The sun sets over ServiceFM Stadium as the Adelaide Comets host the Sturt Lions. (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms.)

Two tense scoreless draws, a new team in the relegation zone, and the race to the top continues in Round Eight of NPL SA.

Strong home win

Campbelltown City 3-0 South Adelaide Panthers

Campbelltown City opened Round Eight at home against South Adelaide, a side that is always menacing in front of goals. After dropping points against West Adelaide in their last encounter, the Red Devils began the match controlling the territory but squandering multiple chances to take the lead.

When it seemed that South Adelaide would get to the break level, Marc Marino expertly finished a strong team move, deep into injury time to give the home side the lead. Campbelltown entered the second half on a high and put their less fancied visitors under siege.

The visitors were unable to place a shot on target after the break until the last minute of the second half. Meanwhile, Alex Mullen doubled his side’s lead from the spot, before Yohei Matsumoto sealed the three points and Campbelltown’s rise to second on the ladder with a third goal.

Toothless City survive

Adelaide City 0-0 North Eastern MetroStars

Adelaide City’s clash against the MetroStars shaped up as an intriguing matchup, with the Champions yet to rediscover last year’s form, and the visitors flying high and scoring for fun.

Paul Pezos’ side entered Round Eight well aware of the quality of Metro, which was the only side to defeat the all-conquering Black and White in an NPL match in season 2022.

Throughout the night, the MetroStars looked by far the superior side, creating the better opportunities, with marksman James Temelkovski unlucky not to put the ball in the back of the net on multiple occasions. Despite being in control for the majority of the match, Danny Graystone’s side has to settle for a point.

Most noticeably, the MetroStars ensured that back-to-back Champions Adelaide City did not even place a shot on target, an impressive achievement.

If Metro can perform like this every week, the chances missed on Friday night will eventually be taken and it will continue being an extremely tough side to play against.

Costly early error

West Adelaide 1-0 Croydon FC

Both West Adelaide and Croydon have struggled to find the back of the net with any consistency in season 2023, so when the two sides met in Round Eight the opening goal was always going to be crucial.

Unfortunately for Croydon, it came early at its expense, with the visitors the architects of their own demise.

West Adelaide’s positive start saw a delivery into the box fall to the feet of Croydon defender Kristos Stefanopoulos, who was unable to effectively clear. This led to West Adelaide midfielder Cooper O’Donnell pouncing and setting up teammate Harry Thomas to open the scoring in the first six minutes of the encounter.

Despite scoring early, Hellas continued their positive play, looking like the better side throughout the day and unlucky not to add to its tally towards the end of both halves. Other results meant that Travis Dodd’s side, which made the Finals Series in 2022, finished the round at the bottom of the league table.

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Dominant but goalless

Adelaide Comets 0-0 Sturt Lions

After disappointingly bowing out of the Federation Cup at the hands of the MetroStars, the Adelaide Comets entered Round Eight expecting nothing but three points against the struggling Sturt Lions.

An opener seemed inevitable for the hosts after a strong start, with Jaiden Diamantis finding the back of the net before his goal was ruled out for offside.

Despite not looking threatening going forward, the Lions steadied the ship and made life hard for the Comets, unfazed by the home side’s territorial dominance. George Tsonis’ side was left to rue not taking an early lead because Sturt began absorbing the pressure it was put under well.

Sturt defender David Guastella was sent off with 15 minutes to go for a second bookable offence, but the Comets could still not find a winner.

Both sides had to settle for a point that was not particularly helpful to the hosts who are trying to make headway in the race for the top six, or to the visitors’ bid to escape the relegation zone.

The Adelaide Comets and Sturt Lions played out a scoreless draw at ServiceFM Stadium (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms.)

Signs of life

Adelaide Olympic 3-2 Modbury Jets

It seemed like it was going to be the same old story for Adelaide Olympic’s 2023 season when the home side allowed Modbury to open the scoring through Stefan Matteo 27 minutes into the match. Instead of laying down, the hosts showed signs of their 2022 survival spirit by capitalising on a poor goalkeeper parry to level the match through Christos Pounendis.

Late into injury time, Matt Mullen’s attempted clearance fell in the path of James Polli who made no mistake in putting Olympic ahead. Modbury’s comeback bid was hampered 10 minutes after the restart when it was left with 10 men after Rocco Caruso was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.

Minutes later disaster struck again for the visitors when Abu Hussein’s close-range effort from a corner rebounded off the post and into the back of the net through goalkeeper Ryan Neild.

Luka Chikwuba’s late consolation goal was not enough to prevent Adelaide Olympic from earning the three points that saw it escape the relegation zone for the first time in weeks.

Top despite absences

Adelaide United Youth 3-0 FK Beograd

With injuries and A-League commitments once again tying up a considerable amount of key players, the Young Reds entered Round Eight relying on their depth.

Beograd is a talented side that has not hit its strides yet, and it battled with Adelaide United in an arm-wrestle of a first half which could have seen Airton Andrioli’s Young Reds open the scoring on a couple of occasions.

Despite Musa Toure and Kane Vidmar being left disappointed not to find themselves on the scoresheet in the first 45 minutes, the latter atoned for his miss only seven minutes after the restart by heading emphatically in the near post from a corner to open the scoring.

Soon after his introduction, young substitute Harry Crawford latched onto an Ethan Cox long ball to tap home Adelaide United’s second goal.

Tempers flared as the match headed to its conclusion, but Luke Duzel defused the situation with an unstoppable free kick to put the result beyond any doubt in extra time.

The result means that the Young Reds will spend another week at the summit of the NPL SA, while Josh Smith continues to ponder how to make the puzzle pieces at FK Beograd fit.

Match to watch in Round 9

It is hard to ignore a top-of-the-table clash and that is exactly what ANZAC Day is delivering in the NPL SA. League leaders Adelaide United Youth travel to Newton to take on Campbelltown City in a potential match-of-the-season contender.

With the Young Reds regaining some of their players after a trip to Perth with the A-League Men squad, Airton Andrioli will be backing his charges to claim a result. Meanwhile, Michael Matricciani’s side can always rely on Marc Marino, Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio, and Alex Mullen for goalscoring action, while Yohei Matsumoto and Shogo Yoshikawa showcased exciting signs of their developing chemistry in their side’s third goal on Friday night.

Along with blistering attacks, the two sides enter this encounter boasting the two best defensive records in the competition. Whichever way the result goes, this matchup shapes up as an interesting measuring stick for both sides as the halfway point mark of the season fast approaches.

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