SELECT Futsal Premier League semi-finals saw Campbelltown Quake knockout Enfield Rovers 10-5 in a frenzied elimination semi-final while Inner West Magic advanced to a successive grand final following a 5-3 defeat of Dural Warriors.
A whopping 23 goals was the highest scoring semi-final set in premier league history, eclipsing the 2012/13 playoffs which coincidentally featured the exact same line-up (Quake downing Rovers 7-6 while Warriors beat Magic 6-2).
Campbelltown now face Dural in this Saturday’s preliminary final at Blacktown Leisure Centre to see who’ll play Inner West in the March 3 championship decider at Valentine Sports Park.
Dural Warriors 3 (Ahmed Sweedan 2, Brandon Vella) Inner West Magic 5 (Jonathan Barzel, Fran Calle Lamelas, Daniel Fogarty, Daniel Fornito, Matthew Lecce)
Campbelltown Quake 10 (Shannon Fielding, Marko Filipovic 2, Anthony Haddad, Shaun Irwin, Daniel Martinez 2, Mark Symington 3) Enfield Rovers 5 (Charles Abou Serhal, Noah Chia 4)
Inner West down Dural
Inner West Magic won a tale of two halves against Dural Warriors 5-3 to book themselves into a second straight grand final.
A fantastic atmosphere greeted both teams at The Centre and the home side didn’t disappoint, Brandon Vella and Ahmed Sweedan goals lifting Dural to a 2-0 halftime lead despite several key players missing from action.
Inner West fought back and fired in three of their own, including a Daniel Fornito scorcher, before a Sweedan second locked the scores at 3-3 midway through a riveting contest.
Matthew Lecce put Magic back in front 15 seconds later and Spanish import Fran Calle dispossessed Greg Giovenali at the top of the D to scramble home a match-sealer five minutes from time.
It was Inner West’s third win over Dural in the last four meetings and 14th (of 25 encounters) decided by two goals or less. Jonathan Barzel and Daniel Fogarty also scored for the visitors.
Club manager Matteo Maiorana didn’t have to stray far from previous comments following Dural matches. “Standard close, hard-fought, fiery, entertaining, well-supported Magic vs Dural game… it’s the norm isn’t it!”
“At 0-2 down it didn’t look good, but I’ve said before the growth and resilience in this team is for all to see. After last week’s heart-breaking loss it took a lot for the team to bounce back and they did. I couldn’t be any prouder of them.
“We’ve now booked our third consecutive grand final – fingers crossed we can go back-to-back.”
And while Inner West march to a fourth grand final appearance in six defining years, defeat consigned Dural – in their eighth playoff campaign – to a first-ever preliminary final (versus Quake at Blacktown Leisure Centre on Saturday) following a remarkable seven straight major semi-final wins.
In fact, before last year’s championship loss to Inner West, Dural hadn’t lost a finals match since Sydney City Eagles beat them 2-1 for the 2010/11 title – they’ve now lost two in a row.
Dural coach Rob Varela felt the crowd certainly got their rewards from yet another exciting affair between the pair, but pointed to a lacklustre restart as the possible game-changer.
“Our defensive intensity dropped off at the start of the second half and Magic capitalised on it scoring three quick goals… and conceded two late goals as fatigue set in,” he said.
“Missing three senior players due to injury and suspension didn’t help but all credit to Inner West who played a fantastic game.
“We dust ourselves off and come back next week against Quake, who are in great form. Hopefully we get some troops back but either way we won’t die wondering.”
The two great sides have started a combined 35 playoff games yet only met each other on two occasions – both grand finals; in 2013/14 Dural dusted Campbelltown 6-0 and an own goal separated them in the 2015/16 decider.
Sydney’s north-west conquistadors haven’t been happy camping for the ‘Towners in quite a while. They haven’t beaten Dural since February 2014 and only mustered a lowly 12 goals in the last eight meetings. To put it bluntly, Quake weapon Mark Symington has scored once against Warriors… in October 2014.
However, Campbelltown do have an enviable record when it comes to knockout scenarios (excluding grand finals) winning nine of 13 pressure-cookers (three losses via penalty shootout), and this is their seventh preliminary final appearance (winning four).
They’ve also shown great capacity away from Minto losing just once in their last eight road trips, whereas Dural have lost four of their last eight games outside The Centre.
Maiorana wasn’t fussy about who he’d like to match up with in the decider, pointing out the contrasting Quake and Warriors styles.
“Both teams are excellent and worthy opponents,” he said. “You could say Quake have more individual weapons however Dural are the better defensive team.”
“Most people have said to me if they were in my shoes they’d prefer to play Quake, but I’d prefer to play Dural. The history between our two clubs deserves another chapter. To see Valentine’s Sports Park packed to the rafters, half in red and half in orange, is always great for the sport and the rivalry only continues to build.
“If Quake make it, it will be just as tough; they are a totally different team. Not as good defensively but they have more individuals who can score. Either way, we will be prepared.”
Campbelltown dump Enfield
Campbelltown Quake produced a record-breaking performance to send Enfield Allstars out of the running, an electrifying 10-5 win at The Centre, Dural, on Saturday evening pulling out all the stops.
Outdoor football commitments sucked the stars right out of the Allstars line-up – no Lachlan Wright, Shervin Adeli, Michael Kouta, Dominic Cox or Kris Vlismas, and Quake showed no mercy from the get-go, racking up a 4-1 lead midway through the contest and finishing off the job with a six-goal second term led by a mercurial Mark Symington hat-trick and complemented by Daniel Martinez and Marko Filipovic doubles.
Not even an inspiring four-goal effort from Noah Chia was enough to help the Allstars challenge as they simply had no answer to a devastating Campbelltown attack that produced six goalscorers (including Martinez’s eighth goal in the last four Enfield meetings), and gave Quake an overall 9-8 edge over Enfield (now averaging nearly 10 goals a meeting).
Fifteen goals is the joint-fourth highest registered game total (Dural beat Enfield 11-7 in 2013/14, Enfield beat Mountain 11-6 in 2015/16 and Mascot beat Western Raiders 10-6 way back in 2008/09), and equal-third highest team tally (Dural won 12-1 against Mountain in 2013/14 and South Coast in 2011/12; 11 has been reached six times).
The biggest playoff score ever (bettering Campbelltown’s 7-6 preliminary final win over Enfield five years ago and Inner West’s 7-5 victory against Enfield in 2014/15) was also the first time double-figures had been reached in a finals match (the nearest was when Sydney City Eagles ironically knocked out Quake 8-3 in 2011/12). It was the equal-third highest finals winning margin (the largest when Dural beat Boomerangs 7-0 four summers ago).
The scoreline equaled Campbelltown’s 6-9 loss to South Coast during the season as the club’s highest scoring games, and sat just one shy of their highest ever tally (a 11-2 win versus Western Raiders in 2010/11); and it’s pretty clear who’s carrying the standard…
Symington’s hat-trick was his fourth in finals – only Dural’s Greg Giovenali (2) has bagged more than one playoff triple, while Chia’s four-for is just the second such score in a post-season match, you guessed it, after a four-goal Symington haul in the 7-6 win over Enfield.
He’s the first player to reach 20 finals goals by some way (Chris Zeballos scored a dozen for Inner West and Sydney City and Giovenali has 11 to his name), a 19th strike of the summer is already the highest ‘Purples’ tally (he bagged 18 in 2014/15 and 2012/13 – only three players have scored more in a summer: Shervin Adeli 29, 21 & 19, Daniel Fulton 24 and Giovenali 20), and one more brace and/or triple will see Symo set new club marks in both categories.
Campbelltown coach Scott Gilligan was all for scoring lots of goals but would’ve preferred a better test on Quake’s ‘Achilles heel’ – their defence. “They were very depleted and it was 8-2 at one stage, but we still leaked goals at the back-end when we shouldn’t have,” he said.
“After two big losses against Magic the drive is there, so it’s a matter of us turning up on the day with the right attitude, but we definitely need to work on our defence to be competitive against Dural [this weekend].
“They lost four in a row this season so something seems amiss with them, so probably this is the best time to catch them in regard to their previous performances, but I don’t think they’ll be any easier than they usually are.”
Live-by-the-sword Enfield are pretty much used to high-scoring affairs but the result saw them become just the second premier league outfit known to score 10 in a game (they thrashed Mountain Majik 10-1 last month) and concede 10 in a game during the same summer. The Mountaineers beat Mascot 10-5 and later lost 1-12 to Dural in 2013/14.
Coming Up This Weekend…
SELECT Futsal Premier League preliminary final (February 24) takes place at Blacktown Leisure Centre on Saturday night (6.30pm) when Dural Warriors plays Campbelltown Quake to see who’ll face off against Inner West Magic in the grand final.