Marconi?s Christopher Nunes saw red, West Sydney Berries striker Giosue Sama scored a spectacular second-half hat-trick and Stallions manager Dave Barrett offered his resignation after seeing his side suffer a catastrophic 4-goal collapse.
Leading 2-1 during the second-half and looking extremely comfortable against an uninspired West Sydney Berries side, it appeared as though Marconi were heading for an away victory ? a rare commodity this season for the former powerhouse NSL club.
However, the sending off of midfielder Christopher Nunes after his second yellow card and the introduction of Berries right wing-back Johnny Fotiadis as a second-half substitute, were the catalysts for a stunning Berries fight-back which saw them score four unanswered goals on the way to a 5-2 victory.
For Berries co-coaches Ramsin Shamon and Spiro Hantzis, the victory would have tasted especially sweet following a frustrating start to their respective managerial careers ? they have been without a win since taking over the side from previous coach Scott Baillie.
The sombre mood of David Barrett after the match as he revealed his official offer of resignation to his club, reflected a similarly frustrating season for the NSL legend, in which his talented Marconi side have arguably been the most disappointing of all this season.
It all started so well for Marconi though, as they grabbed a deserved lead after just 14? minutes of play. Young Berries defender Omar Saadi mis-timed a clearance inside his own penalty-area. The ball looped into the air and was volleyed across the face of goal from the byline by ex-Newcastle Jets striker Tolgay Ozbey. Fellow Marconi forward Tallan Martin was on-hand to plant a diving header beyond the stranded Hamish McLean from close-range, giving Berries fans an all-too familiar sinking feeling on their home turf.
In an otherwise forgettable first-half, the only other highlight came courtesy of a goal by Ante Deur ? which was correctly called offside by the assistant referee. The fleet-footed Stefan Donevski danced his way around a couple of Berries defenders inside the penalty box before seeing his close-range shot palmed away sharply by Berries goalkeeper Hamish McLean. Though Deur smashed home the rebound, the linesman was in the perfect position from which to deem the Marconi man offside.
In a second-half which started in a similarly dour fashion to the first, it would be the West Sydney Berries equalising via the lively Sash Tirovski on 52? minutes. A free-kick curled into the Marconi penalty area from the left-flank was only half-cleared by the Stallions, before the ball fell to Tirovski whose weak but well-directed volley rolled past the despairing dive of goalkeeper Cem Akilli to draw the home side level.
Nahuel Arrarte almost provided the perfect response only six minutes later, as his curled free-kick from outside the box was acrobatically punched over the bar by Hamish McLean.
But there was nothing the Berries goalkeeper could do to prevent Marconi re-taking the lead on 60? minutes, as Tallan Martin brilliantly skipped around a West Sydney defender inside the penalty-area before getting to the byline and cutting the ball back for Deur to side-foot high into the net from a tight-angle at the near post. A well-worked goal giving the Stallions a 2-1 lead.
Arguably, the turning point of the match was the introduction of Johnny Fotiadis ? back from injury ? to proceedings, replacing holding midfielder Michael Cunico. The Berries wing-back instantly gave his side a consistent attacking avenue on the right-hand side of the pitch, stretching the Marconi defence and giving West Sydney another dimension in attack.
A late challenge by Christopher Nunes on Berries captain Archie Kotsopoulos would see him dismissed for a second bookable offence before some patient build-up resulted in an equalising goal for the home side.
It would be the captain at the centre of the action again for the West Sydney outfit, as Kotsopoulos was slipped into the box before producing a low centre across the face of goal. The ball was touched by the outstretched arm of Cem Akilli but it was not enough to divert it out of the path of on-rushing Berries midfielder Ryan Jones, who finished from close-range to make it 2-2 after 77? minutes.
What followed during the next ten minutes of play was a reminder of one of the most attractive aspects of the beautiful game: it?s unpredictability.
Just two minutes after the equalising goal, a rejuvenated Berries side with renewed body language and belief, cast off the shackles of a tiring and difficult return to the highest level of football in NSW to produce an inspiring come-back in front of their loyal following of 320.
The ball was spread wide to Johnny Fotiadis on the right-hand side of the pitch, who took advantage of the generous space offered to him by the Marconi defence by bursting into the penalty-area unchallenged before dragging the ball across the face of goal. Again Akilli stretched to intercept but again the shot-stopper was unable to stop the ball from arriving at the feet of Giosue Sama, who tapped home from close-range for the easiest of finishes.
