Former players playing their former clubs, local derbies and surprise upsets – Round 16 served up another recipe for drama and delight in the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s.
Match of the Round: Rydalmere Lions vs Parramatta FC
Little brother, Rydalmere Lions, defeat big brother, Parramatta FC, for the second time this season to claim ultimate bragging rights in season 2018.
It was billed as the ‘game that had it all’.
The Elrich boys playing against their former club.
A local derby.
Revenge on the mind of the Eagles after their 4-1 drubbing earlier in the season.
However for a game that ‘had it all’, just one goal was needed to secure another memorable victory for the Lions.
Parramatta got proceedings underway and immediately settled into a fluent passing rhythm.
Jason Trifiro sat at the base of the midfield, looking to dictate play. But just 60 seconds into the game, the midfield maestro dallied on the ball, allowing Futoshi – the Japanese Kante, to nip in and steal the ball.
Futoshi was clean through on goal but tried to round Giglio in goals rather than pick his spot; ultimately allowing the keeper to deny Rydalmere taking a lead within the first minute.
Hearts were in mouths on the Parramatta bench as Futoshi ran through, but after the early chance the game returned to the tense arm wrestle many fans predicted.
Parramatta’s greatest threat came in the form of former Rydalmere player, Zak Elrich.
The winger’s pace and silky skills left the Lions’ defence in a daze on a couple of occasions but each opportunity who carved out for either himself or a teammate was eventually cleared away by a scrambling Rydalmere team.
Very few teams have been ability to match the Eagles in terms of possession this season and whilst Rydalmere are known as the Lions, it was Parramatta FC who were enjoying the lion’s share of possession in this match.
Key to this control was Yahya Elhindi, the midfielder looked comfortable on the ball in the centre of the park, and even ventured forward on a couple of occasions, testing the reflexes of the Rydalmere goal keeper with a few long range efforts.
Whilst Parramatta dominated the centre of the park, Rydalmere were showing promise of their own out wide.
Michael Konestabo and Alusine Fofanah troubled the Eagles’ fullbacks as their pace and trickery threatened to lead to the game’s first goal.
The referee’s whistle brought an intriguing half to an end, as both coaches reflected on 45 minutes in which their contrasting styles delivered enthralling football, but ultimately yielded no goals.
The question on all the fan’s lips who had gathered at Valentine Sports Park was, ‘which team is going to make the breakthrough?’
Fans didn’t have to wait long for the answer.
Just 10 minutes into the second period, Rydalmere, showing the kind of determination they have built a reputation on this year, arrived first at a long ball.
Duncan Stewart flicked on a neat header into the path of Mitchell Gibbs, who looked up and saw the run of Michael Konestabo in behind the Parramatta right fullback – who was horribly out of position.
Konestabo charged onto the ball with sharp pace, caressed the ball it into his stride with a deft left foot touch, allowed the ball to roll in front of his body and powered a low left-foot strike into the bottom corner of the goals.
Buoyed by the confidence of his goal, Konestabo tried his luck with his right foot just a minute later. This time, his strike from 25 yards sailed over Giglio in goals, hit the underside of the cross bar, bouncing down and then eventually gathered by the keeper.
The Rydalmere players cheered, believing the ball had crossed the line.
The referee and his assistant said no.
The Eagles looked like they had found their equaliser 5 minutes later when Huseyin Jasli curled the ball into the back of the net following a quick set-piece, but he had taken it prior to the referee’s whistle and it had to be ruled out.
Parramatta looked particularly frustrated following the decision, primarily because they had struggled to create clear goal-scoring opportunities in the game and there was a palpable feeling throughout the ground that perhaps their best chance of equalising had just evaporated into the icy winter air.
That’s exactly how it turned out.
Despite their endeavour to rescue a point, despite the entrance of Ahmad Elrich onto the pitch, and despite the faithful support of the Eagles’s fans, it was never going to be Parramatta’s night.
Tony Basha’s lion cubs, a starting 11 with 9 players under the age of 21, proved once again that performance on the pitch counts for more than reputation off it.
Another positive for the lion cubs is with the Wanderers defeat over the weekend, they now, incredibly, find themselves in the top six. Can they hold on to this precious finals’ place?
For Parramatta FC, it’s a result that draws them closer to the clutches of relegation. Over a month ago they proved what they are capable of with a fantastic win over Mt Druitt, but disappointing results like this quickly erase any fond memories of wonderful performances gone by.
Saturday 17th June 2018 – Valentine Sports Park
Referee: Samuel Grasso
Assistant Referees: Oliver Lawton, Manwel Limninos
Rydalmere Lions 1 (Michael Konestabo)
Parramatta FC 0
Rydalmere Lions: R. Farrell, D. Ortega Roman, A. Sayan, M. Gibbs, M. Konestabo, F. Kondo, A. Epifanino, E. Stewart, M. Mayora, B. Cook, A. Fofanah, H. Sinpraseuth, Y. Al-Taay, D. Stewart.
