An Easter long weekend that will be remembered for a lot more than chocolate eggs as the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition delivered some of the sweetest treats football fans have tasted all season.
Match of the Round:
Rydalmere Lions vs Canterbury Bankstown
Once or twice in a season, three points means much more than the numerical value we assign to them.
Every now and then, three points can mean the difference between triumph and tragedy, between relegation and survival.
And on Saturday night, as Rydalmere Lions and Canterbury Bankstown gathered to do battle at Valentine Sports Park, the three points on offer morphed into a metaphor of greatest significance.
Forget the fact that it’s Round 5.
That fact offered little solace to Bankstown City FC last season, who, after Round 5, sat bottom of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s table.
Where are they now…?
Take Fraser Park in 2016.
They were bottom at Round 5 and ended up being relegated to NPL 3.
So, for Canterbury Bankstown and Rydalmere Lions, two teams who have struggled thus far this season – particularly for Canterbury Bankstown who remain rooted to the bottom of the table – this fixture meant so much more than just three points.
The significance of the match was obvious from the opening whistle.
A capacity crowd, enjoying the festive of football over the long weekend, packed out the stands of Valentine Sports Park.
Canterbury Bankstown under new coach Branko Culina came out strongly in the opening period.
Daniel Fornito and Huseyin Jasli looked threatening early but each time Fornito got on the ball in the centre of the park, he was well marshalled by the Japanese Kante’ – Futoshi Kondo.
The Berries were almost rewarded for their positive start and arguably should have taken the lead on 25 minutes.
Fornito and Jasli, who look to have struck up a telepathic partnership on the left hand side of midfield, combined neatly resulting in Jasli racing through on goal. The onrushing keeper looked to put Jasli off slightly and the Berries’ midfielder saw his shot dribble agonisingly wide of the post.
The missed opportunity looked to shock Rydalmere from their slumber who responded almost immediately with the opening goal of the game.
A long ball was played in behind the Berries’ defence who allowed the ball to bounce – causing confusion between defenders and keeper – which afforded Zak Elrich the chance to ghost in behind, take the ball around the keeper and convert into an empty net.
Defensive mistakes have crippled the Berries’ season thus far and the disappointment on Branko Culina’s face was palpable as the sides trudged off the field for half-time.
The two teams emerged from the break and the second half began intriguingly similar to the first.
Canterbury Bankstown looked a new team in the second period; filled with renewed optimism and a tangible tactical re-shuffle.
Rydalmere, despite their lead, looked second best.
And again, like in the first half, the opening chance fell to the Berries – who really should have equalised.
Huseyin Jasli and Daniel Fornito again combined, this time it was Jasli’s turn to set up Fornito but the midfielder’s shot blazed over the bar from just inside the box when he had ample time to pick his spot.
The Berries continued to huff and puff to try and blow the Rydalmere house down but very quickly began to run out of breath.
And their breath was well and truly extinguished on 66 minutes when Rydalmere’s Russell Farrell scored a potential goal of the season.
Canterbury cleared the ball into the path of the right sided full back, sitting 35 yards from goal.
Time seemed to slow down as Farrell’s first touch set the ball in front of him. It rolled favourably forward for the colossal defender who approached ominously and struck his foot through the ball with an equal measure of hope and skill. The ball seemed to thank Russel for how sweetly he struck it as it repaid the defender by carving a route through the air that sailed and soared right into the top corner of the net, rendering the keeper helpless.
The Rydalmere crowd went into raptures, many of whom almost choked on the garlic sauce and charcoal chicken they were hurriedly devouring in the stands.
Take a bow, son.
And indeed he did.
The contrast in emotions between the two teams after the goal was striking.
Rydalmere roared, Canterbury crestfallen.
The game continued largely without a highlight, almost as if no one dared to compete with the Farrell thunderbolt.
But, with just seven minutes to go, Canterbury Bankstown found a lifeline.
Daniel Fornito slipped a neat pass into the path of Richard Darko who danced around one defender and dug out a shot aimed for the far post. The Rydalmere keeper, who’d performed without blemish thus far in the match, should have done better as he could only parry the ball into the vacant net.