Only three minutes later and a lovely back-heel would release the ever-present Sash Tirovski, who took the ball in his stride and broke into the Marconi penalty box. Though the striker?s cross did not find a Berries player, it was only half-cleared by the Stallions defence before falling to the feet of Giosue Sama, whose shot from inside the area wrong-footed Akilli and rolled into the net for a 4-2.
Sama ? who has been unable to nail down a regular spot in the first-team this season ? completed an astonishing hat-trick which underlined his potential as a footballer with five minutes remaining. Picking up the ball outside the box, the Berries striker played a low pass to the feet of fellow substitute Neill Phillipou outside the box. Phillipou produced a delicate touch, shifting the ball to his left for the on-rushing Sama to take in his stride before cutting back onto his left foot and producing a superb curled finish into the top left-hand corner of the net, leaving Akili with no choice but to stand and admire the quality of the strike.
A stirring win for the West Sydney Berries, who perhaps deserved the win on the basis of their performances and efforts over the past few weeks, which failed to produce any positive results for the club.
Contrastingly, Marconi?s second-half collapse was the final straw for coach Dave Barrett, who cut a disappointed figure after the match:
?I would like to announce that I?ve offered my resignation to Marconi Stallions Football Club from my position as head coach.
?I am very disappointed with the capitulation of the side in the second-half.
“I?d also like to offer my best wishes to the Marconi players for the rest of the season.?
It is rumoured that Stallions skipper Luke Casserly will manage the side till the end of the TeleChoice Premier League season.
Ramsin Shamon expressed relief at a first managerial win for him personally but said that the victory was a combined effort between himself and fellow coach Spiro Hantzis:
?The way we were playing in the first half I think both sides were lacking any form of football. It was really ugly to be honest. I couldn?t believe what I was seeing from either side.
?But it?s been a few weeks coming. We?ve been dominating teams but not getting any results and suddenly we?ve scored five goals in one half of football. I don?t think we?ve even scored five goals even in the last four or five weeks!
?But it?s a culmination of all the work the boys have put in over the past few weeks and Josh Sama has delivered what he?s been talking about delivering for weeks.?
Berries coach Spiro Hantzis echoed Shamon?s comments about a build-up to the result and a combined effort from staff and players alike to arrive at a victory:
?It was something that?s been brewing. Everybody?s been in good spirits and it was just a matter of scoring goals and today there was a relief at regaining our goal-scoring touch.
?Today, the first-half was a bit lethargic but we had a chat at half-time and change a couple of things. The players responded, so it was a good performance in the second half.
?We just don?t want to make it a one-off win and go back to the old habits, we want to finish on a strong note and against Bankstown, Blacktown and Sutherland I think we can get some good results and finish the season on a high.?
West Sydney Berries 5 (Sash Tirovski 52?, Ryan Jones 77?, Giosue Sama 79?, 82?, 85?)
Marconi Stallions 2 (Tallan Martin 14?, Ante Deur 60?)
Venue: Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre
West Sydney Berries: 1. Hamish MCLEAN; 20. Angelo PETRATOS, 6. Jack SOBCZYK, 3. Omar SAADI, 7. Scott THOMAS, 5. Michael Cunico (8. Johnny FOTIADIS 66?), 11. Archie KOTSOPOULOS, 15. Ryan JONES, 18. Giosue SAMA, 17. Sash TIROVSKI (19. Dimitri ZAKILAS 83?), 10. John Tsironis (12. Neill PHILLIPOU 81?)
Substitutes Not Used: 1. James Webb, 14. Craig Jacob
Yellow Cards: Archie KOTSOPOULOS 47?, Angelo PETRATOS 92?
Red Cards: Nil
Marconi Stallions: 20. Cem AKILLI; 2. Wade OOSTENDORP, 8. Tallan MARTIN, 10. Tolgay OZBEY, 12. Stefan DONEVSKI (14. Matthew GORDON 72?), 13. Ante DEUR, 17. Sean MITCHELL, 23. Christopher NUNES, 24. Zachary CAIRNCROSS, 26. Nahuel ARRARTE, 38. Umut TOKDOGAN
Substitutes Not Used: 7. Benjamin GOUGH, 14. Jay LUCAS, 15. Timothy MCGOWAN, 1. James CHRONOPOULOS
Yellow Cards: Christopher NUNES 61?, 69?
Red Cards: Christopher NUNES 69?
3 ? Josh Sama (WSB)
2 ? Johnny Fotiadis (WSB)
1 ? Ryan Jones (WSB)
-By Chris Paraskevas