Round Twenty of the League One Men’s competition saw plenty of celebrations as the top four sides ensured they cannot be caught by the chasing pack.
But fear not, the race for the premiership and finals places is still on with Hakoah keeping their hopes of finals still alive with a victory over Northern Tigers while all top four sides won ensuring the premiership won’t be decided to the final weekend.
Hakoah FC 1 (Tuson-Firth 3’) v Northern Tigers FC 0
Hakoah FC survived an onslaught to notch up a victory which keeps their finals hopes alive prevailing over Northern Tigers.
The hosts struck early in the contest through a George Tuson-Firth set piece goal before hanging on under some intense Tigers pressure in the second half.
As mentioned above, the hosts opened the score inside three minutes, Tuson Firth in the right place at the right time to finish from inside the area with his right foot, “the Irish Kaka” Conor Earley with the delivery into the box.
Bouncing back in relatively quick fashion, Tigers had their first chance of the game shortly after. Ollie Wiggin released on the left; his shot denied by Daniel Alessi who retreated well in defense.
Looking to double their lead, Hakoah responded with two quick chances of their own six minutes later, with Luiz Lobo and Francesco Giannetto having efforts in quick succession.
After a fast start, both sides then looked to settle into a rhythm with a long gap between notable chances with the Tigers controlling the more of the ball.
However, it was Lobo once again who was next to challenge either keeper, the Hakoah attacker forcing Tigers keeper Elliot Wheeler into a save.
But the best chance of the half fell to the Tigers right before the break, Hiyori Kawaguchi having a shot go just wide via a deflection with three minutes of the first period remaining.
The second half told a different story to the first with the Tigers mounting multiple attacks in the first quarter hour.
Jack Fulton with the first shot of the half, hitting the left post after combining with Kawaguchi on the left.
Before Kawaguchi combined with fellow wing-back Bailey Rule for the second opportunity, Rule only denied by a goal line Daniel Alessi clearance. Indeed, if there was to be a man of the match on the night, Alessi and goalkeeper Nikolas Loe were the standouts.
The visitors’ attacks kept on coming, but the home sides defense was stoic in response in weathering each attack. While they nearly landed a killer blow at the other end, Tuson-Firth making sure Elliot Wheeler was alert at his near post in a rare excursion forward from Luka Hrzina’s side.
Tigers were to have one more chance at an equalizer with five minutes left but Ollie Scott seemingly couldn’t decide on a shot or a cross from a narrow angle, the ball sailing harmlessly across the face of goal.
With two rounds remaining, the result narrows the gap between the fifth placed Tigers and sixth placed Hakoah to three points as they jostle for the last finals place.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 4 (Sapsford 11‘, Lopane 16‘, Badolato 47‘, Daniel 83‘) v SD Raiders FC 3 (Cindric 8’ 43’ 74‘)
Well… Who saw this one coming? Western Sydney Wanderers triumphed over SD Raiders in a high scoring thriller to secure their top four position.
Zac Sapsford opened the scoring for the hosts before Allesandro Lopane, Alexander Badolato and George Daniel made up their four goals. Whereas for the Raiders, Mark Cindric scored all three of their goals grabbing a hattrick in a losing side, though they certainly gave their hosts a scare.
The Wanderers started in trademark fashion showing the confidence of a side who have scored a stunning 59 goals this season leading in. With Zac Sapsford nearly opening the scores with an outrageous first time volley three minutes in after Aiden Mostofi found him with a cross from the left.
However the surprise first goal came at the other end. Mark Cindric opening the scoring with a simple finish from inside the area. With the assist going to Cooper Hanagan who ran onto a through ball on the right before having plenty of time to pick out Cindric for the goal.
It was shaping up to be a high scoring affair and sure enough the Wanderers hit back three minutes later. Alex Badolato winning the ball high before slipping in Zac Sapsford who produced a one touch finish from just inside the area.
One wanderers goal became two inside the quarter hour, Allesandro Lopane using his body well to win the penalty before converting from the spot sending the keeper the wrong way with his spot kick.
The visitors weren’t letting their hosts get away though as the rate of chances slowed down, and they levelled things with a couple of minutes left in the half. A rapid counterattack catching the hosts short, Cindric with a wonderful finish across the face of goal to level things. Luca Cervo with the outside of the foot through ball assist.
