The top-of-the-table clash did not disappoint in Round Twenty of the Football New South Wales League Two Men’s season; it was a match that had everything.
That clash was this week’s Match of the Round, where UNSW FC came from behind to snatch a draw in a match where they could have possibly earned more.
Earlier, Sydney University SFC and Inner West Hawks FC could not be separated, while stoppage time drama saw Bankstown United FC earn a draw away at Hawkesbury City FC, before even more drama saw Fraser Park FC keep the three points at home to Parramatta FC.
Elsewhere, Gladesville Ryde Magic put an end to Prospect United SC’s record-breaking unbeaten run, Hurstville FC snuck past Camden Tigers FC, while Nepean FC ended the Western Rage’s unbeaten run.
South Coast Flame FC had a bye this round.
Saturday, June 17th 2023
Match of the Round: UNSW FC 3-3 Newcastle Jets
Sometimes top-of-the-table clashes can fail to live up to the hype – this was not one of those occasions.
A six-goal thriller saw UNSW FC come from two goals down at home to the Newcastle Jets to keep their four-point lead over the visitors at the top of the table with ten matches left in the season in a clash full of twists and turns.
With the season’s top goal scorer, Kevin Lopes, out for UNSW, they looked to signal their intent early as they made their way up the field quickly from kick-off.
The first save of the match was made by UNSW’S goalkeeper, Luke Del Vecchio, who comfortably saved a shot from the Jets’ Christian Bracco.
However, the opening goal came quickly at The Village Green in Kensington.
Following a midfield scrap where both UNSW and the Jets won the ball, respectively, it was the Jets’ Zac Lisolajski who came away with possession.
He found himself in a lot of space and took a driving effort at the near post with his right foot.
The ball powered past the outstretched gloves of Del Vecchio, who dived to his left, as the ball hit the back of the net.
“Woah” rung out from the crowd as the Jets had the early advantage.
The Jets had the next chance four minutes later, where a shot crawled wide of the left-hand upright.
Following that, UNSW looked to hit back through Dylan Walz, who put a dangerous ball into the box but no UNSW player was able to fire a shot away.
The Jets’ Ezra Palombini was explosive down the left flank with his pace as he fired an outside-of-the-foot cross into the box, which was cleared by the hosts.
Newcastle piled the pressure on in midfield and continued to force turnovers.
UNSW’s Keeghan Burke did well to work out of tight spaces and pressure in the midfield to get him team forward with the ball.
Max Mcalpine was played in behind by Callum Fitzpatrick in the 16th minute but his first touch was too heavy as the ball rolled to the Jets’ goalkeeper, Ryan Furness.
The Jets had the large majority of possession following their early goal as Xavier Bertoncello looked to launch dangerous crosses into the box.
In the 20th minute, UNSW won the ball in midfield and broke quickly; Mcalpine got on the end of a cross from the byline and steadied himself, but his strong right-footed shot took a deflection and went just wide of the left-hand post for a corner.
Five minutes later, UNSW’S Mathias Da Silva Santos got in behind the Jets’ high line and fired a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the 18-yard-box.
A few minutes later, the Jets broke quickly down the right flank; Bertoncello got on the end of a ball played across to him just outside the UNSW box, but he blazed his shot over the crossbar.
Dylan Walz and Mathias had good combination play down the right in midfield for UNSW, while the Jets were relentless in their press as they stopped UNSW counters and forced turnovers.
Both sides were prepared to play out from the back and build up their attacks, with the occasional switch or long ball.
However, both teams were prepared to use their pace in attack for counter opportunities.
In the 35th minute, UNSW almost equalised from a long diagonal ball.
Callum Fitzpatrick weaved into the box and unleashed a right-footed shot towards goal.
The ball cannoned off the bottom of the right-hand upright and away; the crowd almost celebrated the goal.
UNSW had worked their way into the match and started to control more of the ball and force mistakes from the Jets in attack.
In the 39th minute, UNSW threatened from a free kick but the glanced header was straight at Furness.
However, just a minute later, the Jets extended their advantage to two goals.
The Jets hit fast down the left flank once again through Xavier Bertoncello.
He worked his way to the byline and snaked past two UNSW defenders.
He snuck the ball into the corridor of uncertainty with pace on his right foot; uncertain it was, as Palombini snuck in and scored to give the Jets a two-goal lead just before half-time.
Following that, Bertoncello was strong with the ball; he held it under pressure from multiple UNSW players.
The Jets players made smart runs retreating from attack into midfield to draw in and petrify UNSW defenders, which allowed their runners to get in behind and get on the end of long balls.
However, it would not have been a top-of-the-table clash if there was not late drama to end the half.
In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, a handball from the Jets’ Nicholas Kacev on the goal-line denied UNSW from a corner.
A penalty was given and a yellow card was shown to Kacev, despite calls for a red to be shown for denying a clear and obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
Jack Fulton was the man who stepped up to the spot for UNSW.
He held his nerve and sent the Jets’ goalkeeper the wrong way; he shot down the middle, the keeper dived to his left.
The crowd erupted with applause and cheers and the referee immediately blew his whistle to signal half-time; UNSW halved the deficit with the final kick of the first half.
It was a just goal for UNSW, who deserved a goal for the way they responded to the Jets goal and pressure earlier in the half.
They would have felt aggrieved to be two goals down but at half-time, the score was 2-1 to the Jets.
The Newcastle Jets were out early warming up for the second half.
The Jets tried to play in behind UNSW early in the second half but each pass was just over-hit.
In the 52nd minute, a chance went begging for UNSW to equalise.
Each of the UNSW front three had a shot at goal within the space of five seconds; first the left-wing, then the right-wing, then the sstriker
The final shot was saved brilliantly by Furness down low.
Four minutes later, Mathias got down the left flank well again for UNSW.
He flashed a dangerous ball across the goal, but no UNSW attacker was able to get on the end of it.
UNSW held their defensive shape well early in the second half as they repelled the Jets.
On the hour mark, Jannie Rafty was shown a yellow card for the Jets for time-wasting on a throw in.
The eventual throw-in found Palombini outside the UNSW box, as he weaved his way into the box and between UNSW defenders.
He feigned to put a low cross into the box, but instead took a shot at goal on his right foot which found the back of the net, halfway up the middle of the left side of the net.
The Jets had the position they wanted to be in heading into the final thirty minutes of the match.
However, in the 66th minute, a decision which was difficult to understand denied UNSW a goal back.
Peter Prandalos thought he had pulled a goal back for UNSW after he headed home inside the box from a free-kick, but as the players celebrated and walked towards halfway, the realisation hit that the sideline official had flagged the goal for offside.
The decision confused the players and fans alike as Prandalos appeared to be onside from the free-kick, which must have meant a different offside player from UNSW may have interfered in the play.
However, the ruled-out goal did not deter UNSW from continuing their attack; that paid dividends in the 72nd minute.
Jack Fulton was brought down just inside the penalty area on the right as the referee pointed to the spot to award UNSW a penalty.
Fulton stepped up to attempt to convert his own penalty as the crowd turned from cheers to a hush.
He kept his cool and slotted the penalty away, hard and fast down the middle as the keeper dove to his left.
The UNSW players quickly picked up the ball and rushed back to find an equaliser in the final stages of the match, the score 3-2 to the Jets.
The crowd came to life following the goal and rode every tackle, run and pass.
UNSW threatened again from another corner, while the intensity and quality from both sides was on show throughout the match with battles fought hard in midfield and pace up front.
Cristhian Martinez was subbed on for UNSW to rapturous applause and had an impact within two minutes of entering the field.
In the 82nd minute, he held the ball up well in midfield against the Jets’ backline, beat the press and played a smart reverse pass in behind the Jets’ defence for Mathias down the left flank.
Mathias put a looping cross into the box for Rick Aguilar, who had just entered the match two minutes earlier.
He found space between Jets defenders and headed the ball into the bottom-right corner to rapturous applause and cheers from the crowd; UNSW had completed the comeback and drew back level at 3-3.
The Jets threatened from kick-off but UNSW held strong and cleared the ball away.
Tempers flared as the referee called a player over from each side to calm them down.
The match was high-pace towards the end, back-and-forth forth as both sides chased victory.
In the second minute of stoppage time, UNSW had a golden chance to take all three points.
A Jets player slipped as he went to control the ball; Fulton capitalised and got in behind on a two-on-one against Furness.
He opted to take on the shot, which fizzed wide of the left-hand post as the crowd almost erupted with cheers.
A match filled with pace, power, precision, decisive play, skill and a drive to win came to a close shortly after as the referee blew his whistle to signal full-time.
The Jets held on late as the UNSW comeback saw them claim a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw; one of the matches of the season.
The result meant UNSW took four points from their matches against the Jets this season, which will help their push for automatic promotion and the title of League Two Champions come season’s end.
The draw kept UNSW on top of the ladder by four points over the Jets, while the draw left the Jets in second, susceptible to a few of the teams below them.
The comradery was on show between the UNSW players post-match, despite their disappointment in not taking all three points, as they teased that Claudio Fabiano would have stopped them from conceding the goals they did.
Speaking post-match, UNSW player Luke Burke said he was glad to get the point given the state of the ladder and where both teams sit and was proud of the performance.
“It was a big game for both of our seasons… In the second half I think we showed amazing mentality and Championship grit.”
A few decisions went against UNSW, while they also were unlucky in chances where they should have scored.
“[There were] a few controversial moments… But that is just the way the game goes… [but] especially in the second half, I feel we should have put a few chances away.”
To take four points from matches against the Jets could be crucial to UNSW come the end of the season.
“At the start of the season, [the Jets] were definitely one of the teams that we marked as going to be competing with us… But at the end of the day, we have always said every game is worth the same amount of points and that is our mentality.”
UNSW FC will hope to keep pushing, game-by-game, starting with a tough away clash against 3rd-plaved Nepean FC next week, while the Jets will hope to close the gap to UNSW as they host Gladesville Ryde Magic in Round Twenty One.
Friday, 16th June 2023
Sydney University SFC 0-0 Inner West Hawks FC
Sydney University SFC could not break down the Inner West Hawks FC defence as both sides settled for a 0-0 draw at the Sydney University Football Ground.
Uni came into the match looking to end their run of three-straight draws with a win.
The Hawks had the first opportunity of the match through Peter Yannopoulos after a cross from Hesan Soufi, but his header was saved by Uni goalkeeper, Jasper Sarkies.
A few minutes later, a cross from Peter Phillips found the head of Yannopoulos, who played the ball to Tony Lo.
Lo found the back of the net, but was marginally offside in the build-up as the goal was waved off.
The Hawks’ defence consisting of Sidhya Malhotra, Matthew Paras and Christopher Phillips held strong against the Uni attack throughout the match.
Uni held possession throughout the first half and created chances but could not find the finishing touch; Hawks goalkeeper Shunsuke Sugiura pulled off one great one-on-one save, in particular.
Uni threatened from multiple corner but the Hawks defended strongly to keep them at bay.
Uni hit the crossbar twice in the second half and had a goal disallowed for offside, whilst they looked to contain the Hawks’ threat on the counter.
The Hawks had a chance to score the only and winning goal late in the match after a cross from Lawrence Claxton found Peter Phillips, but he shot his effort just over the Uni crossbar.
However, in the end, neither side were able to find the crucial goal to break the deadlock, as both sides settled for a 0-0 draw.
The result kept Uni in 13th but moved them four points clear of last-placed Hawkesbury City FC, while it also moved them to within three points of 10th-placed Camden Tigers FC.
The draw was the third in a row and the fourth in five for the Hawks, who moved into 11th and within one point of the Tigers.
Sydney University SFC will hope to break their run of draws as they chase victory at home to South Coast Flame FC next week, while Inner West Hawks FC will enjoy the week off with the bye.
Hawkesbury City FC 2-2 Bankstown United FC
There was late drama at Dean Bertenshaw Field as Hawkesbury City FC scored a very late goal to claim a point at home to Bankstown United FC.
In a tough encounter, Bankstown scored in the 9th minute through Mitchell Edmunds.
A square ball from inside the box found Edmunds, who hit the ball on the turn from about 10 yards out and found the back of the net to give Bankstown the early 1-0 lead.
However, Hawkesbury equalised three minutes later through Brad Gibson.
Hawkesbury had attacked down their right and cross the ball into the Bankstown box; Gibson was on hand and headed the ball home from six yards out to level the match at 1-1.
Then, Hawkesbury took the lead five minutes later with an almost identical goal, created from the left flank this time.
