If it happens once, it’s a fluke. But twice – you’re in trouble. Which teams have hit the ‘early-season panic button’ and which teams are riding high after Round 2 in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition.
Match of the Round
Northern Tigers v Blacktown Spartans
90 minutes, 3 goals, 3 points.
But in truth, the game boiled down to just 2 moments.
For large parts of this Round 2 encounter between the Northern Tigers and the Blacktown Spartans, there was very little to separate the two sides.
Both sides started the first half in similar fashion, exhibiting the best and worst of football in the NPL 2.
Fiery challenges, frenetic pace, and silky skills mixed in with stray passes, lapses in concentration and miscommunication.
Despite the Tigers enjoying the lions’ share of possession, it was the Spartans who enjoyed the better of the chances in the opening 45 minutes.
Diminutive winger, Matias Da Silva Santos, whose green boots must surely be hiding mini jet-packs, threatened with explosive pace on the right wing.
Finding Matias with searching through balls was obviously a tactic for the Spartans as their midfield sat deep, launching passes even Paul Scholes in his prime would be proud of.
To their credit, the Northern Tigers defence were aware to the danger and the inexhaustible efforts of Will Foristal in tracking back largely nullified the threat posed by Matias.
The first real chance of the game fell the way of Jack Press on 23 minutes as he latched onto a through ball and fired off a shot destined for the top corner, before Tigers’ keeper plucked it out of the air with superb skill.
Chances came thick and fast after this with the Tigers going close through forward Liam Mcconaghy before the Spartans fired back with a headed chance that drifted just wide.
As the half wore on, the Tigers pushed hard for the opening goal but the only thing in danger from their long shots were the windshields of the cars parked at North Turramurra Recreation Park.
The referee’s whistle brought the first half to an end with neither side feeling as though they had done enough to warrant a lead.
Both sides emerged from the break with renewed vigour, knowing that the first goal in this match could go a long way to deciding who would claim all three points.
And fans didn’t have to wait long for the first goal to arrive.
On 54 minutes, the Tigers won a free-kick just outside the box. Liam Mcconaghy lined up behind the ball and whipped a powerful low shot around the ball and towards the goal. Spartans’ keeper Domenic Nascimben looked to have it covered as he bent low but the ball trickled through his hands, under his legs and squirmed into the goal.
Nascimben looked around for a place to hide but none was forthcoming as whispers of Massimo Taibi vs Southampton (YouTube it) echoed around the ground.
The Spartans were in a generous mood and they gifted the Tigers another goal on 78 minutes.
Oliver Wiggin showed tremendous pace and determination to retrieve a half-cleared ball, squeeze between two defenders and power his way into the box. It was a foot-race between Wiggin and the Spartans’ defender to the ball, one you felt Wiggin was never going to lose – and he didn’t. Wiggin went down after late contact by the Spartans’ player and the referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
And, when the Tigers get a penalty, you know what happens next.
Michael Rolston scores.
Just like 1+1=2.
A captain’s goal from the leader in chief and disposed with equal amounts of swagger and power.
The Spartans’ players heads visibly dropped after conceding the second goal.
A game in which they matched the Tigers in all departments undone by two crucial mistakes.
And the Jason Eager’s Tigers’ side weren’t done there.
They added a third in the 84th minute as Liam Mcconaghy channelled his inner Arjen Robben to roll his marker and thrash a low left footed shot into the far corner of the goals, just beyond the despairing Spartans’ keeper.
Luis Contigiani lamented his side’s mistakes on the night.
“You can’t make errors like we did tonight and expect to get anything from the game. We matched it with them for 60 minutes and then, once we made the two mistakes, our heads dropped and it was all over.”
For Jason Eager, he’s pleased with the result but believes his side has much improvement ahead if they want to achieve their goals this season.
“We’ve started the season with 4 points from 2 games and that’s promising but I know we can play better and I’ll be looking to get that improvement from the boys going forward”.
Football is about moments. If you win the moments you win the match and if you win enough throughout the season, you could win much more.
The Tigers showed they have the bite to stand up in the moments that count; the Spartans need to learn from these mistakes and make the next moment count.
Saturday 10th March 2018
North Turramurra Recreation Park
Northern Tigers 3 (L. Mcconaghy (2), M. Rolston)
Blacktown Spartans 0
Northern Tigers FC: T. Liiband, M. Rolston, W. Foristal, J. Ferrier, J. Hardwick, L. Mcconaghy, L. Dawson, K. Moursi, M. Stewart, O. Wiggin, T. Lyons, A. Tayebi Derazkala, J. Tanner, A. Brown, B. Taylor, R. Spiers.
