Rams edge Berries in Western thriller


In a match where the Berries hit the woodwork on three separate occasions, Scott Baillie?s side might have felt slightly unlucky to not have at least salvaged a draw.
Macarthur Rams however were rewarded for their lethal finishing and willingness to press forward in attack for lengthy periods of the match, as they claimed a surprise victory away from home.
It took the home-side only 2? minutes to display their attacking intentions, as Neill Phillipou saw his looping header tipped over the bar by Macarthur goalkeeper Roy Bell, after a long-throw into the box by Berries captain Aheleas Kotsopouloas.
5? minutes later and Kosta Lagoudakis delivered a cross from the right-hand touchline and the on-rushing Kotsopoulos produced a powerful header that crashed off the top of the crossbar with Bell stranded.
The positive opening to the match by the Berries sparked a resurgence from their West-Sydney rivals as they went on to dominate possession, and territory, for the next 20? minutes.
Only desperate, last-ditch defending by both sets of defenders prevented any genuine attempts on goal in what was an otherwise fast-paced, entertaining opening to the match with both sides unafraid to push players up the field to attack.
During the opening exchanges Macarthur found space in behind the West Sydney Berries full backs, as the attacking 3-5-2 formation set out by Scott Baillie allowed for an open encounter to unfold in front of 320 dedicated football fans.
As the Berries began to build some attacking rhythm of their own they fashioned for themselves the best chance of the match in the 38? minute.
Striker Neill Phillipou took advantage of a square Macarthur back-line as he ran onto a through ball inside the box. Under no pressure and with only the goalkeeper to beat, his first-time shot was misfired and flew well over the crossbar.
Carrying their attacking momentum into the second-half, Scott Baillie?s side was rewarded for their attacking endeavour in the 50? minute as referee Peter Vrtkovski awarded the home side a penalty after Shannon Hankin mistimed his challenge on Neill Phillipou inside the penalty-area. Berries midfielder Sash Tirovski stepped-up and coolly slotted the ball past Bell to give the Berries a 1-0 lead.
What followed however was a classic example of tactical triumph by Rams coach Paul Carter. In the 55? minute he sent on striker James Young for Steven Baveas and within 2? minutes the Macarthur substitute scored the equaliser, latching on to a Cooley strike which was dragged across the face of goal and placing the ball calmly beyond Frangeskou to make it 1-1 with the Berries defence static.
West Sydney almost regained the lead 3? minutes later after a brilliant piece of football. Collecting the ball on half-way, substitute Nicolo Sama back-heeled the ball into the path of the on-rushing Sash Tirovski who played a first-time through ball over the Macarthur defence for left-winger Aheleas Kotsopoulos.
The Berries captain surged into the penalty-area and side-footed the ball past Bell, only to see his shot roll onto the post and agonisingly across the face of goal before being cleared away.
In the 67? minute of the match, a similarly positive run by Steven Old saw the lanky defender take the ball into the Berries penalty-area before placing the ball calmly past Frangeskou to give Macarthur a 2-1 lead.
Berries substitute Nicolo Sama then embarked upon a positive run in the 74? minute before slipping through a delicate pass for Kotsopoulos, who again slid the ball past Bell, this time seeing his shot roll past the outside of the post.
The sustained pressure from the Berries was being repulsed by some sharp goalkeeping and heroic defending by the Macarthur side, with Bell saving down to his left from a Ryan Jones shot from inside the box and Hankin making up for conceding the penalty by throwing his body in-front of Sash Tirovski to deny the midfielder from close-range following a Berries corner only half-cleared by the Rams.
The Berries still managed to create two late chances to salvage a draw in this enthralling encounter.
In the 85? minute, Nicolo Sama was fouled just outside the Macarthur penalty-area with his back to goal. The midfielder stepped-up to take his own free-kick and saw his curled effort clear the wall but hit the crossbar with Roy Bell statuesque.
Scott Baillie was then denied what would have been a dramatic late equaliser as he saw his driven shot from outside the box acrobatically palmed away by an outstretched Roy Bell.
Macarthur coach Paul Carter was relieved yet sympathetic to the cause of the losing side:
?I think in the last six weeks we?ve been more than a match for most of our opponents, but I don?t think things have bounced for us. The funny thing is today, we probably deserved a draw. The Berries were unlucky but I think in other weeks we?ve been unlucky and it probably balances out over the rest of the season.
?I think the team bonded well today and they really stuck together – that was our key.?
Berries player/coach Scott Baillie echoed Carter?s words but lamented his side?s inability to finish their chances:
?Carts (Paul Carter) probably put it in the right words, he said he didn?t deserve to win after the game but he?ll take it and I tend to agree with that. You can?t have four one-on-ones in the second-half and miss them all, that?s not good enough.
?Macarthur Rams got two chances in the second-half and they scored both and that?s the difference between the two sides.?
West Sydney Berries 1 (Sash Tirovski 50?)
Macarthur Rams 2 (James Young 57?, Steven Old 67?)
Venue: Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre
Referee: Peter Vrtkovski
Assistant Referees: David Christie, Dale Fuda
Fourth Official: Cameron Bruce
Crowd: 320
West Sydney Berries: 69. Johnny Frangeskou; 6. Jack Sobczyk, 4. Scott Baillie, 12. Neil Phillipou, 10. John Tsironis (9. Nicolo Sama 55?), 11. Aheleas Kotsopoulos, 17. Sash Tirovski (18. Josh Sama 68?), 16. Kosta Lagoudakis (8. Johnny Fotiadis 66?), 21. Joshua Ferguson, 7. Scott Thomas, 15. Ryan Jones
Substitutes Not Used: 1. James Webb, 19. Dimitri Zakilas
Yellow Cards: Aheleas Kotsopoulos 80?
Red Cards: Nil
Macarthur Rams: 40. Roy Bell; 2. Craig Cooley, 5. Michael Brown, 6. David Gardiner, 7. Mat Toogood, 9. Steven Old, 12. Shannon Hankin, 13. Kosta Barbarouses (23. Josh Ford 90?), 14. Daniel McCann, 16. Steven Baveas (27. James Young 55?), 17. Adam Wither
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Brody Crane, 8. David Lagudi
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Player Ratings:
3 ? Steven Old (MR)
2 ? Roy Bell (MR)
1 ? Michael Brown (MR)
-By Chris Paraskevas