Balmain was looking to bounce back from a loss in last week?s major semi final against Southern Conference champions, Camden Tigers, whilst Roosters were hoping to continue their good form of late and snatch a spot on the grand final.
Balmain had all hands on deck with no injury scares, whilst Roosters rested lively striker Sevgin, who had a hip muscle strain, and started him off the bench.
The opening 20 minutes reflected a frenzy of activity and intensity, with goalscoring chances a plenty as both teams started like a house on fire, hoping to take the ascendancy to their opponents.
Balmain had the breeze at their backs, hoping to take a goal or two into half time, and tall striker Merlino had their first half chance, rising to meet Sowden?s cross but heading well over the bar from 10 metres.
A minute later and Balmain?s keeper, Fujiwara, spilled a rudimentary cross near the side of the penalty box, under pressure from Roosters striker, Rashid, but the danger was cleared by the ever alert Pettenon.
Balmain were forced into a change as early as the 8th minute, captain Trieste forced off with injury and replaced by the capable Tucker, Buonavoglia picking up the armband.
A swift movement down the right flank resulted in a dangerous cross by Balmain?s Modena, Roosters defender Karaman getting his head to the ball to flick it for a corner, ahead of a cluster of players including his keeper, Gurbuz.
Modena was at it again on 10 minutes, racing down the left this time before crossing back along the edge of the penalty area. Buonavoglia met the ball just before the sliding Roosters defender, Semerci, flicking it up before cracking a volley wide of the mark.
The end to end action continued as it was Roosters this time who almost opened the scoring on 11 minutes.Guven slipped a great through ball to Rashid, but he shot weakly with his right foot when it seemed better to shoot with his left, the ball bobbling up and over Fujiwara in the Balmain goal, dropping wide into the outside side netting.
Balmain had a great chance on 15 minutes, Sowden again crossing to Richardson, who took a touch before being faced with Gurbuz, the Roosters keeper bravely saving at his feet.
The action continued just two minutes later, Roosters midfielder Girgin shooting wide from the edge of the box, ending a quick triangular move of passes involving Topal and Celik.
Both teams were playing as if there was five minutes left on the clock, and they were behind on the scoreboard, such was the speed of counter attacks from both sets of players.
Balmain were desperate to take a goal into the half time break, and should?ve scored on 39 minutes when Modena failed to reach a great low cutback from Buonavoglia after Merlino had sent the little striker away down the left flank.
Within a minute and Balmain put together the best team move of the match, a series of passes across their opponents half dissecting the Roosters defence, Buonavoglia once again cutting the ball back, Roosters defender Semerci clearing the danger in a sea of bodies in front of goal.
Referee Mr.S.Alexander was doing his bit to keep the action flowing, allowing both teams to keep fluent with the football but stamping out any dangerous tackles. He duly blew the whistle for half time, and it was a surprise that the match was still scoreless.
Balmain had the better of chances, but couldn?t hit the target, whilst Pettenon and Grayson in the heart of the Balmain defence were defusing the Roosters attacks.
The hard tackling Omari in the Roosters midfield was surprisingly replaced at the break, with the introduction of the speedy Sevgin showing the Roosters were ready to attack Balmain with all their might.
But it was Balmain that started the second period on the front foot, and they took the lead with a brilliant piece of individualism from the evergreen Buonavoglia.
The ex-A League star picked up a throw in near the corner flag, and calm as you like, proceeded to dribble three Roosters defenders as he weaved into the box. Once Buonavoglia hit the by-line, he cut the ball back for Andrews who smacked the ball into the roof of the net from a couple of yards. One-nil to Balmain and it was game on.
Roosters fans, who had been surprisingly quiet until now, commenced their cheering, and their team responded immediately. The lively Rashid raced across the edge of the box, unleashing a piledriver that flew just over the bar, beating Balmain keeper Fujiwara all ends up.
Roosters substitute striker, Sevgin, missed a great chance to equalize on 53 minutes, heading down and straight at Fujiwara from a few yards after a great far post cross by Celik.
By throwing caution to the wind, and pushing for an equalizer, Roosters became suspect to the counter attack, and it was such a counter attack that gave Balmain their second goal of the match. A stray ball near the Roosters last man in the middle of their half was seized upon by, who else, Buonavoglia, and he tapped it past Semerci, racing through to meet Roosters keeper Gurbuz in a one-on-one. Rather than take the glory himself, he unselfishly squared the ball to the unmarked Richardson, who tapped into an empty net for the easiest goal he is likely to score.
It was now 2-0 to Balmain, with just under half an hour to go, and Roosters needed some inspiration to try and salvage the match, and the season. Player coach Orhan put himself on in the 64th minute, pushing Topal up front, and it was time for the Roosters fans to lift their team.
They do say that 2-0 is a damgerous scoreline, creating a little complacency, and it was proved correct as the Roosters started to throw everything at Balmain.
In fact, if it wasn?t for some poor decision making (from both teams actually), with the last pass or shot often wasted, both teams would have, and should have, added to the scoreboard.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Roosters pulled a goal back from their own little number ten, Topal. Substitute Orhan picked up a clearance from his own keeper, and from the edge of the centre circle, played a delightful through pass to Topal. Entering the penalty area on the left side of the box, Topal controlled the ball with his chest before snapping his left foot volley past the helpless Fujiwara to make it 2-1.
Roosters pressed and pressed, whilst Balmain counted down the minutes, making the last couple of substitutes as they looked for solace from the referee?s whistle.
One last flurry created a wonderful opportunity for the Roosters, with Orhan once again playing a great ball through to Sevgin, but his shot as he raced in on goal flew high and wide, much to the angst of his team mates.
And with that last chance went Roosters FC?s season, as Mr Alexander brought an end to proceedings with the final whistle.
Congratulations must go to the Roosters, who play an attractive brand of football, exciting to watch and thrilling for their fans. They should be proud of the season they have had, and I?m sure they will bounce back bigger and better in 2009.
As for Balmain, congratulations on making the grand final with an effective style of play, strong and focused across the park, and efficient in front of goal.
One of Balmain?s best players, central defender Pettenon, was ecstatic with his team?s win, ?We were very determined today. Our game plan was not to get caught on the ball, and play more direct than usual,? said Pettenon.
?We will be more focused this time against Camden, because we were half asleep last time, and it will be a good tough match this time,? predicted Pettenon, looking forward to next week?s grand final.
Roosters playmaker, Topal, was almost inconsolable after the match, ?I am so disappointed,? sighed Topal.
?We moved some players around, and it affected our intensity. We are very proud and happy with the season we had, but we are so disappointed to fall at this stage.?
Best for Roosters were central defender Karaman, who delivered his usual performance, strong in the tackle, and always well placed to nullify the Balmain attack ; midfielder Celik, who worked hard across the midfield, and never stopped until the final whistle ; and substitute player-coach, Orhan, who made a telling difference with his introduction just after the hour, strong in the tackle and creating a few chances for his team.
For the victors, Balmain, plaudits must go to ; defender Pettenon, who controlled his backline, was calm and composed both when defending and in possession of the ball, and marshalled his team with aplomb ; midfielder Gothe-Snape, who had a whale of a game in the centre of the park, very fierce in the tackle, and by winning his midfield duals was instrumental in his team?s victory ; the diminutive Buonavoglia, who started the game in the uncustomary midfield role, but is always effective with the ball at his feet, did his bit by working hard off the ball, and of course, set up both goals for his team with his unselfishness.
Preliminary Semi Final
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Mona Park, Auburn
Referee ? Mr.S.Alexander
Referee?s Assistants ? Mr.A.Long & Mr.L.Villarroel
BALMAIN SC 2 (Andrews 50?, Richardson 61?)
ROOSTERS FC 1 (Topal 74?)
BALMAIN SC:1. Fujiwara, 2. Trieste ? (14. Tucker 8?), 3. Sowden (13. Deasey 78?), 4. Grayson, 5. Pettenon, 6. Andrews, 7. Modena, 8. Gothe-Snape, 9. Merlino, 10. Buonavoglia, 11. Richardson (12. McCormack 82?).
Subs not used :15. Hardwick, RGK. Delaney.
ROOSTERS FC: 1. Gurbuz, 3. Ors, 6. Karaman, 15. Celik, 23. Semerci, 16. Omari (44. Sevgin 46?),7. Gogebakan (55. Orhan 64?), 22. Rashid, 12. Guven, 10. Topal ? , 13. Girgin (11. Kokten 85?).
Subs not used :27. Aksu, RGK.Gunalp
Reserve Grade Preliminary Semi Final
Hawkesbury City have made it three wins on the trot, all of a sudden death nature, with an extra-time victory over Lilli Pilli in the Reserve Grade Preliminary Semi Final.
The young Hawks beat Roosters FC in the final game of the season to make the finals, then beat Colo Colo in the elimination minor semi final last week, and now have beaten Lilli Pilli in extra time in another do-or-die match.
But the Hawks came from behind as Lee put Lilli Pilli in front just after the break, scoring on 47 minutes. But Cotter was the hero on the day for Hawkesbury, equalizing in the 61st minute, before grabbing the winner in the 101st minute, during the first period of extra time.
-By Frank Speranza