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
Blacktown Spartans: D. Nascimben, P. Crevani, D. Akol, R. Blanco, T. Boutoubia, A. Boyadjian, H. Brown, V. Caccavale, M. Cook, B. Ansah, M. Da Silva Santos, E. El Ali, A. Pecora, J. Press, N. Sansom, C. Torrelli.
Yellow Cards: R. Blanco, V. Caccavale, N. Sansom
Red Cards: N/A
Rydalmere Lions (1) vs Spirit FC (5)
New boys on the block Rydalmere Lions have come crashing back to reality after a heavy 5-1 defeat at the hands of Spirit FC.
The match was a lesson in efficiency, with Spirit FC taking their chances against a profligate Lions’ side.
Spirit took a first half lead when Dylan Whitlock pounced on a Kevin Lopes header following a throw-in.
Unperturbed by going behind, Rydalmere rallied and soon found themselves level through Daniel Ortega Roman.
Rydalmere should’ve taken the lead moments later when Amaury Gauthier found himself open inside the six-yard box. His hurried shot scooped up off the ground and smacked into the underside of the bar to agonisingly fall short of the line.
Incredibly Rydalmere missed another guilt edge chance shortly after when Michael Konestabo opted to play in Ahmad Elrich instead of going for goal himself and his under-hit pass was swept away.
And, in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition, if you don’t take your chances, you will be punished.
This time it was Spirit FC’s turn to hand out the lesson courtesy of Mason Ireland thundering a strike into the top corner of the net just before half time.
Rydalmere’s woes continued into the second half.
Shortly after the break, Spirit extended their lead through Kevin Lopes as his delicate chip sailed over Rydalmere’s goalie and into the vacant net.
Their make-shift defence, after Russell Farrell was withdrawn moments before kick-off due to illness, looked shaky against a Spirit FC attack that was growing in confidence.
And their shakiness was displayed moments later when Lions’ player Richie Stewart gave away a penalty after his clumsy challenge brought down Spirit’s winger.
Kevin Lopes dispatched it calmly for his second of the game.
And the Kevin Lopes show reached its crescendo moments later when he capped off a marvellous game to score his second penalty of the game and a wonderful hat-trick.
A tremendous result for Spirit FC who now make it two wins from two games despite their lengthy injury toll.
For Rydalmere, this match has served as a warning for what happens when you don’t take your chances and Tony Basha will be eager to work on his side’s clinical edge at training this week or risk dropping more vital points.
Central Coast Mariners (1) vs Mounties Wanderers (0)
“You can’t win anything with kids”. Alan Hansen’s infamous words proved to be embarrassingly untrue for Sir Alex Ferguson’s class of 92’ and they smell of equal imprecision here, in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition.
Despite having an average age of just 18, the Central Coast Mariners’ backline defended with maturity well beyond their years to keep a potent Mounties strike force scoreless.
But it wasn’t just their defence that impressed, Wayne O’Sullivan’s got his young side playing an exciting brand of football this season.
We’re not sure whether he’s just playing videos of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in training or whether he’s actually running the session but whatever the affectionately named Sully’s doing is working a treat!
The Mariners dominated large parts of this match and their cause was helped greatly on 65 minutes when Mounties were reduced to 10 men after Jordan Smylie broke in behind and was denied a goal-scoring opportunity.
Jordan Smylie has started the season in a fashion that will have his major sponsor, Colgate, all smiles.
His strike late in the match finally broke the deadlock to give the Mariners a deserved lead.
You’re often at your most vulnerable after scoring and that was the case here as the Mariners almost conceded immediately if not for a smart save from Pearce in goals.
An important win for the Mariners to keep pace with the cluster of teams on 6 points but a frustrating night for the Wanderers who will rue letting a red card prevent them from potentially stealing a much needed point from this match.
Macarthur Rams (0) vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers (4)
The boys are back in Town.
Mt Druitt Rangers mean business in 2018 and have proven as much with a comprehensive rout against Macarthur Rams.
Many had questioned whether Mt Druitt had the ability to go one better than they did in season 2017 but they have responded in the best fashion this year with 7 goals from their opening 2 games, collecting maximum points.
But whilst optimism reigns supreme in green and gold, the dark cloud of doubt looms large above the Rams.
After an opening round defeat against Blacktown Spartans, the Rams would’ve been hoping for a positive result in front of their home fans to kick-start their season.
What they got was just the opposite.
Mt Druitt opened the scoring in the first half through Kuag Reec, as he pounced on a shot that the Rams’ keeper could only parry, to tuck the ball home.
And the away side doubled their lead just after the hour mark as new signing Emmanuel Gonzalez found space just outside the box and showed great finesse to place the ball beyond the keeper and into the goals.
Gonzalez wasn’t done there however and he doubled his goal tally for the game moments later, getting on the end of an inviting cross from the wing.