Parramatta FC: S. Giglio, R. Coletta, S. Dubocanin, J. Musgrave, J. Aguirre, N. Yalda, J. Trifiro, M. Lecce, Y. Elhindi, R. Blakeley, H. Jasli, Z. Elrich, A. Elrich
GHFA Spirit FC 3 vs Mounties Wanderers 0
When it rains it pours.
After 450 minutes without a goal, Kevin Lopes has scored two inside 90 minutes to fire Spirit FC to an emphatic 3-0 win over the Mounties Wanderers.
For much of the season, Lopes’s form has mirrored Spirit FC’s.
A strong start to the campaign saw Lopes score 6 goals in just 4 games and that coincided with a strong run in form from David Perkovic’s side, winning 3 of those 4 matches.
Although, following that, Lopes and Spirit FC went on a dismally barren run.
Slowly, like an oil tanker churning through heavy seas, Spirit and Lopes have turned their form around.
The best evidence of this fact came in a total dismantling of a Mounties side that has failed to deliver on the promise of its lavish transfer window.
Sam De Oliveira is as dangerous outside the box as Mexico’s Javier Hernandez is inside of it and Oliveira showed just why on 20 minutes when his pile-driver effort stung the palms of Dion Shaw in goals, with the ball rebounding to Kevin Lopes who showed predatory instincts to follow up the shot and gratefully tap the ball home.
Mounties could have hit back immediately through Juan Carlos but the Spaniard, who looks to be labouring under the colours of the Wanderers, delayed a shot just long enough for Romic to scramble off his line and smother the shot.
Early in the second period, Oliviera was lurking just outside the area once more and fizzed a pass wide to Ryan Johnstone. Having just taken the corner, Johnstone whipped in a flat cross that found the head of Lopes who rose high to score his second of the game.
The Mounties looked to respond immediately through Raul Romero but again Romic was there to prevent any ‘Romero’ getting their name on the scoresheet.
As this week’s preview stated, this game would revolve around the cult-figure of Matthew West.
The experienced striker didn’t let us down.
On 81 minutes, West sealed all three points for his team with a thumping header after an delicious Mason Ireland cross.
West showed his delight in scoring against his old team, celebrating wildly as the Mounties players fell to the floor, defeated.
Time is running out for the Mounties if they want to make the finals this season and unless their form turns around quickly, some of the biggest names in the competition could be watching the finals from the stands.
Spirit FC coach, David Perkovic was extremely pleased with his side’s performance and their recent improvement in results. With a game against the Spartans next week, Spirit FC will fancy their chances to continue their wonderful rise.
Macarthur Rams 0 vs Northern Tigers 0
For two weeks in a row, the Tigers have failed to score.
To make matters worse, those two games have come against opposition struggling down the bottom of the ladder.
Jason Eagar was extremely disappointed with his side’s lack of finishing last weekend and he would’ve been equally frustrated by his profligate players in this match.
Borrowing President Trump’s border protection policy, the Rams tried their best to build a big wall around their defensive box at Lynwood Park on Saturday night.
Their plan seemed to work as the Tigers struggled to find space in behind the Rams’ defence; being limited to long range efforts and looping balls into the box.
The Rams sat deep in their defensive structure, looking to nick a goal on the counter attack but you got the sense that maintaining a clean sheet was the home side’s priority as they neglected to commit too many players forward.
The words from the Macarthur manager at half-time seemed to echo Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings as the Rams emerged with a determined, ‘you shall not pass’ resolve in the second half.
Despite concerted effort from the Tigers’ players, there didn’t seem to be any way for them to break down the Rams’ defence.
In the end, it’s a positive point for the Rams who trim the gap on the teams above them.
Whilst for the Tigers, another disappointing result sees them slip even further outside the finals’ places.
To reverse the saying and add injury to insult, Tigers’ skipper Michael Rolston was taken away in an ambulance after dislocating his shoulder. It’s a bitter blow for the Tigers who rely heavily on their skipper for inspiration and guidance both on and off the pitch.
All at Football NSW wish Rolston a speedy recovery.
Canterbury Bankstown 1 vs St George FC 4
A familiar name and a familiar score-line sees St George continue their scintillating recent form under coach, Wally Savor.
The transfer window threatened to shipwreck the Saints’ finals’ chances this season but Savor’s ability to unite and motivate a diverse group of players – plus the performances of players like Hussein Akil, has led to St George collecting 7 points from their past 3 games.
Canterbury Bankstown have shown their ability to frustrate the ambitions of many of the competition’s top teams this season.
Although an early goal to St George in this game eased all fears of another shock upset as the Saints clicked into gear.
Nicholas Paras looked to be in ominously dangerous form and he found the diagonal run of Anthony Morabito who powered a shot past the keeper from just outside the box.
