It’s a slippery slope on the road to the finals. That’s what a few teams found out this past weekend.
Just when you think you have placed yourself on solid ground, those around you have other ideas.
The National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s provided yet another reason why all eyes should be watching, as the finals mix somehow managed to get even tighter heading into the last few rounds.
Match of the Round:
Parramatta, desperate to find a win and stay alive in the NPL 2 had a lot of work to do whilst Berries aimed to keep improving on recent performances.
Despite playing their 3rd game in 7 days, the Berries started the brighter side.
Within the first 10 minutes they had 2 fantastic chances to take the lead, with one shot being fired just wide and the other saved by keeper.
Once the initial flurry had subsided, Parramatta took control of the game. Effective passing play out from the back kept the ball in motion and the tired legs of the Berries were finding it difficult to keep up.
Just reaching the mid-point in the first half, the Eagles struck gold. Sticking to their guns with ball movement, they played the ball forward for a gut busting run from midfield, to then be cut back and tucked away, 1-0.
It was a moment of elation for the Eagles and a sigh of exhaustion from the Berries.
The chances kept coming at both ends of the park, neither side striking the ball with the direction required to trouble the keeper.
As half-time loomed, the Eagles grabbed a second and a deserved lead for their efforts. An incredible run down almost the entire right wing was cut back just before tipping out and tapped away into the back of the net.
When play resumed from the break, it was the Berries who came to life, with the breather looking to have rejuvenated their spirits.
With penetrating play down each wing, the crosses began to come in fast and dangerous, the home side looking the more threatening and out to get back into the game. Several times the ball was whipped in and with each more threatening than the last it was only a matter of time before a goal was scored.
And as football often goes, it did.
Reaching the mid-point in the second half Berries fired in yet another threatening cross, which was flicked on from the front post to the free man at the back, to tap it in. Game on with 20 to go.
The game now beginning to flow back and forth, end to end, each side again had their fair share of chances. Unfortunately, it was a case of not today, as each one just couldn’t be converted and the game would finally end 2-1 to the Eagles.
Saturday 11th August, The Crest Athletic Centre
Canterbury Bankstown FC 1
Parramatta FC 2
Canterbury Bankstown FC: C. Andricopoulos, N. Andricopoulos, A. Becerra, C. Becerra, J. Bradshaw, A. D’Mello, R. Darko, G. Desouza, S. Drewery, C. Haddad, A. Hadjisocratous, D. Mcmurray, J. Nicolaou, G. Paradanta, C. Taylor
Parramatta FC: J. Aguirre, A. Awaz, S. Dubocanin, Y. Elhindi, S. Giglio, H. Jasli, J. Musgrave, A. Najdoski, J. Trifiro, R. Coletta, M. Lecce, A. Elrich, Z. Elrich
St George FC 2 vs. Northern Tigers FC 2
From the start, the match was played at a fast pace with each side willing to push players forward.
The Tigers were finding their rhythm early and creating a couple of opportunities to get themselves ahead but just missing out at the last.
As things go in football, it can all change in a matter of moments. The home side took the lead after Loe whipped in a cross to find the head of Romero who nodded home, just reaching 28 minutes.
The opening goal increased the flow of the game and the Tigers struck back soon after when Tayebi Derazkala was the fastest to react in the box from a dangerous corner, putting the ball in the back of the net to make it 1-1.
The momentum seemed to continue to favour the visitors however as half time was just around the corner Morabito fired a golden opportunity wide which would have handed the hosts the advantage heading into the sheds.
Returning to the field, the match continued in similar fashion, both sides building up well and the opportunities kept coming.
Passing two thirds into the match, the Tigers grabbed the lead. Dawson was on the end of a Hardwick cross, poking the ball inside the post and into the net.
Now in the ascendancy the Tigers began to take more control of the game however they just couldn’t convert their chances.
It would prove costly as the Saints dug deep and went in search of an equaliser. Morabito coming to the hosts rescue in the dying moments of the game, firing home in the 90th minute to end the match in stalemate 2-2.
Hills United 1 vs. Blacktown Spartans 0
Hills were out to dominate the game and keep in the mix for the finals, whilst the Spartans were searching for a way to piece everything together and get themselves off the bottom of the ladder.
The home side did dominate the match for long periods, however they couldn’t show for it on the scoreboard.
Spartans were proving resilient and they had their man between the posts to keep them in the game, denying the Hills frontline again and again.
With frustration beginning to take over, it could have proved costly as Hills gave away numerous free kicks within range of Spartans dead ball specialist Crevani. Testing the home side’s defence, chances on the night did not fare well enough for the visitors.
Finally the dead lock was broken with less than 20 minutes to play.
Welch was on hand to turn home a Fogarty cross and give Hills the lead. Welch should have had a second late in the game but his shot was desperately cleared off the line.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 1 vs. GHFA Spirit FC 2
Having secured the Premiership in odd circumstances mid-week, it was a bit of a strange game for the hosts whereas Spirit were on the charge to move up the ladder.
The match was played on an arguably uneven conditioned pitch which caused the game to become a very tight affair and in layman’s terms a bit of a scrap.
Spirit came out firing and took early dominance on the game with Ireland going close whilst Carle had an opportunity to smash home from inside the box but just couldn’t connect well enough with the strike.
Mt Druitt began to overcome the mental hurdle and grew into the first half but weren’t able to take their chances, the teams leaving the pitch for half time in dead lock.
10 minutes into the second half Spirit won a corner and after recycling possession and attacking once again, Cornwell netted to give the visitors the lead.
As they so often have down throughout the year, Rangers fought back and mid-way through the second half it was game on. Some brilliant combination play down the right wing eventually led to a ball finding their man at the back post and firing home, 1-1.
