Adam Piscioneri celebrates opening the score for Campbelltown City against Croydon FC (Image: Ken Carter)

Losing streaks were broken, unbeaten streaks were extended, and the two Cup Finalists continued ticking boxes in Round 17 of NPL SA.

Beograd stems bleeding

FK Beograd 3-1 West Adelaide

FK Beograd returned to Frank Mitchell Park with its losing run extended to a league-worse five games, but opponents West Adelaide were not in a much better position, only earning a solitary point during that same period. A nervy start by the hosts saw West Adelaide’s Joe Gatting hit the crossbar and threaten to open the scoring as the half wore on.

Beograd worked itself in the game, and towards the end of the first half, Josh Mori received a Christian Sotira ball and before he could round Michael Gomes, he was fouled by the goalkeeper which gave Doni Pollock the opportunity to put his side a goal up heading into the break from the spot. Hellas returned from the interval firing, and Joe Gatting was able to draw his side level through a composed finish only five minutes after the restart.

The hosts withstood the momentum Hellas generated and eventually took the lead through a superb curling effort by midfielder Yared Abetew. After taking the lead, Beograd seemed certain to finally break its winless run, and Abetew popped up again, this time with his head from close range in the 90th minute, to confirm his side’s return to the winner’s list.

Goals for everyone

North Eastern MetroStars 5-1 South Adelaide Panthers

South Adelaide traveled to Klemzig looking for a win to escape the relegation zone, but in its way was the league-topping MetroStars. The pace of the match was set early by the hosts, when James Temelkovski was sent through on goals by an Austin Ayoubi pass and the forward made no mistake, returning to the scoring sheet just six minutes after kick-off.

Danny Graystone’s side controlled the opening stanza of the match, but the visitors came out of the rooms firing after the break and Alex Rideout combined with his brother Jonathon, an outside-of-the-foot pass leading to an outside-of-the-foot finish for the latter, who evened the scoring. For the best part of the next 10 minutes, the Panthers had their fancied opponents on the ropes, but Michael Cittadini’s low long-range shot restored Metro’s lead.

It was all MetroStars from there, Austin Ayoubi’s empathic finish making it three before Ren Nagamtsu came off the bench to score his first goal of the NPL SA season. Hamish Gow made it five from the penalty spot in injury time to send his side into next week’s Federation Cup Final full of confidence and with five different goalscorers.

Lions roar late

Sturt Lions 2-2 Adelaide City

Adelaide City traveled to Karinya Reserve in its bid to further entrench itself in the top six, while the Sturt Lions, in the midst of a four-game, draw-heavy undefeated streak, but off the back of a win, needed to continue picking up points to remain in the division. Paul Pezos’ side has grown in confidence in recent weeks and stamped its authority on the game early.

A corner routine straight from the training ground saw Charlie Devereux put the ball into James Klapper’s top corner from the edge of the box off a Nicholas Bucco delivery to give the visitors a well-deserved lead 22 minutes into the match. The Lions rallied, but could not get past Adelaide City, and when the visitors doubled their lead from a heavily-deflected Aladin Irabona shot in the 78th minute it all looked to be over.

The door was left ajar though for Sturt in the 94th minute when Dakota Ochsenham’s inability to deal with a cross gave Akira Kobaishi the opportunity to score a second late goal in as many weeks. It was pandemonium in Eden Hills two minutes later when Gonzalo Rodriguez took up the space afforded to him in the box to draw Sturt level and complete an incredibly rapid turnaround that sealed another important point for the Lions in their survival fight.

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Fast starting Campbelltown

Campbelltown City 3-1 Croydon FC

Campbelltown City entered its Federation Cup Semi-Final rematch against Croydon FC with one eye on next week’s final, but you wouldn’t have known that was the case in the first five minutes of the match. The Red Devils’ high-pressing game led to Lawand Hassan’s backpass being intercepted and Adam Piscioneri slotting his second goal of the season to give his side a dream start in Round 17.

The visitors worked themselves into the game, and as the rainfall became heavier, a Jake Halliday slip in the Campbelltown backline allowed Patrick Caraccia to perfectly control Andre Carle’s cross, before slotting the equaliser past Matt Centofanti to send the two sides to the break level. It was déjà vu after the break for Polonia, who once again conceded a goal minutes after kick-off, this time Alex Mullen’s header being deflected in at the back post by Froribert Niyonkuru.

Minutes later, Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio’s pace and precise passing left Croydon dumbstruck while the winger placed the ball on a silver platter for Marc Marino who confirmed the hosts’ victory with his side’s third goal of the day. Campbelltown City will contest MetroStars in the Federation Cup Final next week vying to win the trophy for the first time since 1994.

Becoming a habit

Modbury Jets 4-1 Adelaide United Youth

Modbury Jets and Adelaide United entered Round 17 on the opposite end of the form scale, and despite still being light on its more experienced players, Airton Andrioli’s young side remained convinced to play its game. The Young Reds matched the Jets early, but the conditions combined with Modbury’s high press to force a rough pass from goalkeeper Oscar Page to Giorgio Parhas which opened the door for Hamish McCabe to intercept and open the scoring 11 minutes into the match.

As the conditions got harsher, Modbury’s control on the match grew and Maurice Natale’s men were unlucky not to enter the break several more goals up. Only seven minutes after the restart, Hamish McCabe ensured that Modbury’s dominance in play was reflected on the scoreboard, with his incisive outside-of-the-foot pass setting up captain Jesse Francesca for his second goal of the NPL SA season, both incidentally coming against Adelaide United.

Matt Mullen and Stefan Matteo added insult to injury for the Young Reds, with their own respective goals, to make it four for their side for the third consecutive week. Musa Toure recorded a consolation goal for his side from the penalty spot, while Modbury climbed within a single point of the Young Reds on the standings after full-time.

Can’t be split

Adelaide Comets 0-0 Adelaide Olympic

Entering Round 17 of the NPL SA season sixth and ninth respectively, the Adelaide Comets and Adelaide Olympic were desperate to claim three points to drive up the standings. Despite the Comets being the side boasting a better season, it was Olympic that started the strongest, forcing a strong save out of Dan Vaughan minutes into the match.

The goalkeeper was needed again to deny Kristin Konstandopoulos in a crucial one-on-one and he continued standing strong to deny the visitors on multiple occasions. Olympic had the best of the first half and was unlucky not to open the scoring.

Nathan Andjianto’s long-range shot cannoned off the crossbar 10 minutes after the restart to give the Comets their best chance at opening the scoring. The rest of the encounter played out as an entertaining arm-wrestle that could not decide a winner, with the match finishing without goals, but with a ton of action on a rainy Saturday evening at Gepps Cross.

Match to watch in Round 18

The NPL takes a week break as MetroStars and Campbelltown City clash in the Federation Cup Final, but when the league returns, Danny Graystone’s league leaders take on Adelaide United in what is promising to be an exciting encounter. In their last clash against Metro, the Young Reds were able to get the best of their opponents, but an early red card to Noah McNamara completely changed the complexion of the game on that day.

The MetroStars exacted revenge on FK Beograd, the only other side to have beaten them in 2023, and will have their focus squarely on the Young Reds after their Cup Final concludes. The Young Reds may not be in form but remain a side that is fun to watch, and if they regain some of their players from international duty, this is promising to be an exciting, end-to-end match that is not to be missed.

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