The 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition will culminate next weekend with a Grand Final to savour, pitting together the league’s biggest heavyweights, Rydalmere Lions and Fraser Park, in what promises to be the game to end all games with a venue to be announced shortly.
The thrills and spills of sudden death football continued on the weekend, and it was the end of the road for both St George City FA and SD Raiders, who bowed out after impressive first seasons in the PlayStation NPL 3 competition.
Let’s review Week Two of the finals, and more specifically, the two matches that produced this year’s Grand Final combatants.
Semi Final 2
FRASER PARK – ST GEORGE CITY FA 3-0
Fraser Park made it look easy on Sunday afternoon, beating a disappointing St George City FA 3-0 in a canter to book their place in the 2017 Grand Final.
Fraser Park were good for the 3-0 score, dominating general play, and scoring goals in the opening minutes of each half, plus an unfortunate own goal midway through the first period.
The match was delayed at the opening whistle when Fraser Park goal keeper, Chris Becerra, was forced to change some of his attire, with the kick off taking place ten minutes after scheduled time.
Then within the second minute of play, St George City FA striker, Juan Chavez, injured his foot on the artificial surface as he attempted to keep a ball inside the far touchline.
Whilst Chavez was receiving treatment, Fraser Park took an early lead.
Alvaro Malmierca twisted past an opponent in the centre of the St George City half, and with the wind at his back, let fly with a screamer from 25 yards that flew into the top corner of the net, leaving St George City FA keeper, James Webb, helpless.
St George City FA were forced into an early substitution when Chavez couldn’t continue, and James Spanoudakis entered the fray on the right of the front three.
Peter Crevani then went close on 6 minutes for Fraser Park, his wicked free kick from close to the right touchline swerving past attackers and defenders alike as it bounced inches to the outside of the upright.
Another swerving ball from Crevani on 11 minutes – this time from a corner – was stabbed home by Luke Burke at the back stick, but the referee spotted a foul, and the Fraser Park goal was ruled out.
St George City FA were looking very flat footed, and were second to every ball in the opening exchanges, with Fraser Park looking to capitalise on having the wind at their backs.
Malmierca and Musashi Kokubo had the midfield by the scruff of the neck, and their domination continued to provide more ammunition in the front third for Fraser Park.
Malmierca was the instigator of Fraser Park’s second goal in the 23rd minute, winning possession against two St George City FA players in the middle of the attacking half, before slipping a perfectly weighted ball into space for Chris Hatfield to run onto.
Hatfield’s speed saw him get there before the goal line, and his tricky cross took a couple of deflections before squirming inside the near post off St George City defender, Chris Lawson.
In fact, Fraser Park almost made it 3-0 in the 28th minute, following good lead up play by Nick Dimitropoulos and Peter Crevani. Ben Vidaic was the recipient of a Crevani square pass, but his shot angled wide of the goal with St George at sixes and sevens.
St George City were struggling to get out of their half, let alone put any pressure on Chris Becerra in the Fraser Park goal, and a half time reprieve could not come quick enough.
The second half could not have started any worse for St George City FA, conceding a goal within three minutes.
Chris Hatfield crossed from the right flank, and Ben Vidaic rose majestically to lob his header over James Webb in the St George goal, giving Fraser Park an unassailable lead.
The match was then held up in the 58th minute for over half an hour when St George midfielder, Adrian Webster, suffered a frightening shoulder injury, and could not be moved as he lay in wait for an ambulance. Everyone in the PlayStation4 NPL 3 NSW Men’s and wider football community wishes Adrian a speedy recovery back to full health.
The temperatures dropped immensely during this waiting period, and the players found it difficult to keep warm, let alone focus on the match given Webster’s unfortunate injury.
When play did resume, both sides seemingly looked unable to lift to the level expected in a semi final, with St George City devoid of ideas, and Fraser Park intent on riding out the remainder of the match without much fuss.
Sam Messam could’ve done better in the 63rd minute, the St George City flanker heading over from close range following a great cross from the right by Jason Lazarevski.
Nicholas Napoli then fired an arrow in the 77th minute, hitting a sweet 25 yard volley that finally gave Chris Becerra something to do in the Fraser goal, with the keeper tipping the effort over the crossbar.
But that was the best they could muster, and Fraser Park ended victorious with a 3-0 scoreline.
For St George City FA, one game does not make a season. They weren’t at the races on Sunday, and found it very difficult to get into any stride from the outset. On the receiving end of two goals in the opening minutes of each half didn’t help, nor did losing two of their most experienced campaigners in Chavez and Webster through injury.