Emmanuel Gonzalez has impressed in his opening two games for the Rangers, perhaps owing to the connection forged between player and coach when the young forward was just 11 years’ old.
It’s been wonderful to see coach and player reunited and Mt Druitt fans will be hoping it’s a combination that can lead the club to silverware this season.
Mt Druitt completed the rout in the 80th minute, adding their fourth and final goal of the game.
An excellent result for the Rangers who march onto a top of the table clash next week against the North Shore Mariners in what many expecting looms as a potential Semi-Final or even Grand Final preview.
For Macarthur, their next match is a tough away trip to in-form Northern Tigers as the pressure for points steadily rises.
Western Sydney Wanderers (2) vs St George FC (4)
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango?
There’s a tangible Spanish flavour filtering through the red & white of St George Saints this season in the form of 2017 Player of the Year Juan Carlos Heras Romero and Raul Beneit Romero.
These two crafty Spaniards combined to score all four of their side’s goals in an impressive win over Western Sydney Wanderers.
The night truly belonged Juan Carlos Heras Romero who almost scored one goal for each of the names he has, bagging a heroic hat-trick.
Romero’s first arrived after just seven minutes, his powerful strike taking a wicked deflection which caught the Wanderers’ defence off guard and squirmed into the net.
This lead didn’t last long however, as Wanderers’ player Kosta Grozos equalised for the home side three minutes later, slamming his shot into the roof of the net.
Romero’s compatriot, Raul Beneit Romero, followed up with St George’s second, just after the quarter hour. Ali Nasreddine supplied Juan Carlos Romero with a superb pass, the ace striker then beat his man before setting up Raul Romero who side-footed past Nicholas Suman.
Juan Carlos took less than thirty seconds of the second half to snatch his second and St George’s third, controlling tightly before scoring across the face of goal. Six minutes later his hat-trick was secured, shooting home from a scrambled corner, 4-1 to the visitors.
Amazingly, Juan Carlos could have had another, but with the goal at his mercy and even Suman caught out, the Spanish hotshot struck wide of the upright.
For all their goals though, St George were not without risk of conceding, and the Wanderers certainly had plenty of possession. But a number of chances went begging, and the lack of clinical finishing cost them dearly.
Grozos did bring it back to 2-4 with twenty minutes left to go on the clock, but despite plenty of effort, stout St George defending kept the Wanderers at bay.
(Thank you to Peter Rowney of St George for his assistance in this report)
Parramatta FC (0) vs Hills United FC (0)
A match that will leave both coaches caring more about the injury table than the score-line as both clubs lost key players to potentially serious injuries.
Parramatta’s star recruit, Jason Trifiro suffered a knock in a strong challenge early in the first half which rendered him unable to continue in the second.
The news wasn’t much better for Hills however, as they lost Sean Mitchell to what looked like a grave injury after just 8 minutes, who had to be stretchered off the field.
After shaking off the injury concerns, both sides settled down to play football with the Eagles enjoying control of the match.
Despite this, Hills had shouts for a penalty waved away after Pete Cejka went down in the box.
The second half continued like the first, lacking in genuine goal-scoring opportunities but punctuated with controversy and misfortune.
Stefan Giglio made two sharp saves from Fogarty and Cejka during the second half but this was as close as the Brumbies came to scoring before Daine Merrin was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Parramatta pushed hard to find a winner, using their numerical advantage to try and stretch the Hills defence.
But Hills, who have suffered two red cards in two weeks managed to hold firm to deny the Eagles and secure their first point of the season.
Canterbury Bankstown (0) vs North Shore Mariners (4)
Careful not to get a nose bleed North Shore fans but you’re team is soaring to new heights at the top of the table.
It is only Round 2 but you’d rather be at the top than the bottom. Just ask the Berries.
A dominant display from the tireless North Shore Mariners whose relentless energy proved too much for Perry Moustakas’s side in this match.
A tasty McDouble to Daniel Saric coupled with goals to Ricky Woodward and Mitchell Smith was enough to see of a Berries side who lacked the desire needed to win matches at this level.
“North Shore are one of the hardest working teams in the competition. If you don’t match them they will run all over you. There’s no other way to put it. My players didn’t match them.”
It’s this desire that has led many in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition to label the North Shore Mariners as ‘the team to beat’ in season 2018.
And after successive wins in their opening two matches, who can argue?
Sterner tests are to come however and the top of the table clash against Mt Druitt next week has football fans salivating at the mouth!
For Canterbury Bankstown, two defeats in a row and a tough away trip to St George next week is not what the doctor ordered but Perry Moustakas will muster all his experience to try and pull one much needed rabbit out of the hat.
– By Ryan Latty