Not happy with conceding their lead, Spirit went on the attach and found their winner 10 minutes from time. This time Rangers were unable to clear the ball from the box with Spirit firing a shot back in, taking a deflection and just out of reach of the keeper’s hands and into the net. Attributed as an own-goal, the visitors rejoiced in taking out the league leaders 2-1 and raced up to 5th on the ladder.
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 vs. Macarthur Rams 2
It was a case of tired legs for the Wanderers, playing their 3rd match in 7 days and as the game began, the Rams looked to take advantage and fired a shot off early, a warning sign for what lay ahead.
Despite this, the home-side shook out the cobwebs and began to find their feet in the game, lining up a few chances which eventually led to them taking the lead.
Kumsuz was looking threatening and after a few impressive attacking runs, he weaved his way through the defence and tucked a shot away.
Not wanting to be left behind to battle for the wooden spoon, the Rams struck back in the optimal moment. Just before heading into the sheds, Awono scored and levelled up the match.
The first half was an even contest, but the visitors poked their noses in front shortly after resuming play, this time Sheerin was on hand to grab the goal.
Still the Wanderers were in the mix and Silvera looked to be the spark to swing the game into balance again with his flair and creativity.
Unfortunately for the home-side they were reduced to 10 men with almost 20 minutes to go and fight they would, any chance they could muster was repelled by the Rams, who grabbed the win and jumped further away from the wooden spoon.
Rydalmere Lions FC 3 vs. Mounties Wanderers FC 4
The Lions and Wanderers battled out a classic mid-table fight to the finals, the game giving both coaches a heart attack as the result was decided in the dying moments of the game.
Back at home the Lions got on top early within the first 15 minutes, pinching the ball in the middle of the park and releasing a clinical counter attack, Anyimba was on the end of it to cap off the move.
For the remainder of the first half it was an even affair, neither side doing much to create any real chances and it was the hosts still in the lead as the players marched into the sheds.
Whatever coach Palapanis said in the Mounties locker room worked, as his men came out firing, banging in 3 goals within 20 minutes and changing the complexion of the game completely.
Smith was the first in the mix of the goals for the visitors, just reaching 10 minutes into the second half, he lobbed the keeper after being found in space behind the Lions defence.
The Mounties kept on storming the Lions’ den.
After just missing out on going ahead from some dangerous corners, Smith was on the end of a great cross to nod the visitors into the lead 6 minutes after grabbing his first.
Then 4 minutes after the second goal Smith turned provider for Chianese, tapping in after a great pass.
Despite the game seeming to be all over, the excitement would not relent.
Mounties gave the Lions a sniff to get back into the game when they coughed up possession when their man was sent off after taking down the Lions attacker as last defender with 25 minutes to go.
The extra man advantage paid dividends just minutes later for Rydalmere who hit back through Stewart. And just like that, 2 minutes later the game was all even at 3-3 as Fofanah netted. The Lions fired up and kept pressing with the man advantage but couldn’t take their chances.
Mounties held off the Lion’s attacks well and young debutant Jeffrey almost made himself the hero of the night, going achingly close to giving the visitors the lead.
Football being a funny game, Lions had a chance with a 91st minute penalty to snatch the win, but the shot was fired well over the bar.
Finally the winner was found deep into injury time when Pivato turned brilliantly inside the Lions box and fired his shot into the back of the net ending the madness 4-3 to Mounties.
North Shore Mariners 4 vs. Central Coast Mariners 2
Finally the weekend’s fixtures were capped off with little brother taking out big brother on Sunday afternoon.
North Shore took the lead after 6 minutes when Central Coast turned the ball over which proved costly as the hosts raced to the by-line cutting back for Smith who tapped in.
The early goal woke up the visitors and William evened up the match just 10 minutes later. Great build up play lead to William firing a great shot from outside the box and into the net.
A moment of madness struck when Central Coast again gave up possession cheaply and North Shore raced in and fired home restoring their lead.
Again the players made the man on the scoreboard work when William stepped up to bang home a penalty after 33 minutes, the score now reading 2-2.
Arguably the biggest moment of the game came just on the stroke of half-time. Central Coast were awarded another penalty, this time the nerves got the best and the shot was put over the bar.
The goals kept being fired in and 7 minutes after the restart, North Shore had taken the lead once again. Losing possession deep in their own half proved costly for Central Coast and they found themselves now chasing down the game.
With the lead North Shore kept Central Coast at bay as the game drew farther out of reach for the visitors. With less than 10 minutes to go they had scored their 4th and claimed bragging rights on the day.
Round 25 Review:
Western Sydney Wanderers 0 vs. 2 Canterbury Bankstown FC
It was a mid-week fixture that came at a tough time of the year with both teams depleted with injuries and suspensions and of course the mid-week peak hour traffic.
Wanderers began the game in the ascendancy with some solid possession but the abundance of flair in their ranks were just not breaking through.
After the game began to settle, Berries capitalised and took the lead midway through the first half, Haddad giving the visitors a lead with a tidy finish.
The advantage eased the tension for the Berries and instead of allowing Wanderers back into the game they kept composure and pressed on.
After fine tuning their set-pieces from the previous matchup, Berries put practice into action and Haddad was on the end of it yet again and gave the visitors a comfortable advantage with 10 minutes until the second half.
Opportunities were fewer once the players returned and the fatigue of having played only 3 days prior was beginning to get the best of both sides.
With the result all wrapped up, Berries secured a well earnt win, maintaining their spot in the NPL 2 for another season whilst Wanderers will be a bit disappointed they couldn’t build from their win just 3 days prior.
Source FNSW Website - By Marcus Flottman