Yes, it was a shortened State League Men’s Round 16. But that didn’t make it less important with four teams playing out “Survival Sunday”. And it didn’t disappoint with desperation and heart the common theme.
However, we only had one winner on the day as the finals picture becomes a little clearer. Elsewhere Fraser Park dropped vital points in the promotion and premiership races.
Match of the Round: Balmain Tigers v South Coast Flame
Well it wasn’t pretty at times, but Balmain Tigers have steadied their course in gritty fashion with a victory over South Coast Flame on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts were rightly rewarded for a fast start with a goal before the half hour mark courtesy of Manuel Angelopoulos. From then on though, they were happy to bide their time, stoic in defense before a late goal from Miki Bisceglia made sure of the victory.
And just as well that late goal came, cause the away side South Coast Flame were able to pick up a late consolation goal through Jayden Smileski.
Balmain Tigers started the game positively with a long range shot from Marley Jackson inside the first minute forcing a good save from Flame keeper Matt White.
A returning Frank Calgano had their next opportunity, the striker showing a lovely bit of skill to dink the ball over his marker. Unfortunately, his shot on the end of it went straight into the mid rift of a thankful White.
It was an intense start to the match and a defensive mistake from the hosts saw Hiroaki Ushijima having a chance to open the scoring at the other end. However, he hooked his shot wide of the near post.
Calgano had another chance shortly after, showing a turn of pace to go through the visitor’s defense, once again though the South Coast Flame shot stopper was there to deny him saving a one on one opportunity.
The game then settled down with South Coast Flame holding more possession, possession isn’t the be all and end all though. As proven by a Manuel Angelopoulos goal, the right midfielder cutting in off his wing before producing a low shot which for once White couldn’t keep out despite getting a touch.
It was the goal the game was waiting for and South Coast Flame soon responded with chances of their own. In fact, Ushijima and Connell missed two chances in a matter of minutes in almost identical fashion. Their right footed efforts cutting in from the left both missing the near post by a slim margin.
Patterns were set in the fixture, with Balmain Tigers happy to concede possession to their visitors. And chances for them kept on coming with eventual goal scorer Smileski firing over after the break.
Chances were few and far between and time was ticking away for the Flame who were being consistently frustrated by a stoic defense.
Yuki Mandai had his own opportunity after seventy minutes after a neat passing exchange, but his shot went wide of the far post this time and you were beginning to think it wasn’t their afternoon.
Those thoughts proved to be true as with five minutes to go, Balmain grabbed their second. And it came through Miki Bisceglia who had an easy tap in at the far post after a perfectly weighted delivery from the right byline.
South Coast finished the game strong and nearly stole a point in the final moments. Louis Connell didn’t get enough contact on a header from point blank range before Jayden Smileski made up for his earlier miss with his shot flying into the top right corner deep into injury time. There wasn’t enough time left though and Balmain find themselves sitting just outside the five. Darkhorse anyone?
Balmain Tigers coach Sasha Tirovski saw positives and negatives from his sides performance, “I felt what started easy we made hard. Credit to South Coast Flame, they kept coming. We were reactive and needed a second which eventually came.”
“Today was a big test and result to set ourselves up for the run home.”
South Coast Flame coach Neil Mineef rued a lack of confidence in his team “It’s pretty disappointing. I felt the first half we didn’t play our game and struggled to string together passes. We’re lacking confidence at the moment, we should have taken more opportunities and kept the ball a bit better.”
Balmain Tigers: 2 (Angelopoulos 29’, Bisceglia 85’)
South Coast Flame: 1 (Smileski 90’)
Balmain Tigers: 1. James Conaghan, 2. James Duvcevski, 5. Nico Muscio (23. Genki Takatera), 6. Marley Jackson (32. Anthony Villazon), 7. Manuel Angelopoulos, 11. Miki Bisceglia, 14. Declan Monro, 16. Robert Di Meglio, 17. Michael Zezovski, 21. Raoul Zaccariotto (24. Daniel Bakrdanikoski), 25. Frank Calcagno.
Subs: 10. Alessandro Macri, 13. Hiroki Fujiwara.
South Coast Flame: 1. Matthew White, 9. Louis Connell, 10. Matthew Mazevski (22. Toru Suzuki), 13. Alexander Boardman (29. Terrance Jah), 15. Jayden Smileski, 16. Hiroaki Ushijima, 17. Justin Smith, 18. Yuki Mandai, 32. Lachlan Morgan, 35. Wade Wilton, 39. Julio Mushaba (33. Alexander Galbraith).
Subs: 21. Mohamed Krishban, 6. Kayne Kotevski.
Fraser Park 1-1 Hurstivlle FC
Well it was nearly a case of Deja vu as Fraser Park hosted Hurstville on Saturday night.
The visitors went ahead in the first half through Jesse Gagro opened the scoring on the half hour mark.
However, that goal was cancelled out with fifteen minutes to go from the penalty spot with Luiz Lobo calmly slotting it away.
That was the last of any calmness displayed though. As Fraser Park sensing an opportunity to catch Central Coast United desperately searched for a winner. It didn’t come though.
In truth, you can easily understand Fraser Park’s frustration throughout. The hosts controlled possession for large periods of the match but couldn’t break through apart from a Luiz Lobo penalty. Their frustrations were encapsulated in the final few minutes they couldn’t capitalize on some golden opportunities to claim another last gasp win.
On the other hand, Hurstville FC came into the fixture with a game plan and it worked. Scoring the only goal from open play in the contest through Jesse Gagro who finished off a Daniel Kocina cross from the penalty spot. Despite an equaliser, they had the better chances late on, with only a couple of good Ian Johnson saves denying them a victory.
UNSW FC 2-2 Western Condors
In the second match of “Survival Sunday”, we have a result which really suits neither team. A dreaded draw which perhaps puts both teams’ seasons on life support.
The Condors opened the scoring early through Joshua Obeng inside the first ten minutes, the striker taking advantage of a static defense to tap home.
Either side didn’t want to give each other an inch with chances few and far between inside the first half hour.
Just after the half hour, Florim Binakaj had the chance to equalize as the last man from a ball whipped across from the right. However, his shot was hooked wide of the right-hand post.
And the hosts were punished five minutes later in pretty identical fashion to the first. A cross from the left was met by Mina Yousesef whose header was going wide before Cristian Martinez finished from an angle.
Like the first half, the second took a while to get going. After fifteen minutes of a tense midfield battle, UNSW FC seemed to break free.
And it was on the back of one man, Nima Beik. He sent a warning shot which was deflected out for a corner just after the hour mark after combining with Daniel Cooper.
Then just before the seventieth minute, he went one better. An initial shot was palmed into the path of the striker and Beik wasn’t going to miss finishing into the bottom right corner.
An equalizer at this point seemed inevitable and it came with ten minutes to go. A low pass from midfield pierced the Condors defense. Beik ran onto the ball and made sure of it. Time for a winner?
There was and the chance came from Bede Leyland. He just couldn’t control the ball and a lunging effort didn’t have enough to beat Jake Jose Mendes.
UNSW FC: 2 (Beik 70’, 81’)
Western Condors: 2 (Obeng 7’, Martinez 37’)
Prospect United v Central Coast United and FC Gazy Auburn v Nepean FC were washed out and are to be played at a later date.
By Justin Smith (@smiththejustin)