The opening round of the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s finals series produced more than its fair share of excitement, and late goals in both games kept the fans on edge right up to the final whistle.
There’s now only four teams in the running for the Championship – it’s anyone guess as to which side will lift the trophy in two weeks.
Elimination Final 1: Mounties Wanderers v GHFA Spirit FC
Mounties Wanderers have reached the second week of the finals for the third time in four years after a last gasp 2-1 victory over Spirit FC.
Spirit took the lead with 15 minutes left in normal time after Duncan Stewart’s 19th goal of the season, however Michael Jeffrey’s quick equaliser was followed by an injury time winner from Anthony Schmidt.
The first opportunity came Spirit’s way on nine minutes after a nice flick on from Stewart. Furness collected the ball and tried for goal from an acute angle, with Blake Tuxford getting fingertips to his shot.
Furness was involved again in the 17th minute when he picked up a loose ball, but his 25 yard effort was saved comfortably by Tuxford. Mounties countered quickly, and Michael Cklamovski played a great pass for Jeffrey, but he was unable to generate enough power in his shot to trouble Tomislav Romic.
Romic was getting plenty of involvement. Just before the half hour, the Spirit goalkeeper went full stretch to stop a Joshua Viera cross from ending up in the net. Less than a minute later, Romic came to his side’s rescue again, saving with his feet after Jeffrey made a slicing run through the Spirit defence.
A couple of minutes before halftime, Christopher Arditti almost unlocked the Mounties defence with some great skill. The Spirit forward beat two opponents before setting up Stewart, but his shot was blocked by Benjamin Spruce.
Then in first half stoppage time, Mounties had a great chance to draw first blood after Joshua Viera was brought down in the area by Andrew Robertson. However, Theo Kofinas’s spot kick rebounded off the crossbar, and the follow up header was saved by Romic.
Mounties weren’t disheartened by the missed opportunity, starting the second half well. On 50 minutes Jeffrey’s lobbed pass put Peter Triantis in the clear, however the midfielder could only drag his shot wide of the target.
Jeffrey’s endeavour almost led to a shooting chance three minutes later when he dispossessed Robertson. The Mounties forward used his speed to get away from Sidhya Malhotra and was about to pull the trigger, but Robertson did brilliantly to recover, making a clean tackle just inside the area.
Robertson was in the right place again just before the hour mark when Romic misjudged Cklamovski’s cross, blocking a goalbound shot from Tai Smith. Smith had another effort a minute later, sending a left footed drive over the crossbar after linking with Jeffrey.
The Mounties shots kept coming, with Jeffrey, Mitchell Davidson and Triantis all having shots in quick succession. However, it was Spirit who took the lead against the run of play in the 75th minute. A nice ball over the top from Sidhya Malhotra found Robertson in space, and his cross was finished from close range by Stewart.
Mounties nearly hit back straight away when Smith’s cross came back off the woodwork, but they didn’t have to wait long for the equaliser. Only three minutes after falling behind, Jeffrey grabbed the goal that his performance had deserved, racing onto an angled pass from Triantis and prodding the ball past Romic.
With a minute remaining in normal time, Jeffrey had a chance to win it when he beat Romic to a ball over the top, however his lob was off target. Instead it was one of his teammates who would end up becoming the hero. Schmidt had only just been substituted on, when in the third minute of stoppage time he latched onto a loose ball, volleying it into the goal for a dramatic winner.
This game marks the end of Spirit FC’s campaign, while Mounties are looking forward to a semi-final clash with North Shore Mariners.
Mounties Wanderers 2 (Michael Jeffrey 78’, Anthony Schmidt 90+3’) v GHFA Spirit FC 1 (Duncan Stewart 75’)
Sunday 1 September 2019 – At Lily Homes Stadium
Mounties Wanderers: 1. Blake TUXFORD, 3. Benjamin SPRUCE, 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 9. Tai SMITH (2. Anthony SCHMIDT 83’), 10. Joshua VIERA, 11. Mitchell DAVIDSON, 14. Noah CHIANESE, 16. Michael JEFFREY, 17. Theo KOFINAS (c), 18. Michael CKLAMOVSKI, 26. Peter TRIANTIS
Unused Substitutes: 21. Jack GROENEVELD, 7. Matthew WEST, 8. Bruno PIVATO, 15. Anthony WINDSOR
Yellow Cards: 17. Theo KOFINAS 89’
GHFA Spirit FC: 1. Tomislav ROMIC, 4. Futoshi KONDO, 5. Andrew ROBERTSON (c), 7. Dominic FURNESS, 9. Duncan STEWART, 13. Pasqualino CAPPUCCIO, 17. Ahmed SWEEDAN (6. Emilio MANOS 72’), 18. Sidhya MALHOTRA, 20. Jason PEREZ (2. Dylan WHITLOCK 81’), 21. Lewis BEUMIE, 23. Christopher ARDITTI (11. Travis COOPER 90+1’)
Unused Substitutes: 15. Louie ZACHAROPOULOS, 22. Samuel DE OLIVEIRA
Elimination Final 2: Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Northern Tigers
At Marconi Stadium, Bonnyrigg White Eagles needed extra time to secure their passage to the next round, defeating Northern Tigers in a six goal thriller.