But coach, Manny Spanoudakis, as well as Aytec Genc and all the backroom staff at St George City FA have plenty to be proud about. Having been promoted from the State League in 2016, St George City FA finished the competition proper in 3rd position, and also finished 3rd in the Club Championship, winning the first Elimination Final before being knocked out just ninety minutes away from the season decider. The club’s U20 s defeated Fraser Park 3-0 in the early game, and will represent St George City FA in next week’s Grand Final against Rydalmere Lions.
After the pain of going so close in the Premiership race as well as the Club Championship, this win gives Fraser Park a chance to pick up some silverware in next week’s Grand Final against Rydalmere Lions.
Jason and Dean Culina masterminded a solid display in their win versus St George City, with the team dominating from the get go, scoring after just three minutes, and never looking back as they controlled proceedings. Alvaro Malmierca was the pick of a strong team performance, his silky touches prising open the St George City defence at will, and his goal was some strike, worthy of a semi final. Nick Dimitropoulos marshalled his well structured backline to keep out the opposition attack, and he will now lead his team into next week’s final and deciding season fixture.
FRASER PARK 3 (Malmierca 3’, Lawson own goal 23’, Vidaic 47’)
ST GEORGE CITY FA 0
Fraser Park, Marrickville
Referee – Adam Naylor
Assistant Referees – Janush Adabjou and Patrick Teleki
FRASER PARK: 1.C.Becerra, 23.F.Aoun, 22.L.Burke, 4.P.Crevani (9.A.Euripidou 80’), 5.N.Dimitropoulos (capt), 17.M.Gaitatzis, 20.C.Hatfield (19.G.Paradanta 55’), 6.M.Kokubo, 8.A.Malmierca, 3.J.Roberts, 13.B.Vidaic (10.J.Simpson 73’).
Substitutes Not Used –18.N.Lopino, 60.M.Hastings.
Yellow Cards – 6.M.Kokubo 38’.
Red Cards – Nil
ST GEORGE CITY FA: 1.J.Webb, 9.J.Chavez (10.J.Spanoudakis 5’), 20.G.Codrea (12.P.Yannopoulos 47’), 19.J.Janic, 21.A.Jovovic, 4.C.Lawson, 7.S.Messam, 8.N.Napoli, 2.S.Thomas, 3.B.Tsanidis (capt), 6.A.Webster (36.J.Lazarevski 58’).
Substitutes Not Used – 41.J.Drahalivas, 13.S.Richardson.
Yellow Cards – 19.J.Janic 41’.
Red Cards – Nil
RYDALMERE LIONS – SD RAIDERS 4-2
Rydalmere Lions qualified for their second successive PlayStation NPL 3 Grand Final with a closely fought 4-2 victory over SD Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
The match at Blacktown Football Park started in explosive fashion, with Mark Symington putting the Raiders in front within the opening minute before the fans had time to take their seats.
Russell Farrell equalised in the 6th minute for Rydalmere Lions, but parity itself only lasted a minute, with winger, Daniel Bittar, edging the Raiders back in front in the 7th minute.
Zac Watters restored parity for Rydalmere Lions for the second time in the 16th minute, giving the jubilant spectators plenty to cheer about with four goals in the opening quarter of an hour or so.
Zac Watters then put Rydalmere Lions in front 3-2 after 38 minutes, and it was a lead that the Lions would hold onto until half time.
The match was typically fiercely contested, producing eight yellow cards, with neither side giving an inch in their quest for triumph.
Alistair McKie closed off proceedings with a goal on 80 minutes, producing a 4-2 result in favour of the Lions.
It is the end of the road for SD Raiders in 2017, but the club must be congratulated on a remarkable first season in the Playstation NPL 3 competition, and can hold their heads high. Coach Diego Machuca instigated an impressive 5th placing in the competition proper, as well as reaching within 90 minutes of the Grand Final. Throw in a Cup run that almost produced a boil over with an extra time loss to Apia Leichhardt, and you can appreciate the success the SD Raiders have had in 2017. Special congratulations to football stalwart, the inspirational Mark D’Alessandro, who played the final game of his stellar career.
The win continues a remarkable season for Rydalmere Lions, having not only won the Premiership and Club Championship, but the club now can boast having all three senior squads taking place in next week’s Championship decider.
The club’s U20s booked their spot in the Grand Final with a 4-2 victory over Sydney University, whilst the U18s also overcame Sydney University, winning 4-1 after extra time.
Congratulations to Tony Basha and all his staff and players at Rydalmere Lions, and surely the club’s large and boisterous fan base will be out in force next week to cheer their teams on in all three grades.