The 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition came to a climax on Sunday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre, with the competition’s heavyweights, Rydalmere Lions and Fraser Park, battling for Championship glory.
Let’s review how the Grand Final unravelled.
Fraser Park are the 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s Champions, coming from a goal down to overcome Rydalmere Lions 2-1 after extra time in a tension filled Grand Final on Sunday afternoon.
Having been perennial bridesmaids to Rydalmere Lions throughout a closely fought season, Fraser Park finally cracked it for a piece of silverware, a trophy deserved of their marvellous efforts during the campaign.
Both sides came into the match courtesy of the semi-final victories last week, with Rydalmere Lions looking for a clean sweep after claiming the Premiership and Club Championship double, whilst Fraser Park were desperate to avoid being runners up once again.
The teams were both missing one of their star attacking players – Zak Elrich was out of the Rydalmere Lions line-up because of illness, whilst Peter Crevani was out of the country and absent from the Fraser Park team sheet.
The crowd had come in droves, and settled in at a windy Sydney United Sports Centre, eager to see these two heavyweights battle for Championship glory.
Just like an arm wrestle that doesn’t budge, the players were kept between the penalty boxes for the best part of the opening half an hour. Keen not to make the first error, each defensive line stayed structured and held firm, eliminating any danger, often with safety first tactics.
The cagey affair was bound to open up a little, but Fraser Park contained the Rydalmere attack, and were keen to catch the Lions on the counter, however each team’s tactics negated the other, producing very little goalmouth action.
In fact, the first real threat on goal didn’t arrive until the 31st minute, when Fraser Park’s Alvaro Malmeirca blasted a sharp effort just wide of the Rydalmere upright following a smartly taken corner that reached him on the edge of the box.
Fraser speedster, Chris Hatfield found it tough going trying to get past Russell Farrell on the right side of the Rydalmere defence, but he managed it on 41 minutes, weaving into the box before firing a low shot that was well saved down low by Rydalmere’s keeper, Harrick Sinpraseuth.
The heat was playing a part in the evenly contested bout, and a half time reprieve gave everyone a chance to recharge and review the strategy for the second half.
The game was screaming for a goal to bring it alive, and the fans didn’t have to wait long as it arrived just five minutes after the break.
Rydalmere’s left wing back, Alistair McKie, picked up the ball just inside the Fraser Park half, and took off down the line, changing gears as he approached the goal line. McKie looked up before cutting a low ball back to Ahmad Elrich, who in turn laid it off for Amaury Gauthier to stroke home inside the upright, giving Rydalmere Lions a 1-0 lead.
Gauthier picked up two gongs at the PlayStation NPL 3 awards on Friday night – the golden boot for his 32 goals this season, as well as the Player of the Year award – and he once again showed all his predatory instincts, being in the right place at the right time to do what he does best.
Fraser Park should’ve equalised on 64 minutes when the woodwork came to Rydalmere’s rescue.
Michael Gaitatzis stole possession in the middle of the Lions’ half, and immediately fed Ben Vidaic at the point of the box. Vidaic played a delightful pass into the path of Alex Euripidou inside the right channel of the penalty area, and his shot beat Rydalmere’s keeper, Harrick Sinpraseuth, but rebounded back off the near post.
Remarkably Euripidou was at it again just four minutes later, with the Fraser Park winger cracking a firm cross in from the right wing that cannoned back off the near post with Sinpraseuth sprawling to protect the Rydalmere goal.
Rydalmere replied with a neat passing move on 73 minutes, ending with a swivel and low shot by Ahmad Elrich that rolled past Fraser keeper, Chris Becerra, but also rolled past the outside of the post.
Fraser Park were starting to believe it wasn’t going to be their day when they hit the woodwork for a third time in the 76th minute. This time it was a long range ‘cross shot’ by Jordan Roberts from the right that went over the head of Rydalmere’s keeper, Sinpraseuth, but bounced off the cross bar back into play, before team mate Chris Hatfield blasted the rebound high over the goal.
But Fraser Park’s persistence eventually paid off when they notched an equaliser in the 82nd minute. Second half substitute, Goncalo Paradanta, took aim from all of 25 yards, and hit a low shot which Harrick Sinpraseuth looked to have covered. But the ball squirmed under the Rydalmere keeper’s body, rolling into the net to make it 1-1.
The match went into extra time, and many of the players had very little left to give as the pace of the game slowed a couple of gears.
Rydalmere Lions made one sub towards the end of normal time, and the remaining two early in extra time, whilst Fraser Park made their final substitute in extra time itself, with players beginning to drop with cramp.
Penalties seemed on the cards for most in the ground, but Fraser Park had other ideas.
A cross from the left by Chris Hatfield struck the arm of a Rydalmere player, and referee, Adam Susz, pointed to the spot, right on the stroke of half time in extra time.
Fraser Park’s Michael Gaitatzis struck home the penalty, cracking it to the keeper’s right, whilst Rydalmere’s Harrick Sinpraseuth dived in the opposite direction.