Parity didn’t last long this time either with the Wanderers grabbing a third, Jarrod Carluccio getting to the byline after playing a give and go with his right back then scrambling the ball central for Alex Badolato to finish off.
It was very much a see-sawing contest on the scoreboard with Cindric scoring the pick of the goals with a swinging left footed volley from around the penalty spot after a cross into the box from the left on 74 minutes.
Wanderers were just proving that little bit better on the night though and they got their winner with eight minutes left through George Daniel. Daniel arriving late on the scene after a corner from the lift with another assist going to the man they call Doggie.
The result keeps the Wanderers in top position though a couple of sides do have a game in hand, they play St George FC next weekend. While SD Raiders can definitely take positives heading into their R21 clash with Central Coast Mariners.
St George FC 0 v NWS Spirit FC 1 (Davidson 69’)
NWS Spirit confirmed their top four position with a victory over St George FC at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre.
Every goal counts and Mitch Davidson scored his second goal of the week to ensure that David Perkovic’s side can’t be displaced from the top four with two rounds remaining.
In a tight first half in Sydney’s south, two chances stood out in an absorbing contest. Firstly for St George, when Cam Philpot intercepted a back pass and hit the crossbar from an acute angle. While Kota Odakura went closest for Spirit with an effort from just outside the area fizzing over the top right corner.
The second half started with a chance within three minutes, Corey Kavanagh picking out Richie Darko with a cross field ball, Darko taking the ball forward before crossing, the ball eventually falling to Jordan Gomez at the back post who couldn’t find the target.
While the saints had their first chance of note in the second half shortly after, Conor Quilligan heading over the bar from an Isaac Danzo corner whipped in from the right. His header under pressure going wide left of the goal. Shortly followed by a Harry Jones shot which was blocked on its way towards goal ten minutes into the second half.
The game definitely had opened up, with Spirit next up. Louis Bozanic whipping in a delightful ball from the left which Michael Konestabo got a head too, only to be denied by remarkable save from Andrew Di Blasio as it headed for the bottom left corner.
Again followed by another chance at the other end, Quilligan with a left footed strike which was too hot for Christopher Marques to handle, Marques palming it over.
The end to end stuff continued with Grant Cornwell firing what would turn out as a warning shot on 65 minutes, his header from a Kota Odakura corner making sure Di Blasio was alert. The eventual goal coming soon after from another set piece.
Kota Odakura once again taking the free kick which was chipped into the area from a central position, Di Blasio just unable to clean it up with Mitch Davidson the man on the spot to give Spirit the advantage.
From there on out, Spirit controlled the fixture well with Michael Konestabo going the closest of either side in the remaining minutes, his effort hitting the side netting.
NWS Spirit have one game left to play this season meeting Hills United in R21, the first of a massive week including an Australian Cup away game and a cup final. While St George FC take on Mounties Wanderers midweek.
Mounties Wanderers FC 0 v St George City 5 (Roberts 35’, Prajza 47’, Awaritefe 53’ 68’, Morfitis 78’)
St George City put five past Mounties Wanderers in an emphatic performance at Valentine Sports Park.
With eyes on a potential premiership, City were ruthless against their opponents putting four goals past them in a rampant second half performance. Nathan Roberts opened the scoring before Jakub Prajza doubled their lead early in the second half. Before goals to Reuben Awaritefe with a brace and Jordan Morfitis rounded things out.
Despite it taking 35 minutes for the visitors to open the scoring, they were threatening from the start with a clever interchange of passes leading to Alex Malfara sending a threatening ball across the face within three minutes.
City continued to mount the pressure while Mounties looked dangerous on the counter as they tried to get in behind their defense.
Eventually though, the pressure told with City awarded a penalty on thirty-five minutes for an adjudged hand ball from a corner. Nathan Roberts stepping up and leaving the keeper no chance slotting it past the keeper who guessed the right way.
There was no pressure relief following the goal with another shot on target drawing a save on 40 minutes, Paolo Mitry with the chance after Reuben Awaritefe laid the ball off for him inside the area. Malfara also missing a chance from close range just before half time.
Unlike the first half, City didn’t have to wait long to double their advantage. Jakub Prajza doubling the advantage with a sweet right footed strike on the half volley from just outside the area, picking up the scraps after Paolo Mitry sent a set piece into the area.
