The 2018-19 SELECT Futsal Premier League is shaping up to be a cracker following a second tight round of competition – Campbelltown Quake drew 3-3 with Inner West Magic, UTS Northside and Mascot Vipers drew 5-5, Enfield Allstars and Dural Warriors drew 2-2, while Eastern Suburbs Hakoah beat Mountain Majik 4-2 to claim their maiden league win.
There’s certainly something strange about this season’s start and you’d be correct in thinking three draws in one premier league round (the first time ever, plus a fourth last weekend) raises a few eyebrows.
Premier league is one of the toughest, tightest competitions going around where more than half the 665 games played across 12 years (52%) have been decided by two or less goals.
However, somewhat remarkably, less than 10% (49 matches) have finished tied and already half this summer’s eight games have been draws, and all of them decided by two goals or less! For the record the most popular PL margin is one goal, a whopping 24% (126 games).
It’s also the first time since 2013/14 that no team has won both their opening fixtures, and a step up in team-defence is definitely one of the more notable features – the current 5.4 goal per match offering is two down on the overall league average of 7.5 (the lowest summer mark is 6.71 goals a game in 2009/10 and 6.68 in 2016/17, the highest 8.4 in 2011/12).
Campbelltown Quake 3 (Harrison Bagot, Marko Filipovic, Shannon Fielding) Inner West Magic 3 (Matthew Lecce, Daniel Fornito 2)
UTS Northside 5 (Karim Moursi, Mason Ireland 4) Mascot Vipers 5 (Luke Clifford, Joel Flores 2, Leonardo Pinto, Paulo Rogerio)
Enfield Allstars 2 (Michael Kouta, Luiz Lobo) Dural Warriors 2 (Greg Giovenali, Wade Giovenali)
Eastern Suburbs Hakoah 4 (Daniel Basger 2, Diego Bellardo, Joshua Shubitz) Mountain Majik 2 (Aaron Fraser, Jordan Guerreiro)
Quake, Magic stalemate
A terrific match ended 3-3 between Campbelltown Quake and Inner West Magic at Minto Indoor Sports Centre – a second stalemate in their past four encounters.
It was a see-saw battle from the get-go as Harrison Bagot put the home side ahead after just four minutes of action before Magic’s Matthew Lecce strike brought the sides level again a minute later.
Marko Filipovic restored Campbelltown’s lead in the eighth-minute, Daniel Fornito returned fire for Inner West on the quarter-hour and then lifted the visitors in front with a goal on the stroke of halftime.
Magic’s lead didn’t last long either as Quake’s Shannon Fielding struck straight after the restart to square-up proceedings and although both sides created a string of chances the scoreline remained unmoved to fulltime.
A third draw between the teams in 24 contests still leaves Inner West with a commanding overall 12-9 edge, but there’s definitely been a closing of the gap as Magic have only won three of the last 11 meetings. Fornito’s brace was his second straight against Campbelltown.
Northside level with Mascot
A goal-feast between UTS Northside and Mascot Vipers finished all square 5-5 at PCYC Dee Why, the visitors coming from 3-2 down at halftime to share the spoils.
UTS got off to their usual strong start but, also as usual, invited their opponents back into the match with some lack-lustre defence and Mascot capitalised, but they couldn’t quite push their noses in front, scoring from a fifth-man power play in the last few minutes to end the match even at 5-5.
Joel Flores scored a pair for Vipers, and Northside can certainly thank Mason Ireland for gaining something from a freestyle encounter, the youngster hitting the back of the net an incredible four times to equal Jun Arima’s club record four-for versus Campbelltown in 2014/15 (the highest individual goal tally in any premier league fixture is five, on seven occasions).
UTS captain-coach Grant Lynch accepted the result but felt it was yet another missed opportunity. “We felt unfortunate last week [4-3 loss to Inner West] but last night was a fair result where both sides created plenty of chances,” he said.
“[Goalkeeper Alex] Pepper saved us a fair few times, but Mascot were pretty good, they’re standard was very skilful.”
