The battle for the five is not much clearer with Blacktown Spartans, St George, Northern Tigers, Granville Rage, Spirit FC and Sydney University all still in with a shout.
In the race for the Golden Boot, Kris Holbrook of Granville Rage has skipped three clear of the chasing pack, his double this weekend taking his tally to twelve.
Feature Match of the Week
Macarthur Rams v Blacktown Spartans
Macarthur Rams took the honours but it was a close run thing, finally overcoming Blacktown Spartans by 2-0 to move within a point of the top of Super League.
In truth though, it could have been over by half time as the Rams dominated the opening period but only had the one goal to show for it. It came from a counter attacking move which saw Macarthur charge forward in a wave, outnumbering the Spartans defence five to two. But even so, it looked like Blacktown had managed to repel the attack, closing down well. But despite a couple of opportunities, they couldn?t quite clear their line, and it was Steve Lloyd who took advantage. Picking up the loose ball inside the area, and unmarked, he had a relatively simple task of knocking the ball away for the opener.
Only ten minutes had passed, but it was only the start of the Rams? chances. Chris Gomez shot wide after a bouncing ball eluded the Spartans defence and then a Lloyd header was tipped around for a corner by Chad Taylor. Taylor, covering for the suspended Carlos Saliadarre, was in fine form and came to the rescue on numerous occasions.
The Rams came close again when Craig Cooley?s shot just skimmed the upright and then Lisandro Berbis with a long drive, brought the best out of Taylor again, the keeper diving low to palm to safety.
Against this onslaught, the Spartans were looking a little ill at ease, the bumpy pitch not helping the control of the ball and the Rams strike force of Lloyd, Gomez and Shannon Hankin always looking dangerous. Had it not been for Taylor, the Rams would surely have gone to the sheds more than one goal to the good, Taylor again denying Gomez five minutes before the break.
Macarthur did have the ball in the net for the second time, but the offside flag was raised, Lloyd being prevented from adding to his tally.
But if the first half was the Rams?, the second was Blacktown?s. They showed a lot more poise and energy after the break and it took only a couple of minutes before they were threatening the Rams goal. Tom Spencer headed against the crossbar from a Luke Boyd cross and the Spartans hit the woodwork again while Peter Hubbard struck low and long but just wide. Now it was the Rams who started to feel the pressure as Blacktown searched for the equaliser.
Spencer was flagged offside before putting the ball in the net and Taylor kept the Rams at bay, still, saving from both Lloyd and Gomez in quick succession.
There was some intense pressure from Blacktown especially as the minutes ticked down. But with two minutes to go, it was at the other end that the second goal of the game came. On another quick break, Hankin picked up the ball inside his own half and with no Blacktown players ahead, Hankin charged to goal with the defence in hot pursuit.
Keeping his nerve and composure, Hankin ran the length of the half, drawing Taylor, before sealing the win. Macarthur celebrated like there was no tomorrow, the importance of the result leaving no one in any doubt of the value of these three points.
Macarthur Rams 2 (Steve Lloyd 10?, Shannon Hankin 88?) v Blacktown Spartans 0
Saturday 30 July 2011
at Lynwood Park
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assts: Colin Smith and Mario Tedone
Macarthur Rams: 20. Josh Barrett 2. Craig Cooley (c) 18. Peter Halstead 21 Calum Fleming 6 Josh Ford 3. Emmanuel Elali 7. Alan de la Cuadra (8. Alvaro Malmierca 85?) 15. Lisandro Berbis (11. Daniel Duarte 79?) 9. Shannon Hankin 10. Chris Gomez (14. Ryan Marchant 68?) 13. Steve Lloyd.
Subs not used: 20. Ben Needham 4. Goran Ljuboja
Yellow Cards: Shannon Hankin, Steve Lloyd
Coach: Claudio Canosa
Blacktown Spartans: 20. Chad Taylor 17. Peter Hubbard 4. Danny Wells (15. Marty McCaffrey 74?) 16. Luke Infanti 7. Michael Todd 6. Greg Kondek 5. Luke Boyd 8. Tom Spencer 11. Glen McPherson (9. James Young 68?) 10. Mario Ghobrial (19. Simon Zahra 80?) 18. Todd Macrae.
Subs not used: Nathan Agbinya
Yellow Cards: Peter Hubbard, Greg Kondek, Glen McPherson.
Coach: Ben de Hann
West Sydney Berries v Fraser Park
It was not a good night for West Sydney Berries, dropping a late two points at home to Fraser Park, a result which could make the difference between first and second.
