Want proof the NPL 2 NSW Men’s is tighter than ever before? Look no further than Round 15 of the competition as dramatic draws and an unbelievable upset captured the hearts and minds of football fans on a very foggy long weekend.
Match of the Round
Blacktown Spartans vs Northern Tigers
The fog settled like a blanket over Blacktown Football Park as the Northern Tigers made their way west to take on the Spartans.
But as the players emerged onto the field, the icy cloud-like fog withdrew, like a curtain opening ready to reveal a grand show.
And what a show it was.
One goal, one incredible upset, and one night to forget in front of goal for the Northern Tigers.
Neither coach would have been pleased with how the game began as both sides seemed uneasy in possession, choosing to thump the ball long – endangering the cars that had entrusted the safety of their windshields to the towering fences that bordered the field.
But as each team’s nerves began to ease, the ball started to zip around the pitch, leading to a flurry of chances for both sides.
The first chance fell to the Spartans.
And, much to the delight of coach Nick Porreca, it fell to superman Boyadjian.
The Tigers failed to clear the lines following a scramble in the box, and Spartans’ winger Garang Awac pounced on a loose ball. Looking up, Awac saw Boyadjian unmarked pleading for the ball to be played into his path. Awac obliged and Boyadjian did what seems to come as instinctively to him as breathing, and used his calfzillas to roll the ball past the keeper and into the net.
Looking up at the scoreboard perched in the far corner of the field, it was a surprise to see the Spartans in the lead but few could argue the Tigers didn’t deserve to be losing after their sluggish start to the game.
With only 17 minutes gone, there was still plenty of time for the Tigers to get back in the contest and they almost responded immediately through a sharp shooter of their own.
Liam Mcconaghy has been a reliable source of goals this season but his glancing header trickled wide of the far post after a sublime passing move on the right hand side unlocked the Spartan defence.
As the half wore on, the Tigers continued to carve out half-chances in front of goal but each time Spartans’ keeper Dominic Nascimben was equal to the effort.
The Spartans held a deserved lead at the break but there was a tangible feeling hovering in the misty air that if the Tigers could shake themselves from their winter hibernation, they would be able to find their way back into the game.
And four minutes into the second half, the Tigers came as close as you can to finding their equaliser.
A whipped corner found Liam Mcconaghy at the near post and his deft header fizzed over the keeper and smacked into the far upright and bounced out.
It had been a while since Tonu Liiband had something to do in the Tigers’ goal and perhaps that was his excuse when on 53 minutes, he fumbled a low cross, spilling the ball into the path of a Spartans’ player. Just as it seemed the Spartans were going to gratefully accept the invitation to smash the ball into the back of the net, Liiband acrobatically thrust his leg into the air to block the goal-bound effort. If you’re a fan of the Premier League and need a visual before the highlights video drops, search David De Gea against Arsenal and Alexis Sanchez at the Emirates from the past season.
But what followed this, was a moment of pure bewilderment.
Oliver Wiggin raced his way down the left wing, weaving through players like a slalom on a winter slope. Spotting the run of his forward ahead of him, Wiggin played an intelligent pass into his path. The Tigers’ striker cut back on his right foot and sent a shot sailing towards the roof of the net. Nascimben parried the shot into the air but as it dropped out of the night sky, the ball fell onto the cross bar before deflecting into the lap of an awaiting Tigers’ player. Stunned by the perplexing path the ball had taken, the Tigers’ player could only stab a limb at it. The ball, seemingly with a mind of its own, then flew through the air towards the goal but had its entry rejected by a stubborn right upright.
Everyone in the ground took a collective breath.
How did the ball not go in?
Jason Eagar cut a frustrated but confused figure on the sideline as nothing seemed to be going right for his side in front of goal.
Trying to change his team’s luck, Eagar inserted Rory Spiers into the mix but his introduction brought blistering pace but no breakthrough in their endeavour to beat Nascimben in goals.
It was proving to be a night to remember for Nascimben as just 14 minutes from time, he showed cat-like reflexes to deny Mcconaghy from close range.
There was one final chance for the Tigers to steal a point as right-back Matthew Stewart found himself with the ball at his feet just 12 yards from goal. Stewart had the goal at his mercy as he approached ominously but his shot soared high over the bar – to the dismay of the entire Tigers’ bench.
The Spartans rejoiced at full-time, in recognition of both a tremendous performance and tremendous result.
And for the first time this season, the Spartans have won two games in a row, giving themselves a wealth of breathing space between themselves and the bottom-placed Rams.
The Tigers were left reeling from a result that sees them slip down to 8th in the table, and could significantly hurt their chances of playing finals’ football at the end of the season.
Saturday 9th June 2018
Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans 1 (A, Boyadjian 17’)
Northern Tigers 0
Blacktown Spartans: D. Nascimben, E. El Ali, P. Crevani, A. Boyadjian, D. Akol, B. Bezzina, M. Donatiello, A. Voloder, R. Blanco, A. Pecora, C. Torrelli, M. Cook, N. Sansom, G. Awac, B. Ansah, H. Brown.
Northern Tigers: T. Liiband, J. Bachelard, J. Craig, M. Rolston, J. Hardwick, L. Mcconaghy, L. Dawson, M. Stewart, O. Wiggin, Z. Morris, N. Polinsky, M. Warner, R. Spiers.
GHFA Spirit FC 2 vs Rydalmere Lions 2
It’s a score-line the great Richie Benaud would’ve loved to have read.
But it’s a score-line both David Perkovic and Tony Basha would rather not.
A game that both sides felt as though they could have and probably should have won ends in a frustrating draw just like a shot of de-caff coffee on a morning you really need a boost.
