Round 15 saw the Champions build a seemingly unassailable lead, as the top four further separated from the chasing pack.
Status Quo Remains
West Torrens Birkalla 0-0 Adelaide Olympic
After escaping the relegation zone for the first time since the first round of the season, Round 15 saw West Torrens Birkalla come up against the side that replaced them, Adelaide Olympic, in a match with huge implications for the survival of both sides.
Just three minutes in, after an early lapse of concentration, Nick Harpas was called into action on his goal line. Instead of being discouraged, Birkalla lifted its game, but despite both sides having their chances they went in level at the break.
The second half saw Olympic regain control of the game, only to be once again thwarted by a superb Nick Harpas performance between the Birks sticks. Both sides could have gained a massive three points against their relegation scrap rivals, but it was not to be. Olympic remains in the relegation zone, one point behind Birkalla, albeit with a game in hand.
Hot And Cold
North Eastern MetroStars 1-1 Cumberland United
The MetroStars and Foxes entered Round 15 on the back of experiencing polar opposite fates in their previous outings. The hosts put Croydon to the sword, recording a four-goal win, meanwhile, Cumberland was handed an unfortunate red after conceding a penalty and despite the misfortune, led Adelaide City; alas, it was not to be, with the Foxes finding themselves on the losing side once again and bottom of the table.
Despite the game being played on its terms, the MetroStars could not create enough quality chances to trouble a Foxes side that has shown it can match it against any side on its day. Cumberland shocked the fans at T.K. Shutter Reserve, grounding the visitors, who were still flying high after a resounding win the previous week, Lansana Smith recording his first goal of the season with just over 20 minutes to go.
Rob Saraceno’s Metro side was shocked into action, Tim Henderson tapping in a rare goal from a Philip Cash free-kick to salvage a point at home and spare his side blushes. Unfortunately for both sides, a draw does little good, not enough to make ground on Adelaide City for the hot and cold hosts or substantial enough for the Foxes to rise from the foot of the table.
City’s To Lose
Adelaide Comets 0-3 Adelaide City
After splitting the first grand final replay of Season 2022 a goal apiece, both City and the Comets had all three points on their minds in Round 15, when the Champions made their first NPL SA appearance at the newly opened State Center for Football.
After a strong start, a Daniel Vaughan mistake opened up the door for City, the ‘keeper spilling a Nicholas Bucco shot, allowing Aladin Irabonna to tap in the opener for his side on his return after a week off. Paul Pezos’ side took the lead to the half time break, but Barney Smith and the Comets were never going down without a fight.
The second half saw a renewed Comets side, pinning City in its own half while chasing an equaliser like few teams have been able to do. City absorbed the pressure and hit the Comets hard after the hosts’ efforts proved fruitless.
In the final seven minutes of the game, City widened the margin, Irabona bringing a through ball under control with a fancy flick and recording his brace with a confident finish before wrong-footing the ‘keeper from the penalty spot, as he so often does, to record his hat trick. Seven points ahead of the pack, still undefeated and fresh after vanquishing their closest rivals, it is nearly impossible to imagine Adelaide City squandering the Premiership from here.
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Real Six Pointer
FK Beograd 1-0 Croydon FC
Croydon FC visited Frank Mitchell Park after a disastrous Round 14 loss at the hands of the MetroStars. Hosts FK Beograd has had an inconsistent first season back in the top flight, but a win would mean it would leapfrog Croydon and enter the top six for the first time in 2022.
Despite a dominant first half, Damian Mori’s Beograd side could not break down the Croydon resistance. As the game went on and both sides had chances thwarted by the opposing backlines and ‘keepers, who were all on top form, it seemed like the game was heading towards an unlikely scoreless draw. That was until an unlikely hero stood up.
As the game’s final ten minutes began ticking down, frustrated Beograd midfielder Antonios Natsiopoulos found himself in space and had a crack at the goal, his strong effort gathering a slight deflection and opening the scoring for his side and his personal account for the season. The match ended with that score line remaining, Beograd not only winning but overtaking Croydon on the ladder, whose slide must be a concern for coach Travis Dodd after an initial strong start to the campaign.
Rideout Settles Late
Sturt Lions 1-3 South Adelaide Panthers
South Adelaide visited Karinya Reserve for the first Southern Derby at the new facility and after two horrendous results in as many weeks, the Panthers needed a circuit breaker. It did not seem like that was going to be the case in the first half, with the hosts piling on the pressure and the Panthers being stretched but crucially, not breached.
One moment changed everything and when a deflected pass saw South’s Donny Pollock through on goal, the last defender Daniel Guastella was left with no choice but to bring him down, the referee giving him his marching orders after awarding the penalty which was duly converted by Pollock. An undermanned Sturt hit back soon after, Alex Sortini and Will Plush combining, with the latter leveling proceeding to set up an intriguing final 27 minutes.
The extra man proved to be a great advantage for the Panthers and the clinical Jonathon Rideout made the most of the opportunities presented to him. Rideout’s instinctive, first-time, bottom corner finish put South ahead with seven minutes to go before he empathically finished in the top corner in the last minute of the match to wrap up the three points for his side and arrest the slide that had occurred in recent weeks.
Separation From Pack
Adelaide United Youth 1-2 Campbelltown City
The revitalised Young Reds entered Round 15 after a week off. Hosting Campbelltown is never an easy feat but a potential victory would catapult the hosts into the top six, for the first time this season, with a game in hand.
It all started perfectly for the Young Reds, Nestory Irankunda winning a free-kick three minutes into the encounter and a short Jonny Yull free-kick catching the Red Devils napping, with Ethan Alagich finishing tidily in Alex Woodlands’ near post to open the scoring. 20 minutes later, Young Red Panagiotis Kikianis was dispossessed by Josh Barresi and after combining with Marc Marino, the midfielder leveled proceedings.
38 minutes into the match, Lui Ditroia was given far too much time and space in the box and he punished the Young Reds for their inattention putting his side ahead. Campbelltown did well to thwart United advances in the second half, ending the match victorious and separating themselves and the rest of the top four by a whopping margin of ten points from fifth place FK Beograd.
Match to Watch in Round 16
The Adelaide City machine keeps on rolling and it welcomes the MetroStars to Oakden on Saturday night. After putting challengers Adelaide Comets to the sword, Paul Pezos’ side will be confident it can replicate that feat against the third-placed visitors.
Rob Saraceno’s side has shown it can perform to both extremes, being seemingly untouchable when on song, but also looking extremely vulnerable on multiple occasions, with the City humbling them at their own home, T.K. Shutter Reserve, in their previous encounter in April. City is flying high but it must remain vigilant of complacency and opponents like Metro if it is to accomplish the “Invincible” feat it is chasing.
With both sides definitely featuring in the finals, do not be surprised if this is not the last time we see them match up against each other, but on Saturday the visitors aim to regain some respect from their last encounter with City while the Champions are continuing to aim for immortality.
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