Begin as you mean to go on. But whose begging has set them on the path for glory and whose has set them on the path for failure?
Find out in Football NSW’s Round 1 Review of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s
Match of the Round
Hills United (0) vs GHFA Spirit FC (1)
GHFA Spirit FC got their 2018 campaign off to the perfect start, with a tense 1-0 victory over ten-man Hills United FC this afternoon at a steamy Valentine Sports Park.
It was the late, late show for Spirit FC, as substitute Kevin Lopes used all his neck muscles to hoist home an 84th minute winner against 10-men Hills United.
For Hills United FC, it was an encouraging display – despite the loss – as the club came into the game with series of injuries that left them low on numbers.
Daniel Fogarty’s pace has given defenders many sleepless nights down the years and it looks set to be no different this season as he linked up well with the towering figure of Pete Cejka.
The summer heat clung painfully to the air at Valentine Sports Park, with both teams struggling to come to terms with the conditions.
Fogarty continued to slice through the thick air, testing Spirit FC’s new keeper, Romic, with two stinging efforts.
Shortly after it was Hills United’s new goal keeper, Luke Turnbull to get in on the act, saving a close range effort from Andre Carle.
Despite the efforts of both teams, the referee blew his whistle for half time with the scores locked at 0-0.
Encouraged by their own resilience, Spirit FC came out in the second half with renewed optimism.
Carle was once again in the thick of the action, sneaking past Romic in goals but failed to generate enough power on his attempt to find the back of the net.
The game turned on 58 minutes when Hills United defender, Eoin Montford was sent off for dissent after a robust challenge that had already earned him a yellow.
Despite their numerical advantage, Spirit FC struggled to carve out many goal-scoring opportunities.
Hills United continued to be a threat on the break as Pete Cejka sniffed around looking for any hint of a chance.
Spirit FC remained patient, trying to move the Brumbies’ defenders around.
And their patience was finally rewarded just 5 minutes from time.
A barrage of set pieces hit the Hills defence like a series of well-timed jabs before the haymaker arrived courtesy of Kevin Lopes who stretched to head the ball home and seal a precious round one victory for Spirit FC.
Post-match, David Perkovic praised the commitment of his side after a testing first half.
“It was a tough opening 45 minutes; the weather wreaked havoc with our approach. But I had faith in the ability of my players and I’m glad we were able to take advantage of the extra man”.
Perkovic was equally buoyant about the cameo performance of Kevin Lopes, a former Hakoah Sydney City East attacker who banged in a few goals in his NPL NSW Men’s time with the Eastern Suburbs based club.
“It was great for Kevin to come on and score that header – he hasn’t trained all week!”
Despite their injury woes, Spirit FC begin their campaign in the best possible fashion and will no doubt benefit from the return of some key players in the coming weeks.
You can’t win a competition in the early rounds, but you can certainly lose it. Hills United will be looking to bounce back next week when they travel to Melita stadium to take on Championship hopefuls, Parramatta FC.
Sunday 4th March 2018
Valentine Sports Park
Hills United FC 0
Spirit FC 1 (Lopes 85)
Hills United FC: 1. TURNBULL, Luke, 2. PACE, Kieran, 7. GIOVENALI, Wade (LAUBSCHER 73), 8. MONTFORD, Eoin, 9. MITCHELL, Sean (BASDEN 75), 11. MERRIN, Daine, 15. GATT, Patrick, 16. GIOVENALI, Gregory, 26. PEREIRA ,Kristin, 44. FOGARTY, Daniel (LANGAN 59) 91. CEJKA, Pete
Subs not used: 57. YAMMINE Joey
Yellow Cards: PACE, Kieran & MERRIN, Daine.
Red Cards: Eoin Montford (58 mins)
Spirit FC: 1. ROMIC, Tomislav, 4. STREETER, Michael(MALHOTRA 71), 6. LOVELL, Tom, 7. HARRIS, Jacob, 8. CORNWELL, Grant, 11. WHITLOCK, Dylan, 12. APPIAH, Bright (DE OLIVEIRA 74), 14. CARLE, Andre, 18. GILMARTIN, Deklan, 21. JOHNSTONE, Ryan 23. IRELAND, Mason (LOPES 67)
Subs not used: 13. SYRON Mackenzie and 20. MANOS Emilio
Yellow Cards: CORNWELL, Grant & ROMIC, Tomislav.
Red Cards: Nil
By Justin Davies
Best of the Rest
Mounties Wanderers (3) vs Northern Tigers (3)
We don’t like clichés. But too often, they’re bang on the money – sorry.
