side.
"Zoran's loss had a major impact on the game because he's good at aerial battles and intercepts a lot of ball. We actually lost him for most of the first half too which is when he suffered the injury and they took advantage of that.
"Also, on Saturday morning Dylan Whitlock pulled out through illness and he has been in such good form lately that we really missed him on the day as well.
"But credit to Mounties for getting the result. They dominated possession but really didn't do much with it. They put a lot of hopeful ball forward which we dealt with on every occasion except one. And that's all they needed to win."
Hills United 1 North Shore Mariners 2, Lilys Football Centre
North Shore Mariners got their season back on track with a 2-1 victory over Hills United at Lilys Football Centre on Saturday night.
Marquin Smith and Braden Cheng scored the Mariners' goals, while Nathan Rayner pulled one back for Hills.
"We've had a bit of a midseason slump," Mariners coach Joe Haywood told Football NSW. "We've just been unfortunate in games where we should've scored goals but we haven't and been punished. Even against Marconi I thought we played okay but we lost 2-0.
"We haven't panicked in the past few weeks, it's just been one of those things that sometimes happens in sports. If you don't take your chances you get punished. Like last week against the Spartans, we were comfortable and dominated large portions of the game. Then they had a man sent off and somehow scored in the 75th minute from the only chance they had in the whole game.
"This week we had a chat and asked the boys to take a look at themselves and take responsibility because we hadn't been doing that in previous weeks. Take responsibility in front of goals. Take responsibility defending set pieces. All over the park, work as a team more than what we have been doing. We achieved that against Hills."
When asked what impressed him about his side's performance against Hills, Haywood replied: "Just the determination of the group. The heads aren't down, the spirit's been good, we've been working hard at training. They know they're better than what their results are showing and they were just glad to get two goals up (against Hills); two good goals. It was the same in 18s and 20s, all our teams were a lot better than what they have been.
"I think Hills tried to play a shape which in my opinion didn't suit what they're about. We looked at that shape during the week and set ourselves up to play against it and did some research into their team like we do every week. We had a shape that worked and we did really well. All the planning worked out very well.
When asked who stood out for his side against Hills, Haywood replied: "It was a collective effort but Braden Cheng has been outstanding this week. At training, driving the group forward and then in the actual game he did really well. He kept the boys focused on the game. And we got the result that we deserved."
Blacktown Spartans 2 Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2, Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans and Mt Druitt Town Rangers played an exciting 2-all draw at Blacktown Football Park on Sunday.
Spartans led 2-0 through goals to Alex Boyadijan and Tiano Boutoubia, but Daniel Rezo and Alex Vlismas struck back for Rangers to share the spoils.
While Blacktown sit in third-last on the table, they're only two points behind Rangers, who share sixth equal with North Shore Mariners and Bankstown Berries, so both sides have opportunities to prosper as the end of the regular season beckons on the horizon.
After last week's 1-0 win over North Shore, Spartans coach Luis Contigiani told Football NSW that despite the positives to emerge from the win, he'd be struggling for numbers for the local derby against Mt Druitt.
"I am so thin for numbers that I don't know what I'm going to do," Contigiani said. "I don't have eleven to start with. I'm going to have to bring up players from the 20s to actually start and sit on the bench. We're going to be really stretched for numbers."
Mt Druitt meanwhile, were hoping to recover from last week's 3-0 defeat to Marconi, a scoreline that coach Aidan Desmond said flattered the winners.
Rangers have struggled for form in recent weeks so a draw at least gives them a tiny bit of respite after suffering three consecutive losses leading into the clash at Spartans. But with just six rounds to go before the end of the regular season, Desmond's talented side will need to take their campaign by the scruff of the neck and play to their full potential.
The Spartans will need to do the same and with the closeness of the competition, anything's possible and there's no reason why Luis Contigiani's fledgling side cannot entertain thoughts of playing finals football. Provided they take each game as it comes and not look too far ahead, they're as good a chance as anyone to make the cut.
St George 1 Bankstown Berries 1, Fraser Park
St George and Bankstown Berries drew one-all in a nail-biter at Fraser Park on Sunday.
The result leaves Saints in second place on the ladder, eight points astray of top placed Marconi; while the Berries lie in sixth equal alongside North Shore Mariners.
The two sides went to the break level at nil-all, with Berries' Farmer receiving a red card in the 46th minute for a foul on Saints' striker Juan Carlos Romero.
Despite playing a man short, the Berries took the lead in the 55th minute through Daniel Fornito who slotted home from the penalty spot.
But true to form, that man Romero headed the equaliser from a Crighton cross in the 80th minute, the Spanish sharpshooter's 18th goal of the season.
As the top two sides in the competition, St George and Marconi have been the form sides in recent weeks, and while Saints' performance against the tenacious Berries was far from their best, a share of the spoils extended their unbeaten streak to seven matches.
As expected, Bankstown Berries scrapped for every ball, even when they were reduced to 10 men. At sixth equal on the table, the Berries' lofty position hasn't come by good fortune. It has been achieved by hard work, grit, determination and spirit, key ingredients that played a huge part in the stalemate at Fraser Park.
-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter