Bonnyrigg maintained their three-point lead over Parramatta following a tense 2-2 draw at a packed Bonnyrigg Sports Club. The top-of-the-table stalemate enabled Liverpool and Fraser Park to sneak a little closer after their respective 2-0 and 1-0 wins over Rockdale and Granville. The Rage managed to stay in fifth place place thanks to Northern Tigers beating St George 1-0, with both sides now two points behind a top-five spot. Central Coast moved up the ladder with a 2-1 win over Uni, who slipped to equal last following Fairfield?s 2-1 victory against Mount Druitt. The results make for an interesting run to the finals, which are just seven weeks away.
Battle royale for Bonnyrigg and Parramatta
For a top-of-the-table clash, the 2-2 draw between Bonnyrigg White Eagles and PCYC Parramatta Eagles at Bonnyrigg Sports Club on Saturday night certainly had a bit of everything, including a sense of d?j? vu. In last year?s semi-final, Bonnyrigg came back from two goals down to beat a nine-man Parramatta side 3-2, and they almost did it again in extraordinarily similar circumstances.
Perhaps with a bit of a point to prove after being drilled 5-0 by the White Eagles in round four, Parramatta came out on fire in the first half and opened the scoring through a well-taken Ben Delicata strike. The home side then had a defender sent off after he clipped Delicata from behind in the box, but Eagles player Freddy Graham missed the penalty to keep the scores at 1-0.
Still full of running, and only the fourth team to score against the competition leaders this season, Parramatta extended their advantage to 2-0 when youngster Ray Miller scored a great goal minutes away from halftime, with the healthy crowd of 2000 spectators stunned. Bonnyrigg?s woes took a turn for the worse when they had a second player sent off for elbowing Delicata, and it was not looking good for the 2007 title-holders.
Two goals and playing with two-men down in the second half, the odds were stacked against the White Eagles, but they clawed one goal back through midfielder Daniel Willoughby before stalwart captain David Petrovic bobbed up for an unlikely equaliser five minutes later. Chances fell to both sides to pinch the win but the fulltime whistle blew with the scores locked at 2-2, maintaining Bonnyrigg?s unbeaten run against Parramatta.
Champion sides do find a way to win, but even White Eagles coach Blagoja Kulevski was amazed by the turn around in fortunes. ?Naturally, it is always stressful at this level. But you can say lots of things about a game like this,? he said. ?The excitement of a close match is why people come to watch the sport, and it was a very good atmosphere at the ground. Congratulations to Parramatta, who played fantastic for 45 minutes. Fortunately for us, the game is 90 minutes long. They pushed to beat Bonnyrigg, which is good for the game.?
Eagles coach Jason Falzon was understandably upset after watching his team throw away a two goal lead at halftime against nine men. ?I?m bitterly disappointed,? he said. ?We outplayed them in the first 45 to go 2-0 up, missed a penalty, and let them back into the game. I kind of wish we played 11-on-11 because my boys just capitulated, they just played poorly. To Bonnyrigg?s credit they didn?t give up, but we should have won. I?m just angry we couldn?t play a full game.?
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 2 (Daniel Willoughby 66m David Petrovic 71m) PCYC Parramatta Eagles 2 (Ben Delicata 20m R Miller 40m)
Dragons snuff out Rage
It was an intense game at Garside Park on Saturday night when top-five sides Fraser Park Dragons and Granville Rage battled it out for a 1-0 result to the visitors. Granville had plenty of possession and territory, but they couldn?t find a way to score on home turf, while copping a goal against the run of play from Fraser Park?s Paulo Oliveira. The win boosted the Dragons finals chances, but it exposed Granville to top-five chasers St George, Northern Tigers and Central Coast.
Fraser Park coach Alex Augusto was delighted to win the game but said his side faced a big test with two key players, Greg Collins and Danny Delgado, out injured. ?It was a good result. A very hard game for both teams,? he said. ?To me, there is not much to work on. The way the players communicate on the field, and the way they work through the season, it is very good. I have great respect for my team for the way they?re going through the season.?
Granville coach Lee Sterrey was not happy at all, especially with the lack of discipline from certain players. ?We got slaughtered by a sucker punch,? he said of Fraser Park scoring on the run. ?We had most of the territory, and had three chances that we didn?t take, a couple of sitters actually. They come down and pinch a goal and we?re chasing the game.?
?To make it harder, Malcolm Meilak, a player who should know better, was sent off with two yellow cards from the same incident. It?s just ridiculous behaviour from a player who has played at a high level, and it doesn?t show much respect for his fellow players, especially at a crucial time of the season. Our problem has been scoring. We hit the post with a free kick and had two shots across the goal. It?s another game where we took a tablet. Thankfully, a good result from the Tigers keeps both them and St George out of the five. We need to get some points.?
Granville Rage 0 Fraser Park Dragons 1 (Paulo Oliveira 42m)
Tigers take down Saints
A Thomas Spencer goal one minute out from fulltime separated the Northern Tigers from St George Saints at Belmore Sportsground on Saturday evening. His late header from a deep cross only just eluded Saints keeper Trinity Allen as it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced over the line. The win came at a cost to Northern, who drew level with St George on the points table, with dangermen Tim Gledhill and Kevin Garcia both injured ahead of this week?s crunch match with third-placed Liverpool.
Despite a large amount of possession, the Saints were unable to break down a solid Tigers defence and had to thank Allen?s tremendous effort in goal to keep them in the match. The St George custodian was superb in denying Garcia twice in quick succession just before halftime, recovering from an initial parry to push Garcia?s second attempt away for a corner.
Kurt Crnic had a good chance for the Saints just after the break, while Mitchell Keen blasted over with the goal wide open, but it was Spencer?s header that proved decisive in the 1-0 victory. It was only the second time St George had been held scoreless all year, ironically, the Tigers were the opposition both times. Northern coach Hugh McCrory was grateful for the win but said his side could do better.
?Wed still didn?t play the best that they can play, but it?s a big improvement,? he said. ?Really, we?ve got no idea what we have to do to get the arrow going upwards. Trinity Allen kept them in the game, because we had a couple of clear-cut chances that we should have taken, and it took a good header from Thomas Spencer to grab the win. The chances are just not being taken and, with Gledhill and Garcia both injured, we will be limited next week for numbers. The objective is to make the five, but right now we?re just looking at a week at a time.?
St George Saints 0 Northern Tigers 1 (Thomas Spencer 89m)
Lightning strikes Uni
Central Coast Lightning has won four straight against Sydney University following their 2-1 victory at Pluim Park on Saturday night. The result lifted the Coasters to within four points of fifth-placed Granville with two catch-up matches under their belt. Uni, on the other hand, are now level with Fairfield in last place and with it all ahead of them for the rest of the season.
Lightning youngster Brady Smith scored a brace ? netting in the 27th and 72nd minute of the game ? before Uni player James Hardy made it an exciting finish when he added a goal with 10 minutes left to play. It?s been a busy few weeks for Smith, who has scored five goals in three games over 14 days. Small, stocky, fast and with all the skills, Smith is one of a bunch of young players being nurtured by Central Coast coach John McLafferty.
?I thought Uni were pretty good. There?s a new coach there and they?re playing a different style of football, and they will get some points,? he said. ?It was an open attacking game and both goalkeepers had to make a lot of saves. We played good football, and as long as we don?t concede too many goals, we won?t do too badly. Our midfield is getting strong, and the players are starting to be coached again. That means they actually understand what they?re doing wrong. At the start of the season, particularly with a young team, you just stick the players out there and pick up on things along the way. It?s beginning to all make sense to them now.?
Central Coast Lightning 2 (Brady Smith 27/72m) Sydney University 1 (James Hardy 80m)
Liverpool shutout Rockdale
Bossy Liverpool did a great job to shut Rockdale City Suns out of their contest at Ernie Smith Reserve on Sunday afternoon, winning 2-0. An own goal on 25-minutes ? just the second of the season ? and an Alex Canak strike 10 minutes from time (lifting him to the top of the goalscorer?s tally with nine for the year) gave Liverpool the three points and third place on the ladder behind Bonnyrigg and Parramatta. Bossy coach Mile Todorovski was pleased with the effort but remained steadfast about the job ahead of his team.
?Every game is a big game, it doesn?t matter who we play,? he said. ?I know there are 2-3 teams that are a little bit stronger, but every other team in the competition can win on their day. With the size of the league, we can finish in the top three, and we can finish in the last three – you never know. But if we play like we did today, definitely we can stay in top-five. We played defensively much better than Rockdale, and had another 2-3 good opportunities to score. We deserved to win.?
Bossy Liverpool 2 (own goal 25m Alex Canak 80m) Rockdale City Suns 0
Lions outsmart Rangers
Fairfield City Lions drew level with Sydney University at the bottom of the points table following a fantastic performance against Mount Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Sunday afternoon. Trialing a new backline, Fairfield scored a 2-1 win over the home side to give themselves renewed hope of avoiding relegation. Lions coach Aydin Cetinay was in a pretty good mood following his side?s second win of a tough season.
?I?m pretty happy, we had a very good game, probably our best first half of the season,? he said. ?We still missed a lot of chances in the second half and could have gone on with it. It was a great effort from the boys as I played a 17-year-old kid and my younger brother, who used to be a goalkeeper at junior level [and scored a goal for Fairfield as a striker five weeks ago], in goals ? and they did a good job. Our problem has always been defensively and I think, from today?s performance, that we?ll be right. The boys are happy and hopefully we can keep it going.?
Lions striker Serkan Erel had a sublime first half, putting his foot in before the keeper to score Fairfield?s first goal in the 34th minute, following some good build-up play from midfielder Jeffrey Issa. Erel completed a double when he added a second for the Lions six minutes later and the visitors were looking good with a 2-0 halftime scoreline. Mount Druitt came back into it in the second term and pulled back a late goal through Michael Haberman to make it 2-1 at fulltime.
Mount Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Michael Haberman 85m) Fairfield City Lions 2 (Serkan Erel 34/40m)
Next week?s games
Round 16 kicks off with just one Saturday night fixture, Fairfield hosting Granville at Norford Park (7.30pm kick-off). There is plenty more action on Sunday when Parramatta welcome Central Coast to Melita Stadium, Liverpool travelling to Mills Park to tackle Northern Tigers, Bonnyrigg visiting Fraser Park, Rockdale playing Mount Druitt at Ilinden, while St George take their turn at Sydney Uni (all kick-offs at 3pm).
Total goals: 245 (2 own goals)
Total games: 83
Goals per game: 2.9 (20.4 per team)
Total scorers: 104 (BWE, PE, FPD best with 11)
-By Daniel De Nardi