Josh Mori celebrates winning the match for FK Beograd against West Adelaide. (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms.)

A week of evenly contested matches saw inroads made at the top of the table, while the bottom three sides again failed to pick up victories.

Potential hurdle avoided

South Adelaide Panthers 1-2 North Eastern MetroStars

Night games at South Adela0ide are always a test and after having already beaten Champions Adelaide City on their home pitch, the Panthers were always going to give the high-flying MetroStars a challenge.

Despite the visitors starting better, it was the home side that opened the scoring, after Isaac Carmody’s errant distribution saw Alex Rideout dispossess Scott Nagel, before laying the ball off to his brother to open the scoring.

Conceding shocked Danny Graystone’s side into action, with Michael Cittadini converting Jackson Walls’ cross to bring the sides level minutes later. It did not take long for the scorer to become the provider, Cittadini’s lofted ball being tapped home by James Temelkovski who continued his record of scoring in every game of season 2023, sending his side into halftime with the lead.

The Panthers pushed hard for an equaliser after the break, even having a goal disallowed for a foul, but the defining moment came from the spot after Cam Woodfin’s foul on Jonathon Rideout saw the hosts earn a penalty.

Alex Rideout stepped up, but Metro’s keeper Isaac Carmody made up for his earlier error in his 200th game to save the forward’s effort which eventually saw the visitors rewarded with a hard-fought three points in one of the toughest trips in the NPL SA.

Slow start punished

Adelaide Olympic 0-1 Adelaide Comets

Entering Round Six at the bottom of the ladder, Adelaide Olympic was desperate for three points against the Adelaide Comets. Only four minutes into the game though, Andrew Calderbank’s side was already fighting an uphill battle.

Blake Lindsay’s turnover put his side under pressure, and despite seemingly getting away with an early error after Comets striker Binyam Kebede hit the crossbar, Olympic was punished by the forward second later when he pounced on the ball in the box, his shot making its way into the back of the net via the crossbar.

Olympics players did not put their heads down, fighting hard for an equaliser but were denied by three exceptional Ashton Rinaldo saves in the first half. The young goalkeeper’s heroics continued early in the second half, denying a third well-taken free-kick attempt 10 minutes after the restart.

Despite its best efforts, the home side could not find a way out of the hole it fell in minutes into the game, and will thus spend another week rooted at the bottom of the table.

Back to winning

Adelaide City 2-0 Sturt Lions

After being unable to claim three points against Adelaide Olympic in Round Five, Adelaide City faced another team from the lower region of the table, the Sturt Lions, this time at Oakden, needing a victory to keep up in the race for the top two.

As expected, City controlled the territorial battle, but the Lions looked dangerous on the counter, Samed Altundag firing a couple of warning shots over the crossbar in the first half.

Injury time arrived with the two teams level, but Aladin Irabona pounced on a ball in the box, before squaring it to Nicholas Bucco who opened the scoring to give the Champions a deserved lead going into the break.

Minutes into the second half, Irabona put last week’s misfortune well and truly behind him, tapping Juan Gutierrez’s ball past the Sturt goalkeeper to double City’s advantage.

The Champions never looked to be troubled from that point onwards, claiming an important win before travelling to Modbury for a replay of the 2022 Federation Cup Final. Meanwhile, Sturt spends another week in the relegation zone, having only won one of its opening six games of the season.

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Mori punishes Hellas

West Adelaide 0-1 FK Beograd

Both West Adelaide and FK Beograd entered their Round Six clash struggling to consistently score goals and pick up points. The recently promoted hosts knew that fighting for their NPL status would be the reality of 2023, but Josh Smith’s Beograd side entered the new campaign with lofty expectations that have not been met early in the season.

The teams entered the game having scored five and six goals respectively, but the defensive side of the game was also a concern for both sides, with West Adelaide having conceded nine goals in five games and Beograd 11 in the same period. These statistics combined with the frail confidence of both sides to serve up a largely uneventful game.

The game seemed destined to be the season’s first goalless draw, until Martins Abesida turned the ball over, with the scraps of a Beograd cross eventually being finished by the opportunistic Josh Mori in the 78th minute.

Abesida’s evening got worse minutes later when he was given his marching orders for a dangerous foul on Mori, ending his side’s hope of earning a point and confirming a much-needed victory for Beograd to keep pace with the top six.

Campbelltown spoils party

Croydon FC 0-2 Campbelltown City

Saturday night saw Croydon FC officially open their new venue with a day jam-packed with football preceding the big match. The main event saw the home side welcome Campbelltown City in a clash of the opposite ends of the table, Croydon entering the round in 10th, with the Red Devils finding themselves in third place.

The first half saw the two sides exchange blows without finding the back of the net, until the visitors, who specialise in late drama, opened the scoring with one of the last touches of the opening stanza of the match. Alex Mullen’s header was denied by Gianni Tramontin earlier in the half, but deep in injury time the Sergio Melta Medalist used his head to square a Shogo Yoshikawa free kick to Jake Halliday who tapped home the opener.

Croydon pushed for an equaliser, but a Kristos Stefanopoulos error late in the game allowed Yohei Matsumoto to double Campbelltown’s lead, dashing any hopes of a second consecutive comeback by Travis Dodd’s men.

Croydon finds itself on the brink of the relegation zone after only winning one of its opening six games, and it will be desperate to change its trajectory against the Adelaide Comets in Round Seven.

Costly red card

Adelaide United Youth 1-2 Modbury Jets

Adelaide United’s Youth Team entered their clash against Modbury looking to regain their position at the top of the ladder. After a strong start, the Young Reds’ plans were thrown out of the window after Asad Kasumovic got sent off 26 minutes into the match for striking Jokew Wuol.

Despite the Jets gaining the upper hand numerically, it was the Young Reds that opened the scoring in the first half through Musa Toure’s deflected shot. The advantage did not last long for the 10 men, with former Young Red Giuseppe Macheda’s shot beating Ethan Cox three minutes later to even the scoring.

As the match wore on, Modbury’s grasp on the game only got stronger, with the Adelaide players unable to trouble their opposition as a result of their numerical disadvantage combined with fatigue.

In the final 10 minutes of the game, Modbury captain Jesse Francesca recorded a goal from outside of the box fit to win any match of football, to take the three points back to Smith Partners Stadium.

Match to watch in Round 7

Two of the most exciting teams of the first six rounds of NPL SA take on each other in Round Seven when Danny Graystone’s table-topping MetroStars host third-placed Adelaide United. There is more than just three points on the line, with this encounter being a replay of the match the two sides contested in last year’s Finals Series.

Attack will be the name of the game, with Metro striker James Temelkovski yet to be held scoreless in six matches, while the Young Reds possess an extensive list of impactful players in front of goals.

Regardless of which team leaves T.K. Shutter Reserve with three points, this fixture has all the makings to be a match-of-the-season contender.

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