With the addition of Hakoah this summer Lynch agreed the quest for a maiden playoffs berth is now that little bit harder but said there was no shift in the club’s desire or reward.
“It’s always been a tough comp and our goal has always been to get into the top-four,” he said. “We will have to sneak results where we can and get more results from the close games we have… and we are looking to try and finish teams off and not allow them back into the contest.”
“But having [Easts] there speaks volumes about the comp – every game is tough; there’s no walkovers, no easy points, and it’s definitely a grind every week.”
It’s the second time Northside’s clocked five goals and not won following a 5-6 loss to Dural two summers ago, and Lynch is right in the team’s necessity to tighten up in close encounters: Almost two-thirds of 58 UTS games have been decided by two or less goals (37 or 64%, the highest percentage of any PL club) but they’ve only won a dozen of them (32%), which is well short of close-quarter masters Inner West (who’ve won 59% of 82 contests decided by two goals or less) and next-best Dural (56%).
Enfield, Dural draw
Enfield Allstars and Dural Warriors fought out a titanic 2-2 draw at Morris Iemma Indoor Sports Centre, both sides missing a number of game-winning chances in a scoreless second half.
A tense opening gave way when Dural drew first blood with a 12th-minute Greg Giovenali strike before a Michael Kouta goal level-pegged the scoreline on the quarter-hour.
Warriors returned to the front when Wade Giovenali popped in for a 2-1 lead in the 20th minute, but it was back to even in a flash as Luiz Lobo equalised for Enfield a second time only a minute later.
Neither side could break the deadlock in an exciting second term and the match finished 2-2, a fourth draw in 20 meetings and well down on their usual free-for-alls. Dural-Enfield encounters produce 9.3 goals on average but this is the second straight time the scoring meter’s been stopped at less than half that following a 4-0 Warriors win last summer.
Easts break Mountain
Eastern Suburbs Hakoah celebrated their first open men’s victory following a 4-2 defeat of Mountain Majik at All Sorts Indoor Sports Centre.
A fifth-minute Josh Shubitz strike put the home side ahead and they stayed there to halftime, but the match really opened up in the second period as Majik applied the pressure, Hakoah doubling their advantage midway through the term before the Mountaineers pulled one back only for Easts to scoot out to a 4-1 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
Majik went fifth-man and managed another goal in the closing minutes but Hakoah held on for a two-goal win, Daniel Basger finishing with a double.
A draw and win to start to a season is the best opening pair of results for any premier league debutant since the inaugural 2007/08 season but Easts captain Robert Ezekial was measured.
“It is a bit of a surprise to start so well, but realistically it is where the club should be,” he said. “From a senior perspective the men deserve to be in the top level of competition, especially with what we’ve achieved over the last 5-6 years.”
“We know we’re going to get points this year and be able to compete with all the top sides. We’re confident in ourselves and have a good team that works together very well.
“While it’s a good feeling to get our first win, more still needs to be done. Take a look at the type of players in the league; this can’t be about us going out to win every time, it’s got to be about making less mistakes against the caliber of players who will punish you – that’s where we need to put our focus.”
Mountain assistant coach Adam Barbera insisted the loss was a small pothole on their four-month journey to the playoffs.
“It was a disappointing result considering how good our performance was last week [3-2 win vs Dural],” he said. “We were sloppy with the ball and didn’t finish off enough of our good attacks.”
“Credit to Hakoah; they punished our defensive mistakes and stayed rather compact late in the game when we were pushing to get goals back.
“It’s a small speed bump at the start of the season, but we know how much better we can play and believe if we improve our performances to what we know we’re capable of we’ll get the results.”
Next week’s games
SELECT Futsal Premier League round-3 Saturday matches starts with a grand final rematch between Dural Warriors and Inner West Magic at Valentine Sports Park (6.20pm), UTS Northside host Eastern Suburbs Hakoah at PCYC Dee Why (7.20pm), Enfield Allstars welcome Mountain Majik to Morris Iemma Indoor Sports Centre (8.05pm), and Mascot Vipers play Campbelltown Quake at All Sorts Indoor Sports Centre (8.50pm).
-By Dan De Nardi