28/02/2024

Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio and Kosta Mantis compete for a ball as Campbelltown City and West Adelaide share the spoils at Newton. (Image: Ken Carter)

Played across Easter weekend, Round Seven saw a change at the top of the league, while the bottom two sides could not find a way to best each other in their clash.

Wet and wild

Croydon FC 2-2 Adelaide Comets

Round Seven kicked off on a wet and windy Thursday night at Regency Park where Croydon FC welcomed the Adelaide Comets.

The conditions obviously affected the game, with Comets defender Tom Giannakopoulos, usually composed on the ball, taking a poor first touch before being disposed of by Croydon forward Andre Carle who opened the scoring for the home side.

Croydon was keen to avenge their home-coming defeat in Round Six, and despite taking the lead into the break, Travis Dodd’s side surrendered it only five minutes after the restart, as Anthony Mavrolambados brought the visitors level with his first goal of the season. The goal composed the Comets, who found themselves in the lead after former Young Reds Binyam Kebede and Arbi Mollas combined, with the latter scoring his first goal for his new club.

Many teams may have accepted a disappointing defeat, but Croydon has shown a fight in 2023, and after bringing on Froribert Niyonkuru and Vianne Kurikwimana, Polonia looked revitalised in its search for an equaliser.

Kurikwimana ended up being the hero Croydon needed, placing a superb shot into the top corner to claim a hard-earned point in an exciting Thursday night match that was affected, but not spoiled by the conditions.

Spirited MetroStars downed

North Eastern MetroStars 1-2 Adelaide United Youth

The projected match of the round took an unexpected turn when former Young Red Noah McNamara received his marching orders for two bookable offences in the first 20 minutes of the match. Musa Toure punished the table-topping hosts minutes later by opening the score with a neat bottom-corner finish.

Despite playing with one less man, Danny Graystone’s side entered the second half looking energised and even seemed to have equalised through a Christian D’Angelo header off a Hamish Gow free kick eight minutes after the break.

Celebrations had barely begun before the goal was ruled out for offside; seconds later a lethal Adelaide United counterattack saw Musa Toure double his side’s tally, as well as his own, with a carbon copy of his finish earlier in the game.

The MetroStars remained aggressive and pulled a goal back through Austin Ayoubi’s excellent solo effort in the tight space of the penalty area. The hosts pushed and looked by far the most likely to score again, but the Young Reds held on to earn three points that saw them return to the top of the NPL SA ladder.

Red Devils held

Campbelltown City 1-1 West Adelaide

Entering Round Seven, Campbelltown and West Adelaide was the biggest mismatch on paper, the home side entering the match second on the ladder with their visitors ranked a lowly ninth.

The encounter began as expected, with the home side dominating, and without defensive stalwart Martins Abesida, many would have feared the worst for the visiting Hellas.

Not only did Jim Tsekinis’ side make it to halftime level against expectations, a clumsy Jordan Maricic challenge while defending a corner gave West Adelaide the chance to open the scoring from the spot through Dimitri Toumazos. The unexpected scoreline only lasted two minutes, with Josh Barresi quickly bringing the Red Devils level from close range off the back of a corner.

Michael Matricciani looked to his bench and brought on attacking quality in the likes of Marc Marino and Antoni Trimboli, but his side could not penetrate the Hellas backline again, the visitors more than content with a point.

While a draw away to Campbelltown is huge for a side fighting for survival in West Adelaide, the Red Devils will see their inability to convert their territorial dominance to three points as an opportunity missed.

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Poor remain poor

Sturt Lions 1-1 Adelaide Olympic

The Sturt Lions welcomed Adelaide Olympic to Karinya Reserve, and with both sides finding themselves in the relegation zone after six rounds, the desperation for three points was palpable.

Sturt was forced into a change 16 minutes into the match when goalkeeper Michael Giorgines was unable to continue, with Adelaide Olympic forward Christos Pounendis beating his replacement, James Klappers, minutes later with an audacious effort that channelled Thierry Henry’s famous goal against Manchester United.

As the first half entered injury time, Michael Marrone and Gonzalo Rodriguez combined, with the latter levelling proceedings, but that wasn’t the last action of the half. A minute later, Liam Wooding’s stray elbow caught Sturt forward Samed Altundag high, the former being shown a red card as the match paused for halftime with an exclamation mark.

Despite having the numerical disadvantage, it was the visitors that looked the most likely to score in the second half, until disaster struck again four minutes before the match’s conclusion after Jason Konstandopoulos was sent off for a referee dissent, leaving Olympic with nine players.

Sturt pushed for a winner, but could not find one, with a draw leaving both teams languishing in the drop zone for another week.

Mori bookends comeback

FK Beograd 4-1 South Adelaide Panthers

FK Beograd has experienced a frustrating start to the 2023 NPL SA season, while the Panthers have so far overperformed expectations. This narrative continued early, when South Adelaide forward Jonathon Rideout continued his goalscoring streak, with a booming finish from a tight angle to give the visitors the lead 24 minutes into the match.

Only two minutes into the second half, Beograd star Josh Mori saw the ball fall to him from a corner to bring his side level from close range. Within five minutes of the restart, the hosts had shaken off the frustration of the first half, with Yared Abetew recording a rare goal, converting after remaining in the box following a corner.

10 minutes later, Paul Radice put the result beyond any doubt, with Beograd stringing together the kind of performance that was expected of them entering this season. Josh Mori put the cherry on top of the comeback he helped spark with a well-taken goal at the death of the game to give his side confidence that it can dominate and win games it is expected to.

Dawber salvages draw

Modbury Jets 2-2 Adelaide City

Round Seven closed out with a replay of the 2022 Federation Cup Final, and with Modbury strengthening after its return to the NPL and Adelaide City not looking like the juggernaut it was last year, this was always going to be a battle.

As expected, the Black and White controlled the territory, but it was Modbury that opened the goalscoring through Joshua Hernandez at the half-hour mark.

Maurice Natale’s side was resolute in defence and dangerous on the counterattack, and it hit City hard once again in the second half, this time Hamish McCabe seeing his shot rebound off the post before crossing the line to double the Jets’ advantage.

Modbury looked on track for a famous victory, but Paul Pezos’ decision to introduce Matt Dawber off the bench changed the course of the game.

Within minutes of his introduction, Dawber beat his marker at the near post on a corner to pull a goal back for City. As the match entered the final minutes of injury time, the Modbury backline was unable to deal with a deep Charlie Devereux ball which Dawber latched onto to steal a point for the Champions in a hard-fought match at Smith Partners Stadium.

Match to watch in Round 8

Adelaide City won the South Australian treble in 2022, only losing a single match in the NPL SA regular season, Finals Series, and Federation Cup. That game was at home to a hot-and-cold MetroStars side thanks to a Hamish Gow freekick.

After a week’s pause for the Federation Cup, Metro returns to Oakden in 2023, not as an inconsistent side, but as one of the hottest teams in the competition. Danny Graystone’s side suffered a disappointing defeat in Round Seven, finding it drop to second on the ladder, despite an encouraging 70 minutes with 10 men, and will be hoping starman James Temelkovski can return to his scoring ways against City.

Adelaide City’s season has not been a smooth one, with Paul Pezos’ side requiring a late Matt Dawber goal to salvage a point in Modbury.

Unlike season 2022, this match shapes as one where MetroStars will be dictating the pace, and seeing how the Champions respond to that pressure makes this match compelling viewing.

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