15/04/2024

Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio celebrates giving Campbelltown City the lead. (Image: Ken Carter)

Round Four was headlined by a dramatic Grand Final replay, the battle of the promoted sides, while the MetroStars sent a warning shot to the rest of the competition.

Lawrie-Lattanzio steps up

Campbelltown City 3-0 FK Beograd

Campbelltown City coach Michael Matricciani was understandably upset when his star forward, Marc Marino, had to be substituted only 10 minutes into the game with a hamstring injury. The forward’s withdrawal left a gaping hole in the Red Devils’ forward line and left the home side lost moving forward for a big part of the first half.

The arm-wrestle the match turned into was resolved after former Melbourne Victory winger Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio found himself free in the box and tapped in the opening goal with a well-taken finish from a cross. The winger’s confidence helped him grab the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, making up for the absence of Marino by blasting a shot into the side netting to double his side’s lead.

The Red Devils added a third, and to no one’s surprise, Lawrie-Lattanzio was involved, his aggressive run leading to an assist for Antony Piscioneri who concluded the scoring.

While Campbelltown enters the Federation Cup break on the back of a confidence-boosting win, FK Beograd does so on the back of conceding six goals in two games and desperate for a change of fortune.

Lions fumble points

South Adelaide Panthers 1-1 Sturt Lions

The NPL’s two southern clubs entered Friday night on the back of their own important Round Three victories. The Panthers dominated Adelaide Olympic, a club they are forecasted to be close to on the ladder, while the Lions recorded their first win of the season at home to West Adelaide.

The two sides seemed evenly matched in the first half, with both defences holding off until the final minutes of the opening period when Jacob Atkinson’s shot from outside the box took a huge deflection which looped over goalkeeper Lewis Moss to open the scoring for the visitors.

South Adelaide entered the second half aggressively pursuing an equaliser and it was denied multiple times by Sturt, with James Klappers making a strong save, and John Fusco bailing his side with a goal-line clearance.

It seemed like Sturt might hold on for a famous victory, but with eight minutes to go Michael Marrone and James Klappers got into each other’s way in an attempt to deal with a ball into the box which opened the door for Jonathon Rideout to tap in the equaliser for his side.

The Lions will be frustrated not to go home with all three points, but they are showing encouraging signs after a sluggish start to the season.

Croydon’s reality check

Croydon FC 1-6 North Eastern MetroStars

Saying that Friday night did not go Croydon’s way is an understatement, but you wouldn’t think the result would have been as one-sided as it was watching the first 25 minutes of the match where the home side dominated.

Metro opened the scoring against the run of play through Cam Woodfin, but Croydon responded minutes to even the score, Patrick Caraccia with a sweet finish from close range.

With the two goals being exchanged late in the first half, it seemed like the break would find the two sides level but the visitors hit Croydon hard with two goals in as many minutes, through Woodfin and the ever-present Temelkovski, to take a resounding lead into the break.

Crestfallen, Croydon’s did not produce the same intensity in the second half, allowing Metro to play its game and Michael Cittadini to make it four.

Alessio Melisi rewarded Danny Graystone’s faith in him by recording a late brace to condemn Croydon to a heavy defeat.

Travis Dodd’s side has been unable to rediscover the defensive edge that made it hard to play against in 2022 and it has paid with valuable points early in the season.

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Champions find form

Adelaide City 4-3 Adelaide Comets

Adelaide City entered the Grand Final rematch against the Adelaide Comets off the back of two disappointing defeats, but it shook its misfortune thanks to a player that was wearing the opposition’s colours on 2022’s big night.

Just five minutes into the encounter City’s press won the ball back from the Comets, and after Matt Dawber’s shot was saved, former Comet Gus Williams tapped in the rebound to open the scoring; the winger understandably did not produce a celebration against the club that provided him with his first NPL opportunity.

It was Williams’ day, his hopeful cross somehow finding its way into the top corner later in the half to get his side to the break two goals to the good.

The game seemed over in the 62nd minute when Filimon Asefa turned Williams’ shot in for an own goal, but the Comets turned up the intensity and got a goal back through substitute Niko Ikonomopoulos.

If George Tsonis’ side did not have the Champions nervous yet, they certainly did after Adam Le Cornu brought the Comets within a goal. In his 300th game though, Nicholas Bucco sealed the game for his City side with a much-needed fourth goal, as Nathan Andijanto soon scored a third consolation goal for his side to once again challenge the Champions who earned all three points at the end of a riveting encounter.

Hellas grounds Jets

West Adelaide 3-2 Modbury Jets

The battle of the two promoted sides did not start well for West Adelaide, only 12 minutes into the game a run from Modbury’s Hamish McCabe saw the ball laid off to Cooper Wegener who opened the scoring for the Jets. Hellas faced a similar situation in its last match, against Sturt, and it was unable to overcome an early deficit; that was not the case in Round Four.

As the first half entered into stoppage time, Round Two hero Harry Thomas took advantage of a cross that was not dealt with by Modbury to volley his team level heading into the break.

The home side entered the second half with confidence, recording two goals through set pieces, courtesy of two headers from Martins Adesida and Dimitri Toumazos. Modbury was invited back into the game after a lapse of judgment by Hellas goalkeeper Jackon O’Donnell allowed Hamish McCabe to slide the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle.

Despite West Adelaide’s advantage being cut down, Jim Tsekinis’ side ended the match looking the better side and handed Modbury its first defeat in season 2023. The three points for West Adelaide are crucial, but even more important is the boost of confidence a solid team performance will provide.

Battle of attrition

Adelaide United Youth 3-0 Adelaide Olympic

Both Adelaide United and Adelaide Olympic entered Round Four with extensive lists of notable absentees. While the hosts had an array of young talent missing due to A-League and international duty, Olympic’s experienced core has faced multiple injury setbacks early in the 2023 campaign which continued plaguing it in Round Four.

The Young Reds looked like the more comfortable team from the start and created issues for Olympic in their attacking area. Despite Airton Andrioli’s side being unable to convert early in the match, Luke Duzel opened the scoring for his side with a fantastic volley that hit the back of the net towards the end of the first half.

The Young Reds may have been missing a lot of talent, but that opened the door for opportunities to be taken, which young star Jake Porter did early in the second half recording his first senior goal in his first start for Adelaide United’s NPL side.

Twenty minutes before the end of the match, winger Nathan Amanatidis completed his side’s scoring from the penalty spot to put the cherry on top an impressive performance considering all the unavailable players.

Match to watch in Round 5

NPL SA pauses for a week for the Federation Cup, but upon its return, the must-watch fixture sees the Adelaide Comets host Campbelltown City at ServiceFM Stadium in a replay of the 2022 Semi-Final. On that day, Michael Matricciani’s Red Devils saw their season end at the hands of the Comets and they will be looking to make amends early in 2023.

Last year’s Grand Finalists, Adelaide Comets, enter the matchup with a new-look team and a new coach, and despite an encouraging start to the season, they could not overcome Adelaide City in their last outing.

Paul Pezos and his Adelaide City side will be thereabouts at the season’s end to defend their title, but matches like this will go a long way to making it clear who the number-one contender for the crown will be in season 2023.

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