The synthetic playing surface was unaffected, flat and picturesque, and the venue provided a wonderful chance for Lilli Pilli to exact revenge on Sydney Cedars for an opening day 0-2 defeat back in April.
Lilli Pilli had the first opportunity of the match on 7 minutes, when Russell slipped a pass through a square Cedar defence, and McDonald?s placed shot from just inside the box was brilliantly tipped around the post by Cedar?s keeper, Z.Bekdache.
The Sydney Cedars suffered a setback on 12 minutes, when man-of-the-match from the first round, left back Elhas, minus his pony-tail, was stretchered off with an ankle injury, and replaced by B.Bekdache.
The home side then almost took the lead after 22 minutes when McDonald returned the original favour to Russell, chipping a lovely diagonal ball over the Cedar defence for the winger to hit a rasping volley onto the crossbar and to safety.
Lilli Pilli kept the pressure up, first when Byrne?s 30 yarder on 28 minutes was gobbled up by Cedar?s keeper, Bekdache, and again a couple of minutes later, when Beare raced forward unattended and hit a low left footed shot from the edge of the box which sped past the right upright.
Against the run of play, Sydney Cedars almost grabbed the lead after 37 minutes, when Elkerhani put Benegadi through into the right hand side of the box, and he hit a fierce angled shot which was parried by Lilli Pilli?s keeper, Clarke.
M. Fayad miscued the rebound from right in front and the ball bounced out to safety.
A goal finally arrived on 39 minutes, and it actually opened up a frenzy of activity which included a further four goals in a fifteen minute spell either side of half time.
Lilli Pilli?s left back, Roshan, raced away down the left on an overlap after being put through via a delicate McDonald flick pass. Roshan?s cross was deflected by a back-pedalling Cedars defence towards the far corner flag. The ball was retrieved by Russell, and his measured pinpoint cross was expertly headed in by Karim to give Lilli Pilli a 1-0 lead.
Just two minutes later and McDonald should?ve put Lilli Pilli two up. Beare put him through on goal in a one-on-one with the advancing keeper, Bekdache, but he toe poked his shot wide.
McDonald made up for the miss when on 44 minutes he latched onto a long ball, collecting it near the corner flag. With no Cedar defender in sight, he steadied himself, looked up, and delivered a great cross for
Half time was merely seconds away, but the Sydney Cedars weren?t finished just yet.
On 45 minutes, a lofted corner towards the back of the penalty area was met with a volley by B. Bekdache, but the ball was blocked by a defender. Herencig was first to the rebound, and he hit a ferocious volley high into the roof of the net to put the Cedars back in the match at 1-2.
Indeed, the Cedars almost equalised in first half injury time, when M. Fayad volleyed over from just outside the penalty area after a precise one-two exchange with Benegadi.
The referee, Mr D.Richards, blew the whistle to end an interesting first half, Lilli Pilli in front 2-1, a half having come alive in the final quarter of an hour, with promise of more to come in the second period.
The fans were still returning to their seats when the Cedars drew level just minutes after the interval.
Hard working midfielder, Benegadi slipped a great through ball into the box for Elndorae to run onto, and he cracked a low drive past Lilli Pilli keeper, Clarke, and into the far side of the net, sending the visiting Cedar fans into song.
Just 7 minutes later and Cedar striker, A. Fayad, would?ve completed a remarkable comeback from his team, but for an amazing miss, when his sliced the ball over the bar from a couple of yards.
Within sixty seconds Lilli Pilli were gifted the lead, when a back pass by Alsafadi was seized upon by Karim, and he toed the ball past the advancing Bekdache for his second goal of the match to put the home side back in front.
Football can spring up some amazing events, and a bizarre incident in the 59th minute changed the whole complexion of the match.
Lilli Pilli stiker, McDonald, arguably the home side?s most effective player up to that point, took it upon himself during a break in play to exit the playing field without permission, and disappear down the tunnel, requiring treatment for an injury.
The referee, Mr D. Richards, upon becoming aware of the infringement, approached the tunnel entrance, and firstly, correctly cautioned McDonald for the walk off, before, secondly, brandishing a red card for a further immediate breach.
The send off could?ve have been very costly for Lilli Pilli, as the Sydney Cedars then took advantage of the extra man to dominate proceedings from there on.
On 64 minutes, Cedar midfielder, Benegadi pounced on a loose ball outside the box to hit a 20 yard rocket onto the crossbar, with Clarke beaten all ends up.
A minute later, and A.Fayad once again missed from a few yards out, by hitting his shot over the bar from a smart cutback by Elkerhani.
The Cedars kept pressing, and in the 79th minute, it was A. Fayad again with a wonderful opportunity to equalize, cracking a half volley wide after a loose ball dropped at his feet following a corner.
The second red card of the match followed in the 87th minute, when Cedar keeper Z. Bekdache was dismissed for dissent from afar, occurring as his team had possession in their opponent?s half.
The Cedars continued their late dominance, well into injury time, but alas, could not convert their chances into goals, and Lilli Pilli hung on for dear life to record a nailbiting 3-2 victory.
In the heated aftermath following the full time whistle, the Cedars frustration blew over and substitute B. Bekdache was shown a red card for dissent.
Lilli Pilli coach Ronnie Griffiths was pleased with the three points ? ?We are very happy with the win. We started well during the first 30 minutes, but we let them into the game with that goal on half time, and they got on top after the send off. It will be tough to make the semis, but we are proud of what we have achieved given our club and players have come from the local soccer scene??.said a proud Griffiths.
Best for the victors were ; skipper Kendrigan, who anticipated well in a polished performance in defence ; Karim, who grabbed two goals and had a high work rate when he was pushed back into midfield during the second half ; and Russell, who was effective all night in his distribution.
For the Sydney Cedars, the best performed on the day were ; midfielder Benegadi, who worked tirelessly, and was very instrumental in starting many of the Cedars attacking play ; Koroma, a skilful player who displayed a silky touch each time he had the ball ; and captain, Alsafadi, who was very calm and composed in defence, anticipating well and playing the ball out smartly.
The remainder of the matches in the Southern Conference were dominated by Mother Nature, with all games postponed due to waterlogged pitches. White City-Fairfield Bulls, Hakoah-Greenisland and Colo Colo Wanderers-Gazy Lansvale have all been postponed to a date and venue yet to be decided.
Camden Tigers had the rest this weekend courtesy of the bye, no doubt grateful as they prepare for their big, top-of-the-table-clash next week against White City kicking off at 3pm on Sunday at Ron Dine Reserve.
LILLI PILLI FC 3 (Karim 39?/55?, Sunderland 44?)
SYDNEY CEDARS 2 (Herencig 45?, Elndorae 48?)
LILLI PILLI FC ; 1) Clarke, 3) Roshan, 4) Beare (33.Supple 60?, 25.Lee 81?, 39.Cook 93?), 5) Kendrigan ?, 6) Hawkins, 8) McDonald, 9) Sunderland, 11) Russell, 14) Allen, 15) Byrne, 16) Karim.
Subs not used : NIL
SYDNEY CEDARS ; 1) Bekdache Z., 2) Alsafadi ? , 4) Hamzeh, 5) Fayad A. (17. Tadashi 90?), 6) Elkerhani, 7) Fayad M., 8) Benegadi, 12) Elhas (16. Bekdache B. 12?), 13) Koroma, 14) Herencig, 15) Elndorae.
Subs not used : 18) Bekdache M.
-By Frank Speranza