Two became three five minutes later, Reuben Awaritefe showing a striker’s instinct to tuck the ball home after a Nathan Robers shot from outside the area was saved into his path just after the 50 minute mark.
The counter was still looking like the most dangerous outlet for the hosts and they notched up their first shot on target on 66 minutes. Matthew Self leading his team forward before squaring it to Brad Bartels. Bartels unable to put it past Mackenzie Syron in goal.
And they were made to regret that further at the other end. Jordan Morfitis soon released by a well weighted lofted through ball before unselfishly squaring the ball to Awaritefe to pick up his second goal of the night into an open net.
St George City then added a fifth with Morfitis grabbing one of his own, interchanging passes with Josh Keremelevski before finishing into the bottom left corner with thirteen minutes left.
Both these sides back up midweek, St George City against Blacktown Spartans while Mounties face St George FC.
Central Coast Mariners FC 3 (Hammond 5‘, Duarte 8‘, Bayliss 48‘) v Hills United FC 0
A very young Central Coast Mariners side outclassed Hills United at Pluim Park, Sunday afternoon.
And they did their work early scoring all their goals in the opening stages of either half, Aydan Hammond opened the scoring before Nicholas Duarte and Lachlan Bayliss grabbed the second and third respectively.
For Hills United, the score line was perhaps a bit harsher than their performance deserved with the visitors playing their way into the first half in particular before the third goal blunted them.
It was a fast start for the Mariners who scored twice in the opening ten minutes of the match. The first through Aydan Hammond who scored a goal on his debut in the first team. Hammond doing it all himself cutting in off the left before unleashing a right footed strike into the bottom right corner.
Hammond again playing a role in the second goal a few minutes later. His shot forcing Hills goalkeeper Riccardo Rizzo into a save into the path of Nicholas Duarte who tucked the ball home from close range leaving the visitors shellshocked.
After stabilizing themselves in the contest, Hills then nearly halved the deficit nineteen minutes in. Vincent D’Ermilio hitting the left post with his effort on a narrow angle from the right.
D’Ermilio proving a menace up front with a chance two minutes later, however the youngster was perhaps slightly off balance when it came to shoot with Marko Bulic making the save. Jacob Basden with the through ball.
While Aydan Hammond nearly scored a goal to remember with four minutes of the half left, the young dynamic attacker beating multiple defenders before seeing his shot saved by Riccardo Rizzo.
Like the first half, the Mariners wasted no time after the resumption, Lachlan Bayliss rifling home a volley from a corner whipped in from the left to give them a three-goal advantage. Jordan Segreto with the delivery in.
Three goals proved a bridge too far for the visitors as the game petered along towards its conclusion. With the best chances falling to Jordan Parfait for the visitors with twenty-five minutes left forcing Bulic into a sharp save after combining with Vincent D’Ermilio.
While Ben Duncan nearly found the bottom corner with a shot just after the 70th minute, Ricardo Rizzo denying him with a superb save.
Central Coast Mariners make one last away trip next weekend to face SD Raiders, while Hills United host NWS Spirit.
Quick R22 Review: NWS Spirit FC 5 (Konestabo 8’, Cornwell 13’, Lino 45‘ 49‘, Davidson 82’) v Mounties Wanderers FC 2 (Khalil 10’, Proia 79’)
If the weekends victory was confirmation of the NWS Spirit’s top four spot, Wednesday night’s victory over Mounties Wanderers was the perfect set up as they prevailed on a chilly night at the Arctic Circle.
The Spirit were rampant in the first half scoring three goals before the breakthrough Michael Konestabo, Grant Cornwell and Geoffry Lino. Before Lino doubled his tally and Mitch Davidson found the net in the second half. It marks the first time the Spirit have scored five goals in the league this season usually relying on a stubborn defense to win games in 2022.
In contrast, the Mounties were worth their two goals on the night, Matthew Khalil opening the scoring in the first half with a stunner before Anthony Proia found the net in the second half.
Both teams will finish their seasons next weekend, while Mounties have a midweek game to play this week.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC v Blacktown Spartans FC washed out, stay tuned for fixture details on the FNSW competitions site,
By FNSW League One Men’s writer Justin Smith