Campbelltown City continued impressing in Round 19, with a dominant win over South Adelaide (Ken Carter)

Round 19 saw the MetroStars win big, three finals hopefuls get a big boost, while the Sergio Melta Medalist recorded a hat-trick down South.

Reds rendered toothless

FK Beograd 3-0 Adelaide United Youth

Winless since Round 12, Adelaide United Youth entered its Friday night clash against FK Begorad desperate for three points, but still well short of its best team on the field. Coming off its own disappointing defeat in Round 18, FK Beograd was keen to make a positive start and Josh Smith’s side got exactly what it wanted when Peter Akot’s shot was turned in by defender Sotiri Phillis to open the scoring for the home side after only five minutes.

Throughout the match, Adelaide United looked far from its confident best, a lack of cohesion between a group of players that have not worked together often at a senior level combined with the intensity of FK Beograd on a pitch it knows how to play well to great effect, meaning Jamie Signorello did not have much to do in goals. Due to a lack of experience on the bench, Airton Andrioli was understandably reluctant to go to use his substitutes, only making a single change, rewarding Amalani Tatu for his positive form in the Reserves team with senior minutes.

With seven minutes to go, Beograd caught out its opposition on the counter and Peter Akot kept his cool in the box to seal all three points for his side. As the game reached its conclusion, Josh Mori set up Doni Pollock who comfortably slotted a third goal to put the cherry on top an important victory as Beograd chase a Finals Series spot.

Croydon’s to lose

Croydon FC 3-1 West Adelaide

West Adelaide traveled to Regency Oval in the midst of a four-game losing streak and in the way of its survival bid stood a resurgent Croydon FC. Despite putting together a positive start, Hellas conceded the first goal just before the half-hour mark when Josh Harvey’s headed clearance fell in the way of Patrick Caraccia who confidently opened the scoring.

Minutes later Adam Martinello was punished for a handball in the box, but goalkeeper Matthew Woithe saved Dimitri Toumazos’ effort to keep Polonia ahead. Late in the first half Andre Carle’s close control in the box saw the forward expertly trap the ball before crossing it to Dion Kirk who in turn also confidently controlled the ball and scored Corydon’s second goal to send Travis Dodd’s men into the break on a high.

Harry Thomas brought West Adelaide within a goal with a strike from a range three minutes after the restart, but Croydon’s management of the game combined with the conditions to make it hard for Hellas to find a second. Andre Carle signed off another impressive performance with an injury-time goal to place Croydon in the top six and in control of its destiny with three games left to play.

In the hunt

Modbury Jets 1-3 Adelaide Olympic

After a disappointing loss to Adelaide City in Round 18, Modbury returned home to take on Adelaide Olympic, a side whose turn of fortunes has seen it begin competing against the Jets for a Finals Series Spot. Olympic began the better of the two sides but was unable to capitalise on it, with frustration becoming clear on the bench as coach Jason Trimboli got booked by Daniel Faulkner for losing his temper.

Frustration turned into elation when a Tito Bontor shot was spilled by Luke Luongo into the path of Christos Pounendis who made no mistake to head his side a goal up heading into the halftime break. A week after scoring his first senior goal, Issa Sindahalaye was brought on in the hour mark and it took him less than 10 minutes to record another goal to put Olympic in a very strong position to claim all three points.

Sindahalaye was fouled by Matt Mullen in the box minutes later which opened the door for Christos Pounendis to score his second goal and confirm victory for his side. Hamish McCabe scored a consolation goal for Modbury but the defeat means that Olympic is now within three points of a side that seemed uncatchable only a few months ago in the race for a top six spot.

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Down to ninth

Sturt Lions 2-0 Adelaide Comets

After going down away to Adelaide Olympic in Round 18, Sturt planned to continue its journey towards NPL survival at home against the Adelaide Comets. Despite some promising early play by the visitors, it was the Lions that struck first at Karinya Reserve with Gonzalo Rodriguez continuing his hot form to volley home the opening goal from close range shortly after the half-hour mark.

Lino Fusco’s side finished the first half full of confidence and even threatened to score a second goal. The Comets regrouped during the break but the second half followed a similar script, with the home side once again finding the back of the net but the goal being disallowed for offside.

As the minutes ticked away, the visitors, battling to return to the top six, pushed the Lions who held onto their lead desperately, but Adam Le Cornu’s clumsy challenge in the box during the closing minutes of the game allowed Dylan D’Agostino to seal the points for the home side. While Sturt has put itself in a strong position to survive the drop heading into the last three games, the Comets, who were in the top six for the majority of the season, find themselves languishing all the way down to ninth on the ladder.

Untouchable Alex Mullen

South Adelaide Panthers 0-4 Campbelltown City

South Adelaide, sitting second to bottom on the NPL SA table, entered its matchup against Campbelltown City, a side that sits second on the table, with the tall task of needing three points to escape the relegation zone in Round 19. Just two and a half minutes after Daniel Goodwin’s opening whistle though, Sergio Melta Medalist Alex Mullen had poked Campbelltown into the lead from a Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio pass in the box.

The Red Devils’ grip on the game got even tighter when Yohei Matsumoto exchanged passes with Marc Marino, slicing through the Panthers’ backline, before slotting in Campbelltown’s second of the day. Marino continued his strong interplay late in the half when he once again exchanged a string of passes with Alex Mullen which allowed the latter to record his brace minutes before the break.

Moments after kick-off, Mullen took a hopeful shot from the edge of the box which Lewis Moss was unable to handle, gifting Mullen his third goal and Campbelltown all three points. While the Red Devils keep applying pressure on league leaders MetroStars, the Panthers enter the final three games of the season desperate for some good fortune in their bid to avoid the drop.

Mind the gap

North Eastern MetroStars 4-0 Adelaide City

Adelaide City sent a warning shot to the rest of the competition in Round 18 after its domination over Modbury Jets, and just 30 seconds into its matchup against MetroStars it was unlucky not to have the lead after an errant Isaac Carmody clearance opened the door for Aladin Irabona who shot just wide of the target. It was a moment City lived to rue, with Cam Woodfin’s strong run through the middle of the park 10 minutes later culminating with the American midfielder finishing through Dakota Ochsenham’s legs to open the scoring.

City’s mountain to climb grew even higher seven minutes later with Tom Brown’s attempted clearance finding the back of his own net. Less than 10 minutes into the second half Brown’s difficult day got even worse when the defender’s challenge on James Temelkovski in the box was adjudged as a penalty, one that the striker finished with confidence to make it three, by referee Daniel Goodwin.

Adelaide City had its chances in the second half, but Metro’s ruthless edge in front of goals proved to be the deciding factor. Danny Graystone’s side caught City on the break in the dying efforts of the game which allowed Temelkovsi to waltz the ball into the back of the net to put the cherry on top of yet another statement victory for the league leaders.

Match to watch in Round 20

FK Beograd visits Adelaide City Park on Saturday keen to replicate its victory over the reigning Champions from earlier in the season. Despite a campaign of mixed results, Josh Smith’s men remain only goal difference outside the top six and every point they pick up in the last three matchdays is shaping up as vital.

Meanwhile, after Adelaide City’s humbling at the hands of the MetroStars, it is going to be interesting how the defending Champions responds against an opposition that has gotten the better of it already in 2023. Regardless of the result, this match is going to prove telling when it comes to the mentality of both squads heading into the pointy end of the season.

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