Spirit FC opened the scoring after Louie Zacharopoulos nabbed his first senior goal for the club midway through the first half.
It looked like a lead David Perkovic’s side would hold to the break but one minute before half-time, Rydalmere levelled the contest.
Danny Ortega Roman rose highest following a corner to thump his header home.
The two sides switched roles in the second period.
This time Rydalmere scored midway through the half after Victor Anyimba sent the ball sailing to where only the spiders hang out, in the top corner of the net from 30 yards out.
It was an emphatic strike by the winger that looked like it would deliver his side all three points.
But with time evaporating faster than the fog in the night sky, Spirit lumped a ball forward that found the head of Grant Cornwell whose effort beat the Lions’ keeper and nestled in the back of the net.
A draw is better than a defeat but it’s a point that firmly entrenches both sides in the middle of the table, unable to break into the elusive top six.
St George FC 2 vs Western Sydney Wanderers 2
It’s the 87th minute and the Wanderers are celebrating what they believe is the winning goal in this crucial top half of the table clash.
Fast forward three minutes later and the celebrations were still going, but this time they belonged to St George as Hussein Akil had snatched a dramatic late equaliser.
This topsy-turvy clash had supporters cheering one minute then crying the next as the action swept from one side of the field to the other.
Despite the end-to-end action, both sides went to the break locked at 0-0.
That was until Samuel Silvera made his way off the bench, onto the pitch and onto the scoresheet with his very first touch of the match.
It was a Silvera special as he swerved in a free-kick from 25 yards out.
But, in an ominous foreshadow of what was to come later in the match, Hussein Akil rained on the Wanderers parade, pulling a goal back for St George moments later.
It’s been a wonderful two weeks for Akil who has shown true leadership in the absence of some key figures at St George.
With less than 5 minutes remaining the Wanderers hit the front, Fabian Monge teed up Marley Peterson who blasted his effort into the net.
But again Akil would spoil the party, levelling in injury-time to break red and black hearts.
St George have shown incredible resilience in recent weeks, led by arguably the most in-form player in the league, Hussein Akil. Wally Savor will be hoping Akil’s teammates can follow suit as they aim to maintain pace with Mt Druitt and the Mariners above them.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 5 vs Macarthur Rams 1
A five star team and a one star team leaves us with a logical result.
After heavy fog subsided a hurricane of Mt Druitt attack rolled in, rendering the Rams helpless as they tried to prevent the inevitable onslaught.
Leading 3-0 at half-time, both sides emerged for the second period looking as though they had both accepted the fate that so obviously lay before them.
There was a brief moment of life in the Macarthur side when they pulled a goal back on 64 minutes but two late goals to the Rangers added a rather large exclamation mark to the result.
After the match, the scorecard had a familiar look to it as Emmanuel Gonzalez – twice, Hiten Satoh, Lachlan Roberts and Alex Vlismas all etched their names into the ‘goal scorers’ column.
After a mid-season stumble, the Rangers look to have found their feet and now enjoy an eight-point lead above the chasing pack.
The gap isn’t quite as large as eight but the Rams now have to cross a whopping 7 point bridge if they are to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon this season.
Hills United 3 vs Parramatta FC 3
After three draws in four games, the last thing Hills United needed in this home clash against Parramatta was another… draw.
But after trailing by two goals after just 17 minutes, Hills coach Luke McGuire would have gladly taken a draw.
The ever reliable Neram Yalda opened the scoring after just three minutes, notching his eighth for the campaign.
And Parramatta’s impressive start continued as they doubled their lead through Huseyin Jasli just over 10 minutes later.
The Eagles were soaring and it looked like the game was over before the half-time break.
But a lapse in concentration just 7 minutes before the break allowed Hills to get back into the match.
Pete Cejka scored Hills’ first from the spot on 38 minutes before the one-man band, Daniel Fogarty scored his 10th of the season just before the interval.
With both sides scoring two goals in quick succession in the first half, it was clear that momentum would play a huge part in deciding which team would walk away with three points.
Huseyin Jasli had his say on who should take home the ’W’ 69 minutes when he scored his second of the game.
But the final word was left to the fantastic Fogarty who waited until the 92nd minute to silence the cheers of the Eagles’ travelling band.
After their fourth draw in five games, Hills slip further down the table to fifth. Their clash against the Wanderers shapes as a must-win as they desperately cling to their finals’ spot.
Parramatta FC switch their focus to a crucial match against rivals Rydalmere next week where they seek to reverse the 4-1 thumping they endured earlier in the season.
North Shore Mariners 2 vs Canterbury Bankstown 1
It seemed the Mariners were suffering from an identity crisis on Sunday afternoon as a large red and white banner stating, “We are Northbridge”, hung prominently behind one of the goals.
The banner served its purpose thankfully, as the players arriving in red and white were able to quickly remind themselves of who they are, where they were and the fact 90 minutes of gruelling football awaited them.
The first half raced by with little action as both sides lacked the necessary quality in the final third to trouble the scorers.
Mitchell Smith was warming up for the home side and it must’ve been some warm-up because the Mariners’ player scored with his very first touch of the ball.
The Mariners doubled their lead just 5 minutes later when Lee Jones blasted his spot-kick into the top right hand corner, giving the keeper no chance.
Just like an impartial parent wanting to show no favouritism to their kids, the referee awarded Canterbury Bankstown a penalty just two minutes after the Mariners’.
Domenico Tripodi kept his composure to convert and drag his team back into the contest.
Branko Culina urged his team forward, in search of another late equaliser but their luck wasn’t in this week, with the Mariners holding on for an important three points to keep their place in the top six.
Mounties Wanderers vs Central Coast Mariners (washed out)
Source FNSW website - By Ryan Latty