Rydalmere Lions ran out of puff as Fraser Park played down the clock to record a valuable Championship victory, sending their fans into delirium as the final whistle brought proceedings to a halt.
The loss was an unfortunate way for Rydalmere Lions to finish 2017, but they can be extremely proud of their achievements this year. Premiers, Club Champions, and having all three grades present on Grand Final day reflected the magnificent season they have had.
Rydalmere Lions’ coach, Tony Basha, reflected post-match.
“Zak Elrich has been huge for us this year, and it was a big blow to us to be missing his influence in such a big game. It meant we had to shuffle our preferred line-up and start a couple of players with injuries.”
“But Fraser Park didn’t come second for nothing, they are a good team, well coached and well structured, and they had the luck today. Moments win games, and today the moments went their way.”
Russell Farrell and Alistair McKie had great games at either side of the defence, tackling with purpose, and overlapping at every opportunity. Ahmad Elrich looked dangerous when on the ball in the attacking third, whilst Amaury Gauthier capped off his awesome season with a neat goal.
Other than the team honours, coach Tony Basha won the PlayStation NPL 3 Coach of the Year award, whilst as mentioned previously, striker Amaury Gauthier, won both the Golden Boot and Player of the Year awards.
Rydalmere’s attacking philosophy has been a revelation of entertainment to watch, and they deserve their promotion to the PlayStation NPL 2 competition, where they will no doubt be a handful for any opponent.
Fraser Park showed they were a team to be reckoned with from the outset of the campaign, and their persistence and determination eventually bore fruit with a popular Grand Final triumph.
Luke Burke played a great support role at centre back, nullifying many of the Rydalmere attacks, whilst Michael Gaitatzis was busy in the front third, often stealing possession by dropping deep at times, and always searching for a way to prise open the Lions defence.
Fraser Park skipper, Nick Dimitropoulos, was awarded the Man of the Match award for a stellar display of defending. Dimitropoulos was often the security for Fraser Park if the Lions attackers did thread a pass behind his defensive partners, often producing effective covering tackles, whilst always barking support to his team mates.
Football NSW spoke to the victorious captain.
“Our plan was to sit deep and contain their attack. We knew Rydalmere would come at us, and we hoped to hit them on the counter,” said Dimitropoulos.
“I thought the first half was pretty even, both defences held tight. Our goal was a little lucky, but I think we deserved it, at that point we were going at them, and hit the woodwork a few times before we finally scored.”
Dimitropoulos added, “Going into extra time we knew we were a chance. Both teams were very tired, but (Michael) Gaitatzis took the penalty really well, and we held on.”
“I think the two teams pushed each other to be better all season, we have a great mutual respect for each other, it has been a great duel. Congratulations to Rydalmere Lions, they deserved the Premiership, and to get promoted. But I am proud of my team, and I think we deserved to win the Grand Final today.”
“Other than our squad of players, I want to take this opportunity to thank our coaches – Branko, Jason and Dean Culina – for their guidance not only throughout the season, but the calming presence when we needed it in the Finals. Also amongst our many unsung heroes, a special mention to Daniel Dominguez and Jarek Pacholski, who do so much for Fraser Park behind the scenes, always supporting the players, and this win is as much for them as it is for anyone else in the club.”
RYDALMERE LIONS 1 (Gauthier 50’)
FRASER PARK 2 (Paradanta 83’, Gaitatzis penalty 105’) aet
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee – Adam Susz
Assistant Referees – Lance Greenshields and Raymond Osbourne
4th Official – Scott Edeling
RYDALMERE LIONS:1.H.Sinpraseuth, 10.J.Aguirre (5.K.Allybokus 91’), 21.A.Elrich (capt), 4.R.Farrell, 24.A.Gauthier, 8.M.Gibbs, 11.A.McKie (17.D.Kim 98’), 3.D.Ortega Roman, 6.A.Sayan, 2.A.Sopina, 9.Z.Watters (22.Y.Silvestre 85’).
Substitutes Not Used –19.S.Zahra, 71.J.Wrightson.
Yellow Cards – Nil
Red Cards – Nil
FRASER PARK: 1.C.Becerra, 80.F.Aoun, 22.L.Burke, 5.N.Dimitropoulos (capt), 9.A.Euripidou, 17.M.Gaitatzis (10.J.Simpson 109’), 23.C.Hatfield, 6.M.Kokubo (16.Z.Ribeiro 46’), 8.A.Malmierca, 33.J.Roberts, 13.B.Vidaic (19.G.Paradanta 65’).
Substitutes Not Used –18.N.Lopino, 60.M.Hastings.
Yellow Cards – 17.M.Gaitatzis 52’, 16.Z.Ribeiro 72’, 19.G.Paradanta 97’.
Red Cards – Nil
The U20s Grand Final went the way of Rydalmere Lions, who accounted for St George City FA 3-0, after finishing runners-up in the competition proper to Premiers, Fraser Park.
Dunbar Rovers were victorious in the U18s Grand Final, overcoming a gallant Rydalmere Lions by 4-3, earning the coveted double by winning the Championship to go with their Premiership title.