Match of the Round
Balmain SC v Stanmore Hawks
Balmain still winless as Hawks fly high
Lambert Park in Leichhardt was the venue on Saturday evening for an eagerly awaited mid table clash between Balmain SC and Stanmore Hawks.
The home side came into the match keen to notch their first win of 2009 following four draws and a loss in their first five outings this season.
Stanmore on the other hand were quietly confident of springing a surprise, and were hoping to improve on their last couple of showings which failed to produce the desired three points.
Lambert Park provided a compact surface, and the crisp evening air made it a great night for football as both teams settled into the match with some early sparring.
Opening the game right up, Stanmore Hawks took the lead as early as the 7th minute.
Koroma took a great out-swinging corner that seemed to just hang in the air, and Hijazi made a great run into the box to slam his header into the net and give the visitors the start they were looking for.
The early goal seemed to give Stanmore a lift, reflecting a renewed confidence when on the ball, and a collective intensity when not in possession, closing down the Balmain ball carrier in packs.
Balmain on the other hand seemed to panic once they fell behind, trying too hard to peg a goal back immediately, rather than showing composure and being patient.
Balmain midfielder Andrews had their first shot on goal after 19 minutes when he turned and cracked the ball over the bar from outside the box, having being played in by Hardwick.
A couple of minutes later and Gothe-Snape did likewise when a free kick was half cleared to him loitering outside the penalty area.
On 24 minutes Stanmore had an enormous chance to double their lead, when some swift interchange of passes on the counter attack resulted in a great cross by Hijazi towards the edge of the penalty area. Koroma arrived unattended, and unfortunately for the Hawks fans, got right under his shot as the ball sailed out of the ground.
A goal kick by Balmain keeper Fijiwara on 36 minutes was flicked on by Andrews for Deasby to run onto, slicing open the Stanmore defence. Deasby steadied, and passed towards the left flank, the danger cleared by Stanmore defender Gorsevski, when a shot was beckoning and would?ve been the better option.
Just before half time both teams had a glorious chance to grab a goal, with neither attempt troubling the scoreboard attendant.
On 40 minutes Stanmore?s Koroma slipped a great pass into the box for Theodosiou, and his cross shot from a tight angle beat both Fujiwara and the Balmain goalposts as it raced away to safety.
Within sixty seconds and Balmain should?ve equalized as Deasby?s free kick from the left touchline somehow beat everyone as it bounced towards the far post. Richardson had ghosted in behind the Stanmore defence, and just as the ball popped up beautifully for the Balmain flanker, he volleyed over the bar from a few yards.
Referee Jason Blackwood, who had kept the game flowing by often playing the advantage rule, blew his half time whistle with the visiting fans the happier as the Hawks went in 0-1 up at the break.
Balmain?s stand in coach, Johhny Buonavoglia, made a substitution at the break, bringing on McCormack up front, and the striker almost had the home side on level terms just minutes after the restart. After taking the original corner himself, the ball ricocheted back out to McCormack as he raced in from the corner flag, and he thumped a half volley across the face of the goal, the ball somehow eluding a host of players from both sides.
The action continued from end to end, and only a minute later Stanmore striker Theodosiou turned Balmain?s Modena inside out as he snapped his shot just wide of the upright.
Balmain kept toiling away at Stanmore, Hardwick and Andrews in the midst of the midfield battle, but shots by the home side were restricted to a couple from distance that didn?t trouble Stanmore?s keeper, Theouli.
Stanmore almost doubled their advantage just after the hour mark when a far post cross reached Theodosiou, and he steadied before punching a shot against the upright, the ball rolling across goal before being cleared.
Balmain kept up their work rate and intensity, and were finally rewarded with the equalizer on 64 minutes.
A long throw in reached the near post, and as Balmain?s midfielder Andrews made a nuisance of himself, the ball dropped to Hardwick with his back to goal.
Only a few yards out from goal, Hardwick hooked a shot over his left shoulder, the ball looping over Stanmore?s keeper Theouli and nestling in the far side netting to send the home fans into raptures.
Both teams seemed not to be content with the draw – especially Balmain given they had affectionately become known as the draw specialists ? and both made substitutions hoping to turn one point into three.
With just seven minutes remaining, Andrews raced into the box in a last gasp attempt to connect with Hardwick?s pass, colliding with Stanmore?s Theouli as he raced off his line.
The ball spilled to Balmain?s McCormack, and he hit the upright from less than ten yards with an open goal at his mercy.
The home side were to rue that chance, as Stanmore?s substitute, Fiakos, wasn?t as wasteful with his opportunity just two minutes later.
Fiakos picked up a threaded pass just inside the Balmain half, and after racing through a couple of defenders, cracked a low shot from the edge of the box that flew past Fujiwara to put Stanmore in front.
Tricky winger Theodosiou put the game beyond the home team?s reach on 87 minutes with an absolute ripper of a goal. A stray pass just outside the centre circle was seized upon by the ever alert Theodosiou, and he sped past Tesoro before drilling a low, fifteen yard shot from a difficult angle past the hapless Fujiwara in the Balmain goal.
The Hawks weren?t finished just yet, rubbing salt into Balmain?s wounds with their third goal in a frenzied six minute period.
And what a goal it was to end proceedings for the night!
It was yet another stray pass that was this time snapped up by Hijazi, and he hit a missile from fully 35 yards that threatened to take the net off the posts as it hit the top corner.
Hijazi then raced off to celebrate with the Stanmore fans, his ecstatic team mates in hot pursuit as referee Blackwood brought an end to the night?s entertainment.
Balmain?s industrious midfielder Craig Andrews was disappointed with the end result.
?At 1-1 we pushed on hoping to grab the winner, and got caught on the counter attack,? lamented Andrews.
?We have had trouble scoring goals, and just haven?t had the rub of the green this season, but we have been competitive, and we?ll keep working. I?m sure we can finish the season in the top half,? said Andrews.
For Balmain, Tesoro was a rock in the centre of defence, dominating the aerial activity, and directing his defensive partners into position; Andrews and Modena worked tirelessly in the midfield, throwing their bodies into battle and never stopping for the ninety minutes; and Hardwick was instrumental in most of Balmain?s attacking attempts, being rewarded for his efforts with his team?s only goal.
For the victors on the night, Stanmore Hawks, there were numerous players who shone.
James was a real force in the centre of the park, strong in the tackle, and effective on the ball and with his distribution. Theodosiou was fantastic with the ball at his feet, a good old fashioned left winger, weaving in and out as he often left defenders in his wake, scoring one goal and almost grabbing a couple of others; and Hijazi scored two fantastic goals, opening and ending proceedings for the night, and generally looked dangerous whenever he was on the ball in the attacking third.
BALMAIN SC 1 (Hardwick 65?)
STANMORE HAWLS 4 (Hijazi 7?/90 +1?, Fiakos 85?, Theodosiou 87?)
Saturday, April 25, at Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee ? Mr.Jason Blackwood
Referee?s Assistants ? Mr.David Ward & Mr.Chris Wells
BALMAIN SC: 1.H.Fujiwara, 4.A.Tesoro, 5.E.Byrne, 3.T.Sowden, 6.C.Modena, 11.J.Deasby(13.D.McParland 77?), 8.C.Andrews, 2.J.Gothe-Snape, 10.D.Hardwick, 9.L.Merlino(capt)(14.J.Flower 85?), 7.J.Richardson(12.L.McCormack 46?).
Subs not used ?15. T.Wylob, RGK.D.Conway.
STANMORE HAWKS: 1. L.Theouli, 2.D.Papazafiropoulos, 5.P.Giannoulis, 6.A.Caltabiano(14.O.Pecoul 68?), 9.A.Heath , 10.D.James, 11..C.Theodosiou (capt), 13.N.Gorsevski(4.C.Lagoudakis 73?), 16.D.Koroma (8.C.Fiakos 80?), 17.W.Hijazi , 20.S.Bromley.
Subs not used ? 22.M.Karagiannis, RGK.J.Frangeskou.
DIVISION ONE REVIEW ? Round Six
Friday evening?s match between Mounties FC and Schofields Scorpions FC was switched very late to Cook Park, Mount Pritchard, because CSI Sports Ground was deemed unplayable.
But the switch didn?t help the ?home? side as Mounties suffered their first loss of 2009, going down to Schofields by the solitary goal in a 0-1 loss.
Glenn McPherson grabbed the all important winner, leaving it late by scoring in the 87th minute, the win lifting Schofields to third on the competition ladder on ten points.
Hajduk Stadium fell prey to the wet weather also, and the match between Sydney Wanderers and Fairfield City Lions on Saturday evening was postponed and will be played on a date yet to be advised.
In the other match on Saturday evening, Inter Lions roared back into form with a 5-0 thumping of Hills Brumbies at Second Ponds Oval.
The first thing that re-appointed ?new? coach Ernesto Meduri did was change the tactics for the Lions, focusing on playing more so down the flanks, and his charges responded by totally dominating proceedings.
Domenic Dimento and Yoshi Tachi, who incidentally was starting for the first time this season, each grabbed a brace of goals, whilst Daniel Toscano also got on the scoresheet as Inter climbed to second place on the ladder.
Of the two matches scheduled for Sunday, the Hurstville ZSC-Dulwich Hill clash was called off due to Hurstville Oval being waterlogged, so stay tuned for details of the replay.
In the other Sunday match at David Phillips Field, Blacktown Spartans came away with all three points following a 1-0 win over UNSW.
Striker Daniel Cornett scored the all important goal on 75 minutes, keeping the Spartans on top of the competition ladder on 13 points.
-By Frank Speranza