Adelaide City were no match for recently promoted rivals West Adelaide (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms.)

Round One of NPL SA Season 2022 saw two old foes rekindle their rivalry, a young star shine, and new-look sides making their presence felt.

Champions Flex Muscle

Adelaide City 4-0 West Adelaide

Season 2023 kicked off at ServiceFM Stadium with two old foes rekindling their rivalry after West Adelaide returned to the NPL for the first time since 2019. With Adelaide City entering the match as reigning back-to-back Champions and Hellas struggling to make up for the players it lost in the off-season, it was always going to be a tough ask for the visitors.

Despite the gap in quality on paper, Hellas gave the Champions a game, matching their intensity and stringing together some promising attacks. That good work was undone though in the final minutes of the first half, with lax marking allowing a Nicholas Bucco header to find new signing Gus Williams for an easy tap-in to open the scoring.

As the game wore on, City’s quality overwhelmed the league’s newly-promoted side and 15 minutes into the second half, another new signing in Katsuyoshi Kimishima doubled his side’s lead with a well-placed volley. At that stage, Hellas had lost any grasp it had on the game while Aladin Irabona and Matt Halliday added insult to injury by adding to their side’s lead to make it a triumphant start to the Champions’ title defense and an unfortunate beginning to West Adelaide’s return to South Australia’s top flight.

Luka Jovanovic Show

Adelaide United Youth 6-2 South Adelaide Panthers

The Panthers returned to the scene of their 8-0 defeat from last season, and the Young Reds threatened to repeat the demolition derby, with Luka Jovanovic opening the scoring just three minutes into the 2023 encounter. The Panthers settled into the match and despite being unfortunate not to score in the first half, they went into half-time two goals down after Giuseppe Bovalina tapped in Adelaide United’s second goal late in the half.

The second half started just like the first, with Luka Jovanovic scoring after just three minutes; the Young Reds forward also recorded his third goal of the day, his side’s fourth, only a minute after recording his brace. Just as it seemed that the Panthers were about to surrender to another ugly defeat, a quickfire double by Thomas King and Chol Mayen Wel saw South Adelaide regain a spring in its step.

The Young Reds were to have the last laugh of the game though, with Musa Toure joining in on the scoring before Luka Jovanovic recorded his fourth goal of the afternoon, the young forward already scoring a fourth of his 2022 goals in just one game. To add insult to injury for the Panthers, star Alex Rideout received a red card late in the encounter which will see him miss his side’s clash against Adelaide City.

Mullen Déjà Vu

Sturt Lions 1-2 Campbelltown City

Sturt hosted Campbelltown at Karinya Reserve in Round One, and with both sides falling short of their respective targets in 2022, it was always going to be a competitive encounter. This notion proved to be right, with the arm wrestle between the two sides keeping the scores locked level until late in the first half.

As stoppage time was approaching, a superb Michael Marrone cross found Tyreece Conway free in the box and the forward made no mistake to give the home side the lead heading into the break. Clearly annoyed at how the first half ended though, the Red Devils entered the second half with a point to prove and five minutes after the restart, Campbelltown’s Yohei Matsumoto beat goalkeeper James Klappers to the ball to convert his side’s counterattack to the leveling goal.

The rest of the game was played in Campbelltown’s terms, but the visitors seemed unable to breach the net for a second time until a painfully familiar case of déjà vu hit the Lions. Just like he did in the previous season at Karinya Reserve, Sergio Melta medalist Alex Mullen scored a late goal for his side in the final minutes of the game to ensure the Red Devils returned to Newton with all three points.

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Pounendis Released Forward

Adelaide Olympic 3-2 Croydon FC

Adelaide Olympic’s signing of experienced center-back duo Michael Jakobsen and Kristi Vangjeli did not just mean a more assured backline, but also a change-up further up the field. The two defenders meant that utility player Christos Pounendis could return to the striker role he is much more familiar and prolific in.

Jason Konstandopoulos opened the scoring for the home side early in the match, the young winger’s counterattack resulting in a long shot that found the back of the net, but Pounendis’ presence up front improved Olympic as a team and it led to goals. The striker was present to tap in an Abu-Bakari Hussein ball in the first half, before winning and converting a penalty 10 minutes into the second half to give his side a three-goal lead.

Olympic’s concentration dropped as the match was heading to its conclusion and it conceded twice to goals from Adam Martinello, who scored from the spot, and Japanese import Meiya Hisamoto. Both sides leave Round One with things to work on, but importantly the hosts left with the three points.

Welcome Back Modbury

Modbury Jets 2-2 FK Beograd

After a two-year absence from South Australia’s top-flight competition, the Modbury Jets hosted FK Beograd in its first game back in the league. The match did not start as the hosts were hoping for, ex-Jet Donny Pollock opening the scoring against his former side just shy of the 10-minute mark.

Just 15 minutes later, Stefan Matteo’s hustle saw him win back the ball from Beograd’s defence before making enough space for himself to release a low shot from outside of the box which brought his side level. Parity did not last until the break, with Ninko Beric tapping in Adam Leombruno’s cross to restore Beograd’s lead late in the half.

Modbury played with intent in the second half, clearly showcasing its ability to trouble NPL oppositions and it was eventually rewarded with an equaliser. Once again, Stefan Matteo proved a thorn in his opponent’s side and capitalised on a defensive miscommunication to level the score and earn a point for his side in its return to the NPL.

Metro Signings Shine

North Eastern MetroStars 2-0 Adelaide Comets

The MetroStars and the Comets shared many similarities entering NPL SA Season 2023. Both clubs parted ways with their respective long-term head coaches in favour of a fresh voice; both were accompanied by wholesale, ambitious changes to the playing groups.

Round One saw the two sides clash and it was clear which one was gelling more smoothly at the beginning of the season. Despite half-time finding the two teams level, Metro had the best of the game and the better scoring chance.

In the second half, James Temelkovski proved why he is touted as one of the signings of the season with a booming finish past Ashton Rinaldo. In the final minutes of the game, the young goalkeeper’s distribution error opened up the opportunity for another new recruit Michael Cittadini to score Metro’s second and seal the three points for the new-look home side.

Match to watch in Round 2

The MetroStars and FK Beograd were two of the most active clubs in the off-season. Both sides have clear ambitions and with new coaches at the helm and overhauled squads, the aim in both camps is silverware.

After an impressive Round One performance, Metro star James Temelkovski will be looking to get his name on the scoresheet once again, but on the other side of the field, Josh Mori and Ninko Beric will be keeping their defenders equally busy.

With both sides still in the gelling process, this promises to be an exciting match that features exciting football from two teams with a lot of talent at their disposal. If the season plays out as both camps are hoping, we may be seeing these two teams clashing come the pointy end of the year.

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