Gibson was there once again to slot home the ball and give Hawkesbury the lead in what was a quick-fire start to proceedings.
Bankstown had a penalty awarded in the first half; however, on advice from the sideline official, the penalty was withdrawn.
Hawkesbury followed up with a good one-on-one opportunity which was saved well by Bankstown goalkeeper, Mitchell Evans.
Bankstown Captain Steve Wright came off injured after 30 minutes after he re-aggravated a hamstring injury, which meant Bankstown had to readjust at the back.
Hawkesbury hit on the counter in what was a midfield battle as they took the 2-1 lead into half-time.
In the second half, Hawkesbury had two good chances to extend their lead through Harry Drew and Vincent D’ermillio, but they were denied once again by Evans.
Shortly after, Hawkesbury were awarded a penalty, bit Evans saved both the penalty and the attempt from the rebound to keep his side in the contest.
Bankstown’s Jack Slane then had a goal disallowed for offside.
However, the drama in the match happened with the second-last kick of the match, in the third minute of stoppage time.
Bankstown’s Mitchell Cross had a Hawkesbury defender on him, but he turned on his heels and put a first-time strike past the Hawkesbury goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Bankstown levelled the match extremely late on and earned a 2-2 draw and a point away to Hawkesbury.
Bankstown were the happier of the two sides to get a point from that contest.
The result kept Hawkesbury at the bottom of the ladder, while Bankstown are in 9th heading into Round Twenty One.
Hawkesbury City FC will hope to climb off the bottom away to Parramatta FC next week, while Bankstown United FC will take the charge to the team just ahead of them in Hurstville FC next week at home.
Saturday, 17th June 2023
Fraser Park FC 3-2 Parramatta FC
Late drama saw Fraser Park FC escape as 3-2 winners over Parramatta FC in Fraser Park.
Fraser Park started off the game well and were rewarded in the 11th minute through a goal for Alexander Nicolosi.
He pounced on the ball after a Parramatta centre-half kicked the ground instead of the ball, which left Nicolosi open to intercept, run down the field, round the Parramatta goalkeeper and slot the ball into the back of the net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Nicolosi continued to be dangerous for Fraser Park but the score was 1-0 at half-time.
Fraser Park started the second half as they ended the first – by creating chances.
Lazar Drakulovic found Nicolosi at the back post but he was unable to convert his chance.
Parramatta gained confidence from the fact they were still in the match and after a sequence of passes, Abdullatif Ghazal scored to level the match at 1-1 in the 70th minute.
Alhaji Bangura then made a run down the right for Parramatta and crossed the ball for Muamer Mesanovic, who slotted the ball home to give Parramatta a 2-1 lead.
Jameson Hinwood denied Fraser Park on multiple occasions as he kept Parramatta in the lead as Fraser Park pushed late.
However, the late drama occured in the 87th minute.
Fraser Park were awarded a penalty after Camil Abouchaaya handballef in the box.
He protested the decision and was sent off for a second yellow for dissent as Parramatta were reduced to ten men late.
Nicolosi took the penalty powerfully and, despite a hand from Hinwood, found the back of the net to level the match at 2-2.
However, the action continues until the last kick of the match.
In the fifth minutes of stoppage time, Fraser Park had a set piece which Parramatta failed to clear.
The ball fell to Fraser Park substitute Alexander Euripidou, who smashed the ball past a crowd of players and into the back of the net to give Fraser Park the 3-2 lead and win.
Despite defeat, 16-year-old holding midfielder Noorullah Afzaly came on and impressed for Parramatta with his game intelligence and technical ability.
The win moved Fraser Park into 6th, while Parramatta dropped down to 12th.
Fraser Park FC will hope to go four matches unbeaten as they take on Prospect United SC next week, while Parramatta FC will look to end a run of four-straight defeats as they tackle Hawkesbury City FC at home.
Gladesville Ryde Magic 3-0 Prospect United SC
Gladesville Ryde Magic kept Prospect United SC at bay in the match and on the table as they came away with a 3-0 victory, ending Prospect’s club record-breaking ten-match unbeaten streak.
Before the match, Magic goalkeeper Kiriakos Tohouroglou broke his thumb, his first injury in twelve years; he was subbed off after 24 minutes which left a third-choice goalkeeper in goal for the Magic.