1-0 on the 10 minute mark and it was 2-0 on the 20 minute mark as Nicholas Paras, who had obviously seen the highlights of the Portugal vs Spain match, beat the wall and beat the keeper with Ronaldo-type execution.
Canterbury Bankstown threatened the St George goal from set-pieces but the Saints defence held firm to the break.
If Branko Culina’s men were going to get anything from this match they needed to be the next to score.
However just 10 minutes after the restart, St George added their third of the game
Nicholas Paras, who already had an assist and goal to his name, sealed his McDouble after he latched onto a long ball and chipped the despairing Bankstown keeper who had wandered too far off his line.
In the 75th minute, a familiar name found its way onto the St George scoresheet.
Jason Romero, a new signing from the United States, was on the pitch for all of 5 minutes before notching his first goal for the club.
St George, who limit their scouting system to the last name, ‘Romero’, look to have found the missing piece in their puzzle as they maintain their push towards the finals.
Canterbury Bankstown finally gave the home fans something to cheer about when Goncalo Paradanta scored with minutes to go.
The late consolation wasn’t enough to ease the pain of their third defeat in a row.
After a mid-season surge, Branko Culina’s men have taken their foot off the pedal in the past month and will be looking nervously over their shoulder at the teams behind them closing the gap.
St George are hitting form at just the right time to set up an enthralling encounter with the ladder leaders, Mt Druitt, next week.
Central Coast Mariners 3 vs Blacktown Spartans 1
It’s fair to say the Spartans are not the same team they were in the early rounds of the competition.
Three wins in their past four games have restored much needed confidence to the men in orange and black.
It’s with this new-found confidence that the Spartans started the game, and took a surprise lead.
You guessed it.
Alex Boyadjian. Spartan’s superman.
The lead lasted only 10 minutes however as the home side hit back through Emmanuel Peters.
Neither side looked like breaking the deadlock as the clock ticked towards full-time as the icy chill that covered the ground seemed to freeze the legs of both sets of players.
Shortly after the resumption of play however, the Mariners did manage edge their noses in front.
Joshua Nisbet weaved his wand out wide before delivering the ball on a plate for Charles William who gratefully gobbled up his dinner.
Despite trailing, the Spartans showed no signs of waving the white flag.
However for all their endeavour, Nick Porreca’s side couldn’t find a second goal of their own.
Although all three points were sealed on the stroke of full-time as the Spartans committed players forward, Charles William sprang a swift counter attack, and served a sweet pass to Kyle Johnson who smashed the ball home from close range.
An important result for the Mariners who make the most of the Rangers dropping points.
Whilst the Spartans can take solace in their performance, even though the result wasn’t the one they intended.
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 vs Hills United 2
As stated in this week’s preview, the Wanderers’ place in the top six was on the line in this clash against Hills.
Failure to win and their finals’ place could slip right out of their hands; and, that’s exactly what happened.
After a tight first half, Daniel Fogarty…. I mean, Patrick Gatt opened the scoring for Hills in the 67th minute.
Although, as the old saying goes, you’re at your most vulnerable after scoring, and that proved true as the Wanderers went right up the other end to grab a goal of their own.
Samuel Silvera, who had been a constant threat all night, showed blistering pace to beat a defender to a ball before collecting it in his stride and slotting past the keeper.
Despite the goals, the game showed little sign of opening up into the attacking feast fans at the Sydney United Sports Centre craved.
However with 10 minutes to go, Hills scored the decisive goal as Ben Welch showed tremendous skill to guide the ball into the back of the net.
Luke Mcguire looked nervous on the sideline as he prayed his team could hold on and collect their first win in 5 games.
Mcguire’s prayers were answered as the full time whistle blew, giving Hills three points they so desperately craved.
For the Wanderers, their season looks to be slipping away faster than you can say, Kosta Grozos as the absence of some key players takes a serious toll on their top six ambitions.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 0 vs North Shore Mariners 3
The North Shore Mariners have provided the shock of the round with an incredible upset victory over the league leaders, Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Everything the Mariners touched turned to goals on an unforgettable night for the club.
After 3-0 loss to Parramatta FC four weeks ago, the Mariners looked like kissing their finals’ chances goodbye.
Altthough recent performances have shown that the North Shore boys have the ability to beat any team in the league – even the high flying Rangers.
Goals to Mitchell Smith, Joshua Mbakwe and Chris Lindsay was enough to see of Aidan Desmond’s team whose frustration boiled over on 78 minutes, as they were reduced to 10 men.
The resulting spot-kick was converted by the Mariners, sealing three goals and three points for the away side.
With a cluster of teams ravenously hunting down a top six spot, victory here strengthens even further North Shore’s grip on a finals’ place.
Whilst the Rangers have built such a healthy lead at the top of the table that their position is hardly under threat. But what is concerning is the cracks that are starting to emerge in the Rangers’ armour – cracks teams will be looking to exploit come the knockout games.
By Ryan Latty