And so it proved in this enthralling round one clash between two perpetual finals’ hopefuls, Mounties Wanderers and Northern Tigers.
“It was a game of two halves”, Tigers’ coach Jason Eager reflected on the game.
“They dominated us in the first half; we were under huge pressure”.
Despite being under tremendous pressure, it was the Tigers who took the lead in the match.
El Capitano, Michael Rolston shouldered the responsibility for his team in converting a penalty inside 8 minutes.
Slowly, the Mounties wave began to engulf the Tigers and it wasn’t long before they found an equaliser – Tai Smith finishing well on 39 minutes.
As Newton’s Third Law would have it: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And as the Wanderers’ wave dissipated at half-time, it was replaced by a Tigers’ torrent, equally dominant in its power.
The Tigers carved out multiple guilt-edge opportunities and really should have taken the lead.
However it was Mounties’ player Anthony Schmidt who responded with a penalty of his own in the 55th minute.
Unperturbed by the setback, the Tigers continued to press and found an equaliser just 5 minutes later through new addition Rory Spiers.
The two sides were settling into a game of ‘we score, you score’, and the trend continued on 64 minutes when Matthew West gave Mounties the lead.
However the Tigers weren’t to be denied and Oliver Wiggin popped up on 86 minutes to rescue a precious point for his team.
The two managers reflected on a tight game in which they enjoyed spells of dominance but lacked the consistency needed to claim all three points.
Parramatta FC (3) vs St George FC (3)
Nothing could separate these two promotion rivals in the opening round clash at the historic Melita Stadium.
St George, who did their best rendition of the hokey pokey this week – putting one coach in and putting one coach out – showed that the coaching spectacle of the past week was well and truly behind them, scoring the game’s opening goal in the first minute.
Juan Carlos Heras Romera, the man whose skill is only matched by the length of his name, latched onto a delightful defence-splitting pass and cooly slotted his shot past the keeper much to the delight of coach Terry Palapanis.
But it wasn’t long before the home crowd had something to cheer, as Neram Yalda nipped in ahead of a couple of defenders to tuck the ball home from close range.
Spurred on by the equaliser, Parramatta took the lead in the 30th minute.
Ex-WSW youth prospect, Matthew Lecce opened his account for the season with a smart finish.
Shortly after half-time, Parramatta had the chance to extend their lead when they were awarded a penalty, but Yalda was denied from the spot by Saints’ keeper Anthony Costa who pulled off a magnificent save, diving desperately to his left.
The penalty miss symbolised a tangible shift in momentum in the match.
St George surged; Parramatta floundered.
And 7 minutes later the Saints were level, when their newest Spanish import, Raul Beneit Romero, salsa’d his way into the box to expertly convert from close range.
All three points looked destined to remain at Melita Stadium when the home side were awarded a second penalty in the 82nd minute.
Courageously, Yalda stepped forward, this time converting his penalty past the keeper.
With just 8 minutes left, the Eagles looked determine to defend well and see out their lead until full-time.
But Parramatta hearts were broken with just 2 minutes remaining when St George substitute Hussein Akil delivered a thunderous free kick, that soared over the wall before dipping sharply and into the bottom corner of the goals, agonizingly close to the outstretched arms of Giglio.
After a tumultuous week, St George will be happy to avoid defeat here in the opening match of the season. Parramatta might feel this is a case of 2 points dropped but will nonetheless be satisfied with a decent performance against one of the competition favourites.
Rydalmere Lions (2) vs Central Coast Mariners FC (2)
Rydalmere picked up their first ever point in the NPL 2 but it could’ve been all three, had it not been for a late equaliser from the Central Coast Mariners Academy.
The Mariners started the better of the two sides, settling into the tiki-taka rhythm football fans on the Coast have come to expect.
Rydalmere, conversely, sat back and looked to hit the young Mariners on the counter attack.
Despite giving up large chunks of possession, Tony Basha’s side looked like they belong at this level, a fact which should inspire confidence in the enthusiastic Lions’ fanbase.
But just when fans’ minds began to turn to their half-time meat pie, a late flurry of action snapped their attention back to the drama on the pitch.
Jordan Smylie, whose last name lends itself to some of the most encouraging puns, pressured the Rydalmere team into a mistake before playing in Lachlan Wales for a comfortable tap-in.
It’s been said, ‘you’re often at your most vulnerable after scoring’ and it proved true on this occasion as Rydalmere hit back immediately through Michael Konestabo.
