13/04/2024

Adelaide City's Jason Konstandopoulos and Campbelltown City's Brandon Centofanti compete for a ball in Round 21 (Image: Ken Carter)

The penultimate round of the NPL SA season saw the MetroStars tighten their grip on the Premiership, while the competition's first relegation was officially confirmed.

Down to maths

North Eastern MetroStars 4-1 Sturt Lions

MetroStars and Sturt Lions kicked off Round 21 a week before the rest of the competition due to the former’s Australia Cup commitments the following week. Danny Graystone’s side took its time to hit its lofty stride in the first half, but despite that opened the scoring and took a lead into halftime when James Temelkovski was fouled in the box by Jonathan Fusco before Hamish Gow converted the forthcoming penalty.

The league leaders began well and truly clicking after the break, and Christian D’Angelo doubled his side’s lead seven minutes after the restart by nodding home a Hamish Gow freekick. Michael Cittadini put the finishing touches on a smooth team goal and James Temelkovski made it four at the hour mark to blow the Lions out of the water.

Gonzalo Rodgriguez pulled a consolation goal back for his side and MetroStars substitute Lochlan Czapla was sent off for a dangerous challenge as the game wrapped up with a one-sided scoreline which ensured Sturt needs a result on the final matchday to survive the drop. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ladder, the MetroStars have ensured that Campbelltown City cannot beat its points tally, only a catastrophic loss against Modbury Jets and a big Red Devils win against Adelaide Olympic being enough to take the Premiership away from T.K. Shutter Reserve.

Been a while

Croydon FC 1-2 Adelaide United

Coming into its clash against Croydon FC, Adelaide United Youth had not recorded a victory since the 12th of May, going eight league games winless in the process. With the Adelaide United A-League Men side preparing for its Australia Cup clash against Northcote City, Jonny Yull and Luka Jovanovic were given competitive minutes in the NPL.

It only took Yull, a proven star at this level, six minutes to open the scoring against Travis Dodd’s side which ended up being what separated the two sides when Regis Queffelec blew the halftime whistle. Yull was substituted at the break, but it was Jovanovic that doubled his side’s advantage five minutes after the restart.

Andre Carle continued his impressive goalscoring season for Polonia, but his side could not further add to its tally as it looked to remain in the top six heading into the final week of the competition. Clinching the three points, the Young Reds confirmed their participation in the 2023 NPL SA Finals Series, but Croydon now hosts Adelaide City requiring a victory and results to go its way to make it back-to-back appearances in the Finals Series.

Survived to fight

Adelaide City 1-2 Campbelltown City

Campbelltown City travelled to Oakden needing all three points against Adelaide City to keep its faint Premiership hopes alive. The Red Devils started the strongest and even had a goal on the board when Alex Mullen smothered a Dakota Ochsenham clearance to open the scoring before referee Christian Verdicchio judged that the midfielder had handled the ball in his attempt.

Campbelltown’s dominance paid off late in the half when Ochsenham saved a close-range Jake Halliday shot but could not recover in time to stop Connor Centofanti’s follow-up. Two minutes later a rapid Campbelltown transition, beginning with Alex Woodlands in goal, led to Shogo Yoshiwaka earning a penalty which captain Alex Mullen duly converted to give his side a strong lead heading into the break.

Adelaide City grew into the second half but it looked like Campbelltown would hold on until Alex Mullen’s tackle on Aladin Irabona in the box in the 92nd minute was judged as a foul by the referee, the forward converting his own penalty to set up a grandstand finish. Substitute Matt Dawber astonishingly looked to have found a late equaliser for his side with the last kick of the game, but much to the dismay of the home crowd, and MetroStars fans who had begun celebrating a Premiership, the striker was alleged to have handled the ball. The match ended in Campbelltown’s favour who still have a slight chance at a miraculous Premiership on the final day of the season if all factors fall its way.

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First to go

West Adelaide 0-1 South Adelaide Panthers

The eyes of the South Australian football community were on West Beach on Saturday afternoon when West Adelaide took on South Adelaide in a relegation six-pointer. Victory for either side would see it take a huge step towards survival, and Jonathon Rideout, as he does so often, provided an advantage for his club when he tapped Declan Gray’s pass into the bottom corner to give the Panthers a crucial lead in the 27th minute.

Dimitri Toumazos seemingly brought Hellas level in the 38th minute, but his goal was chalked off for offside, instead a penalty being awarded for a foul on Harry Thomas who provided the cross that created the opportunity. Karl Phelps stepped up for West Adelaide at the penalty spot, but former Hellas goalkeeper Lewis Moss spectacularly saved his effort to keep the Panthers ahead heading into the break.

It got worse for Jim Tsekinis’ men in the second half when Toumazos got sent off for a second yellow card after his elbow collected Rob Parker high when competing for a ball. West Adelaide could not find a reprieve, and the loss meant that Hellas became the first side relegated to State League One after a promising first half of the season was derailed by injuries and a loss of form and confidence.

Must win now

Adelaide Olympic 2-2 FK Beograd

Croydon FC’s loss to Adelaide United meant that the winner of the Adelaide OlympicFK Beograd clash would enter the final round of the season in the driver’s seat for the last Finals Series spot. A strong first half saw Adelaide Olympic put an early scare behind it, Beograd having a goal chalked off due to offside, to lead heading into halftime after a Liam Wooding shot went over Jamie Signorello’s head in goals.

Micah Lea’alafa brought to scores level in the 74th minute after a Damian Ljujic ball was expertly redirected by Yared Abetew into the winger’s path, with the Solomon Island international making no mistake in front of goals. Despite being brought level, Olympic understood the significance of the three points and pushed on, Tito Bontor seemingly winning the game for his side after he was allowed enough time and space in the box to fire a shot past the goalkeeper.

In the dying efforts of the game Beograd’s Christian Sotira latched onto a strong clearing header from Gideon Arok and his effort on goal brought the visitors level once again to conclude an entertaining draw. Both sides left Round 21 frustrated not being able to maximise their opportunities in the race for the Finals Series, and now they enter the final round of the season needing favourable results and wins in their respective games to have a chance of claiming the sixth spot on the ladder.

Yates goes bang

Adelaide Comets 1-0 Modbury Jets

Adelaide Comets entered its clash against Modbury Jets, sitting a lowly ninth, the lowest-ranked side that could still possibly make the Finals Series. Geroge Tsonis’ men took on Modbury Jets, a side whose high-scoring habits had already confirmed a Finals Series Spot in its first season back in the NPL.

An entertaining first half saw both sides create chances but enter halftime level, with Modbury arguably having the better opportunities, but the Comets defending admirably to keep their high-scoring visitors at bay. The second half lacked the action seen before the break, but a moment of magic from Ryan Yates in the 70th minute, who placed an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner, separated the two teams on the scoresheet.

The Comets had chances to extend their lead but could not take them, a strong team effort ensuring three points regardless. This victory became even more significant as Croydon FC, Adelaide Olympic, and FK Beograd dropped points which means the Comets enter the final round of the season with the advantage in the race for the sixth.

Match to watch in Round 22

MetroStars visit Modbury Jets in the final match of the home and away season in what promises to be an exciting encounter between two sides that have combined for 110 goals in their 42 games. With Modbury having their return to Finals football already sealed and the MetroStars needing a catastrophe to occur to be knocked off the top spot, this match should see both sides play with freedom and really put on a show for fans.

This day will more than likely culminate with the MetroStars celebrating their first Premiership since 2014 which is sure to produce celebrations heading deep into the night. The two sides may potentially meet in the Finals Series in the coming month so this clash could also be a precursor to what there is still to come in the NPL SA this year.

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