There is no love lost between the Adelaide Comets and Campbelltown City, a fact that was evident when the two sides squared off for a spot in the 2022 NPL SA Grand Final.
To understand why a side from the West of Adelaide has such a bitter distaste for a team from the North Eastern suburbs, recent finals history holds all the answers.
Campbelltown City is nicknamed the “Red Devils” and the Comets can attest to the suitability of the monicker, having been tormented by them when the lights are their brightest.
The 2019 NPL SA Season saw Campbelltown finish first with the Comets second. The Comets managed to win the first leg of the matchup against the Red Devils but lost the return leg before eventually making the Grand Final with a third crack at Campbelltown and silverware on the line.
Unfortunately for the Comets, Campbelltown once again had the last laugh, outplaying them to the tune of a three-goal win on Grand Final day.
2020 came along and with the Comets edging Campbelltown to the Premiership and this time defeating it in the two-legged final for a spot at the big dance, redemption was on the horizon. A pattern was well and truly starting to form when the Comets failed to deliver on Grand Final day once again.
Campbelltown claimed another Championship comfortably when it mattered most and the Red Devils were more than happy to remind the Comets players of their success on social media which only added fuel to the fire for future encounters.
A Preliminary final in 2022 was a new chapter for this rivalry, with the loser being eliminated one step before the Grand Final.
Campbelltown has been one of the most consistent sides in South Australia in 2022, and despite its opposition not looking as menacing as in previous years, toppling the Comets is rarely a simple task.
An open first half saw Campbelltown City have the best of the opportunities, with the Comets defenders managing to desperately scramble the ball meters away from their goal line on multiple occasions.
Despite not looking as lethal as they have in previous years, the Comets have matured as a side and are harder to break down than ever.
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The Comets took their record of not having conceded in the 2022 Finals Series into the second half and just five minutes after the restart, a moment of brilliance punished Michael Matricciani’s side for not converting their opportunities in the first half of the game.
Logan McFall rewarded coach Barney Smith for his trust in regularly including him in his starting line-up in the last month after missing most of the season.
McFall’s free-kick from the right side of the area eluded Campbelltown goalkeeper Alex Woodlands and found the inside of the side-netting in the far corner. The forward proceeded to celebrate with his coach who must have felt vindicated by his selection in the previous month.
The goal stunned the hosts into action, but the Comets’ experience was what stood out. The absence of Marc Marino was duly felt with Campbelltown’s attack feeling devoid of a focal point at times.
Yohei Matsumoto’s header went slightly wide before the winger thought he levelled the scoring until the assistant referee put his flag up for offside.
The clock ticked down and the Comets’ gamesmanship got the best of the Red Devils who had no answers for their visitors’ resolute defence. A scuffle involving most of the players on the pitch resulted in Campbelltown defender Daniel Mullen receiving his marching orders deep into injury time.
Campbelltown couldn’t come back and haunt the Comets on their fourth consecutive go at the big stage, but a separate challenge awaits in the form of Adelaide City.
Paul Pezos’ side is one of the most successful in recent South Australian history and defeated Barney Smith’s Comets, albeit on penalties, just under a year ago.
City is well-drilled, confident, and full of proven winners, but the Comets will be hungrier than ever for success and they’ll be looking to nullify the high-scoring City, just like they’ve done to Croydon, MetroStars, and Campbelltown in the past month on their quest for an illusive championship.
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