After a tight first half, it was the Lions who came out roaring for the second period, as Mitchell Gibbs finished expertly from just inside the box, after a weaving run from Amaury Gauthier – whose slalom-like effort wouldn’t have looked out of place in Pyeonchang.
Rydalmere held on for large parts of the second period but their resolve was finally broken in the 82nd minute as Jordan Smylie put a bit of salsa on his chip over the keeper.
It was all ‘Smyles’ from coach, Wayne O’Sullivan, as his side’s late goal earned them a deserved point against a brave Rydalmere outfit in the opening round of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition.
North Shore Mariners (4) vs Western Sydney Wanderers (3)
The North Shore Mariners prevailed against the Western Sydney Wanderers Academy in a match that had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.
Truthfully though, the game began in a predictable fashion: the two brightest stars in the Western Sydney academy, Lachlan Scott and Abraham Majok opened the scoring for the Red & Black army.
Scott finished emphatically after a great cross from Mohamed Al Taay on 14 minutes and Abraham Majok finished cooly after another cross, this time from John Roberts.
Wanderers’ fans at the field threatened to get the garlic out for a North Shore keeper who clearly didn’t enjoy crosses.
But the Mariners worked their way back into the match and scored their first goal of the game through Lee Jones just before the whistle for half-time.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first, with the Wanderers creating chances before Majok danced inside from the left wing and cheekily slotted past the North Shore keeper.
But the Mariners just wouldn’t go away and James Scott staked his claim to be the best ‘Scott’ on the field with a delightful finish in the 54th minute.
The Wanderers were hit with a misery compiler just seconds later as Marquin Smith equalised for the Mariners.
All the momentum was with the Mariners now and they astonishingly found a winner in the 83rd minute.
To win a football match you don’t have to lead for 89 minutes, you just need to be in front in the 90th, and that’s exactly what the Mariners did as they sealed all three points in a thrilling encounter at Sydney
United Sports Centre.
Blacktown Spartans (2) vs Macarthur Rams (1)
It was the NPL 2’s own Guardiola vs Mourinho, the purist vs the pragmatist, as Blacktown Spartans battled it out against Macarthur Rams in round 1 of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s.
The Spartans, a relatively young side, but one certainly not lacking in skill, struggled to match the physicality of an experienced Rams’ side in the opening 45 minutes.
Macarthur’s players bullied the young Spartans, who struggled to settle into their passing rhythm.
It was a different story after half-time though, as Spartan’s coach, Luis Contigiani called on his team to be patient in possession, trusting their ability on the ball.
Contigiani’s comments proved to be a masterstroke as his exuberant team broke the deadlock through a show-stopping volley from Matias Da Silva Santos in the 50th minute.
The Spartans doubled their lead in the 69th minute when Peter Crevani showed his composure to tuck away a penalty.
2-0 up and cruising. Many Spartan fans had begun to think all three points were in the bag.
That was, until, Mark Symington scored Macarthur’s first goal of the season in the 73rd minute and suddenly Spartans cheers turned to fears.
The Rams pushed hard looking for an equaliser, their robust, direct style of play will certainly be a threat this season and they were unlucky not to snatch a draw in this match.
An important win for the Spartans who hope to avoid a relegation battle this season.
Macarthur can take many positives from the match but positives don’t equal points and they’ll be eager to secure all three-next week when they host Mt Druitt.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers (3) vs Canterbury Bankstown (0)
Guess who’s back?
The Rangers are back.
Tell a friend.
After the devastation of last year’s Grand Final defeat, many fans questioned how Mt Druitt would respond in 2018.
Well, it’s round one, but if their performance in this match is any indication, I think we have our answer.
NPL 2, look out, the Rangers mean business.
A clinical 3-0 victory over Canterbury Bankstown is the perfect antidote for the boys from Popondetta and sets their season on a course for a top 6 spot.
The Berries were better value than the 3-0 scoreline suggests, and coach Perry Moustakas lamented his side’s inability to capitalise on their chances.
“We had the better of the chances, despite the scoreline being against us. When were down 2-0 we committed more players forward trying to get a result out of the game and we were ultimately punished”.
The NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition is an unforgiving league and experienced keeper Carlos Saliadarre was in a particularly unmerciful mood as his fine shot-stopping kept the Berries at bay.
In the end, the Rangers can reflect on a fine performance to kick-off their season in the best possible way; 3 goals, 3 points. They will certainly fancy their chances of making it two wins from two when they travel to Macarthur next weekend.
For Canterbury Bankstown, it’s back to the training pitch as they go in search of a much better performance when they host North Shore Mariners in round 2 of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition.
– By Ryan Latty