A Lucas Dawson double seemed to be enough for the Tigers to progress, however Ray Miller’s late equaliser, followed by Richard Darko’s extra time double, sent Bonnyrigg into the second week of the finals.
It was the Tigers who opened the scoring on seven minutes, Dawson finding space in the area and sidefooting William Foristal’s low cross into the net.
Bonnyrigg pressed to get back on level terms, with Asmir Kadric looking threatening whenever he received possession. Aaron Peterson also looked lively, and he had a good chance to equalise with 20 minutes played when he escaped the marking at a corner kick, heading over the crossbar.
The White Eagles didn’t have to wait much longer to draw level. They made it 1-1 in the 27th minute when Jack Armson punished the Tigers for a stray pass, advancing into the area and blasting the ball into the top corner for his fifth goal of the year.
Kadric might have put his side in front seven minutes later, but he was unable to hit the target from an acute angle, and the sides went into the dressing rooms with the scores tied.
The Bonnyrigg pressure continued after the interval. Peterson caused a penalty box scramble two minutes after the restart when he charged down a clearance from Tigers goalkeeper Benjamin Taylor, but the defence was able to get back and force him into an off target shot.
Just after the hour mark, the experienced Bonnyrigg pair of Miller and David Vrankovic combined to set up Bradie Smith, however he could only blaze over from ten yards out. There were then big chances at both ends in the 63rd minute, with Miller heading against the post from Smith’s cross, and Tigers forward Rory Spiers prodding the ball wide of the goal after getting behind the defence.
Despite the miss, the Tigers seemed to find some momentum, and they retook the lead on 65 minutes. Once again it was Dawson who did the damage, exchanging passes with Ollie Wiggin before sending a low shot into the net via the base of the post.
Chances kept coming Bonnyrigg’s way. Twenty minutes remained in normal time when Miller picked out Peterson, who somehow headed wide from five yards out. Miller always seemed to be involved, and in the 74th minute he got on the end of Smith’s cross, only for a Tigers defender to get in the way again.
Spiers had another decent chance with five minutes remaining after Lachlan Lloyd played a brilliant pass behind the defence, firing wide of the target. The miss proved costly as on 88 minutes, Bonnyrigg equalised for a second time. Smith played a teasing ball into the area, and it was only fitting that Miller would be the player to lash a volley into the roof of the net, taking this contest into extra time.
Now Bonnyrigg had the momentum. Seven minutes into extra time, Kadric nearly got on the scoresheet after catching Taylor in no man’s land, but Nicholas Kalogerou headed the ball off the goal line. Less than 60 seconds later, Miller was agonisingly close when he curled a shot inches wide of the far post.
Smith then had a couple of shots from the edge of the area, but neither was on target and the scores remained at 2-2 heading into the second period of extra time.
After 110 minutes of play, Bonnyrigg hit the front for the first time all afternoon. Darko reacted quickest when Sam Gallaway’s free kick was headed into the six yard box, scoring his first goal in three months.
With the Tigers chasing the game, Lloyd stung Chronopoulos’s palms from the edge of the area, but this would be Bonnyrigg’s day. Darko made the game safe with five minutes left, getting on the end of a perfectly weighted pass from Amar Adilovic and flicking the ball over Taylor.
This result sets up a showdown between Bonnyrigg and Hills United for a place in the Grand Final.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 4 (Jack Armson 27’, Ray Miller 88’ Richard Darko 110’ 115’) v Northern Tigers 2 (Lucas Dawson 7’ 65’)
By Eric Subijano
Twitter – @eric_subijano