Will Bankstown or Camden book their place in this year’s Grand Final?
Who will survive in the knockout clash between Nepean and Hurstville?
Week one of the finals has begun with a bang in the Men’s State League competition.
Bankstown United (4) vs Camden Tigers (1)
2017 premiers Bankstown United have booked their place in this season’s Grand Final after an emphatic 4-1 victory over Camden Tigers.
Fans barely had time to take a sip of their hot chocolate on a chilly Sunday evening, before Shannon Hankin opened the scoring after just 40 seconds.
Hankin showed blistering pace to latch onto a through ball in behind the unsuspecting Camden defence, and then kept his cool to finish expertly into the bottom corner of the goals.
It was the worst possible start for a Tigers’ defence who have looked bereft of confidence in recent weeks.
In stark contrast, Camden’s attack has roared all season.
The combination of Stephen Lloyd, Jayden Russell and the meddlesome Mugridge brothers have given defenders nightmares all season and they were beginning to do the same to Bankstown early in the match.
And in the 10th minute, Camden would be rewarded for their attacking promise when Matthew Serone pounced on a loose ball in the box and thumped his half volley strike into the top corner of the net.
Two goals inside ten minutes and there were no signs of the goal feast relenting.
In the 15th minute Bankstown seized the initiative courtesy of a trademark Sean Robertson finish. Jovan Miladinovic found himself in space in the middle of the park and showed deft skill to feed a delightful ball in between two Camden defenders for Robertson to latch onto and finish with ease.
After a tight opening, it was fast becoming one-way traffic as wave after wave of Bankstown attack threatened to drown the despairing Camden defence.
Just minutes after taking the lead, Joel Craig broke free on the right wing and charged towards the by-line. He sent a searching ball across the face of the goal which found the run of Robertson who lunged desperately towards the ball but could only connect with an out-stretched toe and the ball dribbled wide.
The Bankstown barrage was relentless and minutes before half-time, Jovan Miladinovic capitalised on some sluggish Camden defending to latch onto a loose ball and finish calmly past the hapless Tigers’ keeper.
As the whistle blew for half-time, fans could be forgiven for believing it was Bankstown, not Camden, with the best attack in the league. Seemingly everything Bankstown touched in the first half turned to goals whilst Camden’s huff and puff didn’t look like blowing Bankstown’s house down.
Camden emerged for the second period knowing they needed to be first to score if they were going to book their place in this season’s Grand Final.
But the second half began where the first half ended as Bankstown’s bullish attack peppered the Camden goal.
And the Bankstown pressure paid off just 8 minutes into the second period when Camden’s captain Callum Rogers’s sloppy pass out of defence fell at the grateful feet of Sean Robertson who showed audacious skill to dance around one defender before curling a brilliant shot into the top corner of the net beyond the fingertips of a luckless Camden keeper.
With the scoreboard telling a story few would have predicted, Bankstown and Camden bowed to the inevitable as the match ticked incessantly towards full-time.
Camden could not be accused of a lack of effort but the night truly belonged to Bankstown whose performance will have many believing they have the quality to complete an historic premiership/championship double this season.
Dean Bradley applauded his side’s effort in the match but lamented the fact his side gave up an early 3-1 lead to Bankstown.
“You just can’t give away 3 goals after 30 minutes and expect to win the game. We know we have the attacking power to win games but we didn’t give ourselves a chance tonight”.
Claudio Canosa was extremely pleased with his side’s performance, believing they have peaked at just the right time.
“We have been getting better each week and tonight you saw a performance that we have been building towards all year. The Grand Final awaits for us now”.
Indeed it does, Bankstown now have the luxury of a week off whilst Camden will play host to Nepean FC in a mouth-watering preliminary final clash between the fierce Club Championship rivals.
Bankstown United 4: (S. Robertson x2, S. Hankin, J. Miladinovic)
Camden Tigers 1: (M. Serone)
Valentine Sports Park, Sunday August 20
Bankstown United: M. Anwia, A. Biernat, J. Craig, C. Denkov, M. Garcia, D. Hamilton, S. Hankin, M. Harrison, I. Iparraguirre, A. Kartsioulis, A. Lazarou, T. Markovski, J. Miladinovic, H. Nakano, J. Ninnes, S. Robertson
Camden Tigers: B. Brooker, C. Cevenini, M. Clarke, S. Doherty, M. Green, D. Harris, L. Hastie, R. Hastie, S. Lloyd, D. Mugridge, N. Mugridge, C. Rogers, J. Russell, M. Serone, B. Simpson, B. Szumski
Nepean FC (5) vs Hurstville FC (2)
Frank Sinatra once famously sung that he “did it my way”.
Through doubt, uncertainty and in all unlikeliness, Nepean too, have done it their way.
A come-from behind 5-2 victory over a Hurstville FC side who have been in rampaging form in recent weeks has booked Magdy Andrawes’s side a place in the preliminary final against bitter rivals Camden.
Marko Banic opened the scoring for Hurstville with the last kick of the half after his penalty nestled into the corner of the goals, just beyond the fingertips of the Nepean keeper who had guessed the right way.
Knowing they were just 45 minutes away from elimination, Nepean began the second half desperately searching for a way back into the game.
And they found the answer they were looking for courtesy of a thunderous Simon Ly header after a pinpoint free kick.
Knockout games produce emotion seldom seen in regular season matches. And it was certainly the case in this match as a vociferous crowd urged their team forward.
And tempers threatened to boil over when Robert Polistina had his penalty saved midway through the second half.
To their credit, Nepean showed real resolve after the missed penalty.
Rory Mcgeown and Clement Waoci looked ominous on either wing and their endeavour proved worthwhile minutes later when Mcgeown beat the keeper at his near post from 25 yards out.
With their noses in front and the momentum clearly on their side. Nepean attacked Hurstville with blistering pace out wide. Hurstville bodies were tiring and a careless challenge from Dario Borovickic gave the referee no chance in dismissing him for an early shower.
Hurstville’s misery was compounded just seconds after Borovickic trudged off as Clement Waoci blasted the ball home from distance, the shot sneaking past the keeper at his neglected near post.
And it was the wonderful wizardry of Waoci again as he sprinted down the right hand side of the field and finished coolly past the keeper.
Michael Di Meglio stole a consolation goal on the stroke of fulltime rising highest from a corner to head home.
There was still time for a Rory Mcgeown double however and the classy winger combined beautifully with Clement Waoci to sneak the ball past the on-rushing Hurstville keeper.
After an incredible run to make the finals, Hurstville FC will be disappointed to stumble at the first hurdle.
For Nepean, next week’s preliminary final clash against Camden provides a sweet opportunity to exact revenge for their Club Championship defeat in the last round of the season. Magdy Andrawes’s side will be full of confidence after this victory and will undoubtedly be encouraged by Camden’s heavy defeat to Bankstown in the major semi final.
– By Ryan Latty