Alex Mullen celebrates opening the scoring for Campbelltown against with teammate Yohei Matsumoto (Image: Ken Carter.)

Three smashing victories and a couple of late equalisers highlighted another exciting weekend of NPL SA action.

Seventeen in thirteen

FK Beograd 0-4 North Eastern MetroStars

FK Beograd is one of the few sides that has gotten the better of the MetroStars in Season 2023, and after falling short in its last encounter against Josh Mori and Co, Danny Graystone’s men were always going to enter Frank Mitchell Park fired up on Friday night. Just 20 minutes into the game, James Temelkovski, as he does so often, found himself at the right spot to convert Austin Ayoubi’s cross, opening the scoring for the MetroStars.

The visitors largely contained Beograd to no major chances in the first half, undoubtedly pleased to keep Josh Mori, a player that relishes scoring against his former side, quiet. The MetroStars continued in their damaging, high-scoring ways in the second half with Michael Cittadini resuming his purple patch of form in front of goals to double his side’s lead before James Temelkovski recorded his brace from the penalty spot minutes later.

As if his goalscoring exploits were not impressive enough already, Temelkovski pulled off his second scissor-kick goal in the last month to seal his hat trick, making it 17 goals in 13 games, and confirming a comprehensive victory against what has been a bogey opponent for his team. With 12 goals in the last three league games, it is no surprise to see the MetroStars continue cruising at the top of the NPL SA.

A sour takeaway from this match is that both sides finished with 10 men. MetroStars defender Christian D’Angelo received a second yellow card in the 69th minute, while Beograd’s Yared Abetew was dealt a similar fate for a foul on Cam Woodfin in the 83rd minute.

Neither team benefits

Sturt Lions 1-1 Croydon FC

Round 13 saw both Sturt and Croydon enter desperate for points, with the former rooted at the bottom of the league table, and the latter only a point outside the drop zone. Lino Fusco’s Lions were keen to avenge their three-goal loss to Croydon earlier in the season, and Tyreece Conway’s skill combined with a fortunate deflection to open the scoring for the home side in the 11th minute.

Sturt has not had many leads to defend in 2023, and despite Croydon pushing for an equaliser, the hosts took their precarious lead into halftime. The Lions had a chance to extend their advantage early in the second half, a result of Gianni Tramontin fluffing his lines, but were unable to put the game to bed.

The Lions lived to rue leaving the door open for Croydon when Travis Dodd’s side equalised in the 80th minute, Patrick Caraccia’s ball finding Seb Goode who struck his side level. Sturt had a chance to win the points deep into injury time but was thwarted by Tramontin, both sides having to settle for a point that is far from enough to make a difference in their respective, troubling situations.

Number one contenders

Campbelltown City 4-0 Modbury Jets

Keeping up with the high-flying MetroStars is not easy, but Campbelltown City has been doing an exceptional job, something which continued in Round 13 against the Modbury Jets. Michael Matricciani’s side didn’t waste any time, opening the scoring through Alex Mullen eight minutes into the game, before Antoni Trimboli rounded the goalkeeper to make it two only six minutes later.

In its last encounter against Modbury, Campbelltown let a two-goal lead slip for a disappointing draw so the Red Devils were not going to slow down, despite a strong start, and marksman Marc Marino took advantage of a poor Darse Shaksi clearance to volley his side into halftime three goals to the good. Campbelltown’s dominance continued after the break when Alex Mullen shook his marker to make it four from a corner.

Just like the MetroStars, Campbelltown’s four-goal victory sees it placed in the top two, with a huge top-of-the-table clash approaching in Round 14. Meanwhile, Modbury remains fourth on the ladder, a whopping nine points away from the top three, but only a single point away from falling down to seventh.

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Bucco crucial again

Adelaide City 2-2 South Adelaide Panthers

Adelaide City’s turbulent Championship defence experienced its first setback when it was shocked by South Adelaide in Round Two, and just like earlier in the season, Paul Pezos’ side had a start to forget against the Panthers. Only a minute into the game, South Adelaide won a corner and Divan Verdoorn rose highest to head past Dakota Ochsenham to give the underdogs the lead away from home.

Just like Round Two, Adelaide City conceded yet again, this time Alex Rideout delivering the ball to Conner Higgins on a silver platter for his second goal of the season. The hosts shook off a slow start, regaining control of the game, and Charlie Devereux’s footwork in the box and subsequent finish saw the Black and White claw a goal back before the break.

Searching for an equaliser, the hosts dominated the second half, but young goalkeeper Jude Yeomans, along with his backline, refused to be beaten a second time on his full debut, making a string of saves, including a goalline clearance by a defender. In the 89th minute, it was the experience of Nicholas Bucco that for the third consecutive NPL outing earned his side a point off his own boot, this time a well-placed free kick ensuring the points got shared.

McGregor rescues point

Adelaide United Youth 1-1 Adelaide Comets

With some of its regulars in Gosford for the A-League Men Semi-Final against the Central Coast Mariners, Adelaide United fielded a more inexperienced side than usual against the Adelaide Comets, who were keen to take advantage and all three points after a winless fortnight. George Tsonis’ side put ample pressure on its young opposition, but the best chance of the first half fell to Young Red, and former Comets junior, Nathan Amanatidis who had his solo effort denied by Ashton Rinaldo in goals.

Despite some good play, the Comets ended up without a shot on target in the first half, but that changed only minutes after the restart when Allan Welsh, in his second game back from a long-term injury, tapped home a low Jaiden Diamantis cross to open the scoring. The Comets threatened to extender their lead but were denied by a couple of strong saves by Ethan Cox in the Adelaide United goals.

With the Young Red unable to create the usual quantity and quality of chances they are accustomed to and the game deep into injury time it seemed like the Comets would once again best Airton Andrioli’s side in Season 2023. That was until Patrick McGregor’s hopeful 95th-minute effort ended up in Rinaldo’s top corner, the young midfielder and Reserves team regular taking advantage of the opportunity provided to him, rescuing a point with his maiden senior goal.

Greek derby demolition

Adelaide Olympic 4-0 West Adelaide

After losing three points and two important players against Adelaide City, West Adelaide was keen to get back to winning ways against Hellenic NPL counterparts Adelaide Olympic. Jason Trimboli’s side entered this match following a much-needed victory over Croydon and a chip on its shoulder after falling to West Adelaide earlier in the season.

It was a nightmare start for West Adelaide, with Kristin Konstandopoulos wasting no time in his first game back from injury, scoring off a long shot that young goalkeeper Tubmika Kalua could not keep out only two minutes after kickoff. It got worse for the visitors a short six minutes later when Joe Wright’s free-kick deflected off the wall and into the back of the net.

Cooper Mullins put the finishing touches on a strong Olympic first half when he headed Abu Hussein’s cross home for three, deep into injury time. A crestfallen West Adelaide did not retort after the break, and Mullins recorded his third goal in two weeks, this time a header from a Wright free kick, to put the cherry on top of an imposing victory.

Match to watch in Round 14

It does not get any bigger than when the two Norst Eastern clubs clash in Round 14. A match filled with quality sees the top two sides on the table clash in Newton, with the MetroStars having the opportunity to extend their lead at the top, while Campbelltown can leapfrog its rivals at the summit if the result goes its way.

Danny Graystone’s side is the best in the league defensively and offensively, but with Michael Matricciani’s men not far behind, second in both categories, it is sure to be an exciting match. The MetroStars have had the wood over Campbelltown in the past year and will be feeling confident, but the Red Devils would love nothing more than to knock their rivals off their perch in front of a home crowd in Newton on Saturday afternoon, in what is potentially shaping up as a potential Federation Cup Final preview.

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