The Berries pushed hard for an equaliser that they arguably didn’t deserve but one was not forthcoming as Rydalmere’s defence held firm.
At full-time, Canterbury Bankstown’s coach Branko Culina lamented his side’s error in judgement leading to the first goal and the misfortune of his team to concede a goal in such spectacular fashion as Farrell scored for the second.
“The lads are hurting but we are progressing. In the short time I’ve had the team, we have seen progression every day and we are all confident that this will turn around”.
“It’s not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’”, a bullish Culina stated.
Lloyd Owusu, the Technical Director of Rydalmere reflected on an important three points to steer his side clear of the troubled waters of a relegation battle.
“It’s an important win. If we want to remain safe this season, we have to win matches against teams below us, and I’m glad we could do that tonight”.
A deserved victory for Rydalmere in a game that meant far more than just the three points they collected.
Saturday 31st March 2018
Valentine Sports Park
Rydalmere Lions 2 (Z. Elrich, R. Farrell)
Canterbury Bankstown 1 (R. Darko)
Rydalmere Lions: 9. V. Anyimba, 41. A. Chiba, 16. B. Cook, 37. M. Del Vecchio, 7. Z. Elrich, 4. R. Farrell, 8. M. Gibbs, 38. D. Kahale, 12. F. Kondo, 10. M. Konestabo, 5. D. Ortega Roman, 1. D. Sadaka, 6. A. Sayan, 35. I. Separovic, 20. H. Sinpraseuth, 18. R. Stewart
Coach: Tony Basha
Canterbury Bankstown: 2. C. Andricopoulos, 17. N. Andricopoulos, 12. J. Bradshaw, 14. A. D’Mello, 24. R. Darko, 3. D. Di Ruocco, 21. J. Dimitrakas, 5. M. Farmer, 7. D. Fornito, 8. D. Hudap, 9. H. Jasli, 15. P. Moustakas, 20. E. Patramanis, 1. C. Taylor, 6. D. Tripodi, 10. A. Vais
Coach: Branko Culina
Central Coast Mariners 1 vs Macarthur Rams 1
No Smylie, no party?
Jordan Smylie earned a deserved call up to the Mariners’ A-League side this week but it was the hole he left in the NPL 2 side that gave Macarthur the belief needed to secure their first point of the season in this clash.
The Mariners worked tirelessly to break down the stubborn Rams’ defence but lacked intelligent execution in the final third to profit from their promising build-up play.
Macarthur opened the scoring through Mark Symington, capitalising on lightening quick counter attacking play in the 41st minute.
It was a lead they’d take into the break but a lead short lived into the second period as the Mariners levelled through Matias Paz who benefited from some slick midfield passing to convert in the bottom corner of the goals.
Neither side could find a winning goal in the closing stages as Macarthur secure their first point of the season and the Mariners slip back into the middle of the table.
Northern Tigers 2 vs GHFA Spirit FC 1
The form table lied.
These two teams had contrasting results last week and by all estimates the result in this match should have gone one way.
But the Tigers showed the resilience and defiance many have come to expect from them in recent years to collect an important victory.
Luke Dawson sent the home team on their way in the 17th minute with an astute glancing header which nestled just inside the far post.
The game continued with little other than the score-line to separate the two sides before Ahmed Sweedan levelled in the 70th minute.
Spirit FC had little time to enjoy their leveller however, as Joel Hardwick scored a sumptuous free kick ten minutes from time.
That strike would prove to be the difference between the two finals’ hopefuls and may well prove to be an important three points for the Tigers as they cut Mt Druitt’s lead to just three points.
Blacktown Spartans 0 vs Parramatta FC 0
There are boring 0-0 draws and then there are games like this.
Filled with action in which fans at the ground are left bemused as to how no one was able to put the ball into the back of the net.
Both coaches praised the defensive resilience in the match but lamented their profligacy in front of goal.
“We should have scored”, groaned Spartans’ coach Luis Contigiani.