In an even first half, Prospect turned the ball over on too many occasions.
The Magic hit the crossbar from 30 yards, while Prospect had two good chances to score with a header from eight yards out which was tipped over the bar and a one-on-one chance hit at the goalkeeper from Tallon Zahra, respectively, as the score was 0-0 at half-time.
Thirty seconds into the second half, disaster struck for Prospect as they failed to clear their lines inside the box on a few occasions as Kohki Hiyaoka put the Magic into the lead
Prospect changed their system and fired a few shots at goal but the ball just would not go in to the back of the net.
In the 70th minute, Prospect had a chance to score before the Magic hit on the counter through Christopher Guyot and Adrian Johnnathon; Guyot played the ball to David Ustimenko who finished well to give the Magic a 2-0 lead.
From there, Prospect dropped but continued to push players forward.
The Magic hit on four more counter attacks and made one of them pay through Guyot in the fifth minute of stoppage time with the last kick of the game.
He beat the Prospect goalkeeper who had rushed up and slotted the ball past him to round out the 3-0 victory for the Magic.
The win kept the Magic in 4th and opened up a three-point gap back to Prospect United SC in 5th.
Gladesville Ryde Magic will hope to go seven matches unbeaten as they host a winless-in-three Newcastle Jets, while Prospect United SC will hope to bounce back at home to Fraser Park FC.
Hurstville FC 1-0 Camden Tigers FC
Hurstville FC ended a five-match winless run as they came away 1-9 winners over Camden Tigers FC in a tight match at Penshurst Park.
It was an even match in a midfield battle between the two teams where chances were hard to come by.
Camden pushed hard to pick up second balls, but Hurstville recovered well as Jesse Gagro put Juan Da Silva in behind a few times, but he was unable to score.
Camden pushed well and were aggressive on transition as they forced Hurstville goalkeeper Michael Rutherford into a few saves.
Julian Bittar broke down the right for Hurstville but could not capitalise, while the Tigers threatened from set pieces.
Paul Gagro had a shot just before half-time for Hurstville which whistled just past the post as the teams were level at half-time, 0-0.
Camden tried to force turnovers high up the pitch in the second half, while Hurstville looked to settle.
In the 47th minute, Da Silva combined well with a few other Hurstville players and fired a shot at goal; the shot was saved by Tigers’ goalkeeper, Michael O’Rourke but the ball rebounded to Jesse Gagro, who slotted the ball home to give Hurstville a 1-0 lead.
The match was scrappy from there as Camden threatened from corners, while Hurstville threatened on transition.
The Tigers had a powerful header just before full-time saved by Rutherford.
In his 100th match, Rutherford commanded his box well to keep the Tigers at bay as Hurstville took out the 1-0 victory.
The result meant Hurstville were in 8th heading into next week, while the Tigers moved adrift in 10th.
Hurstville FC will hope to continue with momentum next week as they face the team just below them in Bankstown United FC at home, while Camden Tigers FC will hope to keep the sides below them at bay as they tackle the Western Rage at home.
Western Rage 0-4 Nepean FC
The Western Rage’s five-match unbeaten streak came to an end, while Nepean FC moved level on points with the Newcastle Jets as they came away with a strong 4-0 away victory.
The Rage started well and put Nepean under pressure early, but Nepean weathered the strong early 15 minutes from the Rage.
Nepean got into their rhythm and found two goals before half-time.
The first came in the 43rs minute through Leonard Abdo, while the second came via a penalty, where Jad Moussa was sent off for his challenge.
Mitchell King stepped up and slotted the ball home to give Nepean a 2-0 lead at half-time.
Nepean continued the second half how they left off the first and found a third goal through Luka Zepina.
Tommy Mandarano made his first grade debut after he came off the bench in the 75th minute.
He then proceeded to score his first-ever first grade goal late in the match to give Nepean a 4-0 lead and win.
The win kept Nepean in 3rd but put them level with the 2nd-placed Newcastle Jets, while the Rage sit 14th, one point above last-placed Hawkesbury City FC.
Nepean will hope to move into 2nd for the first time in a while as they host UNSW FC in a crucial top three clash, while the Rage will hope to bounce back and avoid dropping as they travel to face Camden Tigers FC in Round Twenty One.
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Writer, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta