21/02/2024

Nicholas Bucco celebrates his goal against West Adelaide in Round 12 (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms.)

The start of the second half of the NPL SA season saw the top teams hold their ground, the Champions return to winning way, and a change in the relegation zone.

Friday night rollercoaster

FK Beograd 3-4 Modbury Jets

FK Beograd had the start from hell on Friday night against the Modbury Jets. Despite their recent uptick in form, Josh Smith’s men found themselves two goals and a man down after the opening 20 minutes, after Hamish McCabe and Paul Wilson scored for the Jets before Gideon Arok received a straight red car for placing his arms around an opposition player’s neck.

Most nights, such a calamitous start would mean the game was all but over, but Modbury’s complacency saw Beograd rally, and Ninko Beric claw a goal back 10 minutes later, before Micah Lea’alafa sent Frank Mitchell Park alight, equalising from the tightest of angles deep into first-half injury time. If the game was not exciting enough already, despite being a player light, the hosts astoundingly took the lead through Doni Pollock just 10 minutes after the restart.

Despite the game averaging a goal every 10 minutes at the hour mark, the action was far from over and the hosts were in the firing line once again after going into preservation mode when taking the lead. Hamish McCabe’s superb individual effort from the edge of the box brought the Jets level before Luka Chikwuba set up the forward to tap home his hat trick and the game-winner on a wild Friday night match in Woodville.

Talladira tames Panthers

South Adelaide Panthers 0-1 Adelaide United Youth

Winless since early March, South Adelaide entered its match against Adelaide United desperate for three points. With the Young Reds a few “experienced” players light due to their participation in the A League Men Finals Series, the Panthers left their mark early, playing a physical match against the largely inexperienced side.

The first-half arm wrestle could not be broken, and despite both sides having plenty of chances to make an impact, both goals remained unbreached. The Young Red entered the second half intent on catching the Panthers out on their high press, and after having a shot saved by Lewis Moss early in the half, young midfielder Fabian Talladira placed the ball into the goalkeeper’s top corner to open the scoring in the 52nd minute.

As South Adelaide ran out of gas after a spirited effort, the visitors threatened to add to their tally, but a combination of last-gasp defending and superb goalkeeping kept them at bay. At the conclusion of the match, the Young Reds temporarily rose back to the top of the table, with MetroStars and Campbelltown once again surpassing them the next day, ending their two-game winless run in the process in one of the tougher away fixtures in the NPL SA.

Croydon’s bogey side

Croydon FC 0-1 Adelaide Olympic

Both sides of the M2 Derby endured a disappointing first half of the season, with Croydon FC unable to build on its 2022 Final Series spot in its new home, instead finding itself 10th, while Adelaide Olympic entered Round 12 in the relegation zone. Despite being low in form and confidence, Olympic loves playing Croydon, a side it has not lost to in the league since the 2020 season.

An open first half saw the visitors rediscover their mojo, and 23 minutes into the game Jason Konstadnopoulos caught Lawand Hassan out with his pace, and despite seeing his shot parried by Gianni Tramontin, Cooper Mullins finished off the winger’s hard work by tapping home the opener. The first half ended with a flashpoint, when Andre Carle retaliated to a foul committed on him which saw referee Daniel Goodwin decide to send off the Croydon forward, making his side’s comeback effort even tougher in the second half.

Olympic used its numerical advantage after the break to try and push for a second goal but was denied by Tramontin and even his crossbar on one occasion. Despite not adding to its lead, Olympic grabbed a much-needed win, the first of Jason Trimboli’s reign, that saw it escape the relegation zone for the first time in weeks, in what was a positive performance on both ends of the field.

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MetroStars keep dominating

Adelaide Comets 0-3 North Eastern MetroStars

The MetroStars and Adelaide Comets met for the first time since Round One, and despite the match looking competitive on the day, with the two sides splitting the points, Danny Graystone’s team has gone on to largely dominate the competition since. That story continued early when the MetroStars visited the Comets in Round 12, with Austin Ayoubi earning an early penalty, but the scores remained level after Ashton Rinaldo saved Hamish Gow’s effort from the spot.

Michael Cittadini eventually converted Metro’s dominance, tapping home at the back post, before veteran Fabian Barbiero continued his rich vein of form, recording a goal of his own to send his team to the halftime break two goals to the good. The Comets pushed in the second half, but Isaac Carmody was comfortable dealing with the long-range efforts that came his way in the Metro goals.

James Temelkovski continued doing what he does best, astoundingly scoring his 14th goal in 12 games, this time bending a low free-kick around the wall and sneaking it into the near post to round off an impressive win, against a talented opposition. Danny Graystone’s side remains on the summit of the competition for another week, while the Comets dropped out of the top six due to goal difference after Adelaide City’s win.

Short-lasting hope

Campbelltown City 3-1 Sturt Lions

Campbelltown and Sturt have had starkly different experiences in Season 2023. The Red Devils entered Round 12 second on the table, while statistically being one of the best offensive and defensive sides in the competition, while the Lions entered alone at the bottom, the worst for goals scored, and in the bottom two for goals conceded, with only one win to show for their efforts.

Despite this apparent difference in quality, Lino Fusco’s side made things difficult for the Red Devils in the opening half, unsettling the hosts and limiting their opportunities in front of goals. The Lions even took an unexpected lead through a close-range Alex Sortini header in the 39th minute, but the Red Devils hit back almost instantly, new signings Antoni Trimboli and Shogo Yoshikawa combining, the latter tapping home an equaliser.

The strong first-half performance became a distant memory for the lowly visitors when Daniel Mullen headered home a Yoshikawa corner 10 minutes after the restart to give Campbelltown its first lead of the day. Trimboli tapped in an impressive team move later in the half to make it three, while Sturt retreated to its shell, once again producing a half without a shot on target in Season 2023, to remain rooted at the bottom for another week.

Back to winning

West Adelaide 0-1 Adelaide City

Winless in the league since the start of April, Adelaide City entered its second match against West Adelaide in Season 2023 desperate for three points to return to the top six. Despite trouncing their bitter rivals to the tune of four goals in Round One, the Black and White was never going to have it easy the second time around, with Hellas growing in confidence in their first season back in the NPL.

Paul Pezos made a statement with his team selection, giving teenager Alex Batistella his starting debut, and the young forward repaid the trust only 10 minutes into the game, latching on to a perfectly weighted Katsuyoshi Kimishima ball, before cutting it back to Nicholas Bucco who gave City the lead with an emphatic finish. Hellas could not produce a shot on target in the first half, and even saw midfielder Cooper O’Donnell stretchered off in injury time.

Jim Tsekinis’ men looked much more lively in the second half, but Adelaide City held strong to take a much-needed three points back to Oakden in what fans would be hoping is the start of a resurgence in their side’s faltering Championship defence. Hellas ended the game with another serious injury concern, goalkeeper Jackson O’Donnell, Cooper’s brother, was also unable to finish off the game after an apparent shoulder injury after a clash with Aladin Irabona.

Match to watch in Round 13

FK Beograd hosts league-leaders MetroStars at Frank Mitchell Park on Friday night, and there are multiple reasons why neutrals should be tuning into this game. Danny Graystone’s side has lost two games in 2023, and Beograd suffocated the MetroStars for a full half of football, something that has not been seen since.

Danny Graystone will be sure to have his players primed to prove a point not just against a side that got the best of them, but also against a former player that keeps finding a way to punish his old side. FK Beograd captain Josh Mori has played his old club three times since exiting T.K. Shutter Reserve, and he has scored six goals, three of them being matchwinners, something the MetroStars will be going out of their way to prevent in this clash.

This matchup is full of storylines, and whichever way it plays out, it is sure to make compelling viewing for anyone that tunes in.

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