Fraser Park had taken the lead from the spot, David Wilson sending the keeper the wrong way, after Masanari Omura was fouled in the area. But the Berries fought back, equalising through Ryan Emerton before half time. John Tsironis then gave the Berries the lead and it looked like they would hold the points until the final whistle. A send off to defender Anthony Barletta, with twenty five minutes to go, certainly didn?t help Fraser Park either.
But despite being a man short, Fraser Park battled on, and deep into injury time, won a free kick on the edge of the box. Danny Wilson floated in the free kick, with David Wilson getting on the end of it to ensure a share of the points.
?That was probably the best we have played for since I arrived?, said David Perkovic.
?We played some good football, which was pleasing as we didn?t play well at all last Wednesday. I think the Berries may have taken us a bit too lightly, too, which helped us?.
?That was very disappointing?, said Steve Karavatakis. ?To give away a free kick like that, so late in the game, is silly. It was a push for no reason. I feel like we have thrown it away now, if we want to win the premiership, we really need to be winning these sort of games?.
?We have probably lost a bit of form at the wrong time of the season while Macarthur seem to be coming good at the right time. But there are still three games to go so anything can happen yet?.
West Sydney Berries 2 (Ryan Emerton 28? John Tsironis 66?) Fraser Park FC 2 (David Wilson 13? pen/92?)
Sydney University v Dulwich Hill
Sydney University?s finals hopes were dealt a huge blow when they were comprehensively defeated by a renewed Dulwich Hill 4-1 at Hensley Field.
Despite taking a one goal lead into the break, courtesy of Liam McConaghy, a second half rout by Dulwich Hill turned the tables on the home side. Robbie Shields drew Dulwich Hill level three minutes after the restart and then Darren Stapleton put the visitors ahead just after the hour.
Despite University still having their chances, they couldn?t break through again and things got worse for Uni when Matt Bianco made it 3-1. A penalty awarded to University could have reduced the deficit but that chance was spurned, Matt Kasbarian saving the spotkick from James O?Rourke.
In the ninetieth minute, Matt Ferriera completed the scoring, bringing Dulwich Hill their biggest win of the season. Even an injury time send off to his captain Darren Stapleton, for a second yellow offence, couldn?t dent Paul Carter?s excitement over the win.
?It was a great result, obviously?, stated Carter. ?But really, Uni could have killed the game off by half time. And they still had their chances in the second, they hit the crossbar, plus they had that penalty. That might have made it interesting, had they scored?.
?But it was a fantastic result for us. It lifts us to twenty two points now and I have confidence that we will finish the season well?.
It was a disappointing night for John Calleja.
?That was like a replay of the first round when we played them?, he said. ?And we weren?t as good as we have been lately, our enthusiasm was a bit down?.
?We definitely shaded them in the first half without creating too many chances and it seemed to be going to plan. But we just didn?t come out in the second half. We were diabolical and a rabble. In the end, we got punched?.
Sydney University 1 (Liam McConaghy 43?) Dulwich Hill 4 (Robbie Shields 48? Darren Stapleton 63? Matt Bianco 77? Matt Ferreira 90?)
Granville Rage v Spirit FC
It was finals football come early at Garside Park on Sunday when Granville Rage met Spirit FC. Both sides needed a win and the three points that go with it and this match started as one would expect of two clubs vying desperately for the top five.
It was clear from the very start that a victory was the aim and if goals were required, both Granville and Spirit set about getting those in double quick fashion.
Only seven minutes had elapsed when the league?s leading scorer Kris Holbrook added to his tally, having an easy tap in from close in. But there was little time for the Rage to rest on any laurels as Spirit quickly retaliated. Good lead up work down the left by ex-Rage, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, saw the ball worked across to Brendan Griffin who shot low past Jason Holmes.
With just fourteen minutes gone, Spirit went up 2-1. Appiah-Kubi again did the damage, beating the defence before lobbing the ball over a backtracking Holmes, who could only help the ball into the net. From 1-0 down to 2-1 up in seven minutes, Spirit were in a good position. But Granville, and particularly Holbrook, were certainly putting up a fight. Holbrook had two chances to draw the Rage level before he actually did so. But the equaliser was worth savouring. Spirit failed to clear a corner and Holbrook slammed a left footed drive low into the bottom corner, away from the outstretched Murray Nelson. That one was going in the moment it left the boot.
2-2 and not yet half an hour gone.