Perhaps the moment Contigiani was referring to was midway through the first half when Jack Press crossed for Peter Crevani whose shot beat the keeper and seemed destined for the goal, only for a scrambling Parramatta defender to desperately clear.
Parramatta FC had chances of their own but saw them similarly slip through their fingers.
It’s another frustrating result for Parramatta whose start to the season hasn’t gotten out of first gear.
St George FC 4 vs North Shore Mariners 1
A week is a long time in football and for St George memories of their 2-0 defeat to Mt Druitt last round are well and truly extinguished after a Spanish flavoured demolition job of the North Shore Mariners.
And it was the captain of the armada, Juan Carlos Heras Romero who scored all four of his side’s goals.
The first of the night showed that when things are going your way – they really do go your way.
After just 10 minutes, the Mariners’ keeper’s clearance rebounded off Romero and trickled into the net.
But before Romero had time to go an buy a lottery ticket to cash in on his luck; he had to score three more goals.
Number two came courtesy of his Spanish Bandido, Raul Beneit Romero, who sliced the Mariners’ defence in two with a intelligent pass through to Christopher Arditti, whose strike on goal was saved initially by Domenic Maunder, only for Romero to sweep in the rebound.
Number three was almost a replay of the second, Romero side-footing home from inside the box on 61 minutes to seal his hat-trick.
Finally the Mariners troubled the scorers in the match, Mitchell Smith heading home from a cross in the 79th minute.
The Mariners’ rallied and showed signs of a comeback before Romero’s fourth sealed the points for his team.
Pirlo, Beckham, Ronaldinho – they all would have been proud with Romero’s effort as the Spaniard found the top corner of the goals from outside the box.
Back to winning ways for the Saints after their stumble last round.
The Mariners drop back to the chasing pack and will hope to bounce back next week when they host the in-form Brumbies.
Hills United 3 vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers 3
Mt Druitt have dropped their first points of the season against a Hills United outfit that are beginning to turn a few heads, shoulders, knees and toes.
Despite taking the lead twice in the match, both times courtesy of in-form striker, Alex Vlismas on 33 minutes and then again on 59 minutes, Hills United showed tremendous resolve to pull back level on both occasions.
Peter Cejka scored the first for Hills after he blasted his shot into the roof of the net from 6 yards out.
And then, with just 15 minutes to go and trailing by two goals to one, star-man Daniel Fogarty escaped his marker to sneak in behind the defence and cooly convert past the keeper.
Scores were level and Hills United were surging in confidence.
And they would take the lead just 60 seconds later when Fogarty again found the back of the net.
Could Hills do the unfathomable and beat Mt Druitt?
That questions was answered with resounding defiance by Rangers’ players just 5 minutes later when Daniel Rezo, on as a sub, and with his first touch of the season, smacked an incredible shot into the goals from 30 yards out.
The tension rose dramatically as the clock wound down towards full-time.
Would anyone be able to find a winner?
Mt Druitt believed they had on two separate occasions, only for 20s goalkeeper Joseph Yammine – filling in for the sick Luke Turnbull – to produce two outstanding saves to keep the ball out of the top corner of the net.
Hills coach Luke McGuire admitted a draw was probably a fair result in the match.
“When you score three goals in a game, you don’t deserve to lose and I think that was the case for each team tonight”.
A wonderful exhibition of attacking football from two teams that find themselves performing above expectations thus far in season 2018.
Mounties Wanderers 0 vs Western Sydney Wanderers 3
The Western Sydney Wanderers have taken out the first ‘Wanderers Derby’ of season 2018 with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Mounties Wanderers.
Mounties spent large parts of the game wandering where their first goal would come from, but there were no such struggles for Western Sydney as Lachlan Scott, Mohamed Adam and Samuel Silvera all got on the score sheet for the red & black.
It was an important victory for Western Sydney who have now secured back to back wins to get their campaign back on track after a shaky start.
For the Mounties, it’s a disappointing snap back to reality after their recent good form. But they will be hopeful of securing three points when they travel to Canterbury Bankstown in Round 6 of the competition.
Source FNSW website -By Ryan Latty