The chances kept coming too. Matthew Clowes forced Holmes to save, as did Appiah Kubi who was enjoying himself on his old ground. Pat Cappuccio had a header which came close, but landed on the top netting.
If the first half set the standard, the second didn?t disappoint. Inside a minute of kick off, Spirit were ahead. Appiah-Kubi set up Akwasi Agyei who slipped the ball past Holmes to make it 3-2.
Then George Kallimanis, on at half time, made his contribution early slamming home Granville?s third, from a Holbrook pass, to make it 3-3, fifty five minutes on the clock.
This full blooded encounter continued on its way, solid tackles and earnest defending but no malice. No example better than when Daniel Cunningham and Holbrook came shoulder to shoulder in a race for the ball.
Every attack threatened a goal in this one but as the game wore on, it seemed that the points would be shared. Phil Pyliotis came close a couple of times for the Rage but with eight minutes left, David Harding was tripped by Andrew Robertson on the corner of the box and byeline, and won a penalty. Pyliotis comfortably put the Rage ahead with a lead they were not to let go again.
It has been a great week for Granville, these three points coming on top of three against St George last Wednesday. They are well in this.
Granville Rage 4 (Kris Holbrook 7?, 26?, George Kallimanis 55?, Phil Pyliotis pen 82?) v Spirit FC 3 (Brendan Griffin 10?, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi 14?, Akwasi Agyei 46?)
Sunday 31 July 2011
at Garside Park
Referee: Jason Blackwood
Assts: Nathan Roberts and Robert Harry
Granville Rage: 1. Jason Holmes 4. Cameron McKinnon (6. Joseph Cartisano 90?) 13. Daniel Carrozza (c) 20. Andy Matloub 3. David Comito 8. Phil Pyliotis 2. Ante Bakmaz 18. Pat Cappuccio 7. David Harding 17. Bishara Stephan (10. George Kallimanis 46?) 9. Kris Holbrook.
Subs not used: 12. Matthew Cavasinni 19. Jason Sahni 22. Ben Calderan
Yellow Cards: Ante Bakmaz, Cameron McKinnon, Joseph Cartisano
Coaches: Mauricio Islas and Jason Holmes
Spirit FC: 1. Murray Nelson 14. Nick Trimble (4. Paul Nicolaou 55?) 2. Daniel Cunningham (c) 3. Josh de Kelly 17. Andrew Robertson 12. Brendan Griffin 5. Akwasi Agyei (7. Juan Chavez 78?) 8. Matthew Clowes 19. Brady Smith 9. Tim Simpson (10. Leo Papanicolaou 68?) 16. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi.
Subs not used: 15. Daniel Findlay 41. Josh Stanic
Yellow Cards: Brady Smith and Paul Nicolaou
Coach: John McLafferty
Northern Tigers v Central Coast
Northern Tigers moved into the five for the first time since round six after they defeated Central Coast 2-1 at Mills Park.
After a scoreless first half, it was Adam Hett who put the Tigers in front with just twelve minutes to go before Daniel Clifford doubled the scoreline five minutes later. Darren Cooper brought the Coast back into it, but there was too little time to do any real damage.
Northern Tigers 2 (Adam Hett 78?, Daniel Clifford 82?) v Central Coast 1 (Darren Cooper 90?)
Hills Brumbies v St George
In the late kick off at Lily Homes Stadium, St George overcame Hills Brumbies 3-0 to jump one spot to fourth position, while moving to within four points of leaders West Sydney Berries.
Two first half goals to George Lagoudakis, a sweet shot from outside the box, and Blake Ricciuto, who headed home from a corner, set the scene. A third to Jordan Figon, in the second half, made sure of a comfortable win for St George.
Hills Brumbies 0 v St George 3 (George Lagoudakis, Blake Ricciuto, Jordan Figon)
12 – Kris Holbrook (Granville Rage)
9 – Chris Gomez (Macarthur Rams)
Shannon Hankin (Macarthur Rams)
Liam McConaghy (Sydney University)
Dragan Savic (Hills Brumbies)
Dimitri Zakilas (West Sydney Berries)
8 – Stefan de Jesus (West Sydney Berries)
Grant Maundrell (Central Coast)
7 – Juan Chavez (Spirit FC)
Travis Cooper (Northern Tigers)
Ivo de Jesus (St George)
Steve Donevski (Dulwich Hill)
Matt Mitchell (Central Coast)
John Tsironis (West Sydney Berries)
Simon Zahra (Blacktown Spartans)
-By Peter Rowney