Campbelltown City players celebrating Alex Mullen's late winner with a Birkalla player forlornly watching on (Image: Ken Carter)

Cracking goals, improbable comebacks, and the champions fell while a club legend’s milestone celebration was ruined. Round 16 of NPL SA Season 2022 had it all.

Cracking goals, improbable comebacks, and the champions fell while a club legend’s milestone celebration was ruined. Round 16 of NPL SA Season 2022 had it all.

Early Round Drama

West Torrens Birkalla 1-2 Campbelltown City

Round 16 kicked off on Friday night under the lights of Jack Smith Park. West Torrens Birkalla welcomed Campbelltown City with hopes of upsetting the heavily favoured visitors to gain a much-needed advantage in the relegation battle.

Just 13 minutes into the game, a show of individual brilliance and a defence-splitting ball by Red Devil Adam Piscioneri released new signing Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio who in turn set up Marc Marino to open the scoring for the visitors. Campbelltown proceeded to place a chokehold on the game, one that came unstuck late in the encounter.

As the game went on, Birks grew more confident, with Campbelltown seemingly happy with its slender lead, and with six minutes to go before the final whistle, a Jake Monaco free-kick was inventively finished by Christian D’Angelo to level the scoring.

Michael Matricciani’s Campbelltown side was shocked into action and 89 minutes into the matchup, Lui Ditroia’s excellently placed corner found Campbelltown talisman Alex Mullen in the back post, the midfielder restoring his side’s advantage at the death.

The game was not to end without some late drama from a Birks side chasing an equaliser, the last attack of the game seeing Yasmin Sudic have an effort cleared off the goal line. The hosts cried handball but referee Garry Powers was having none of it, instead using his whistle to conclude proceedings.

Two Minute Comeback

Sturt Lions 2-2 Adelaide Olympic

Sturt continued its string of home games at Karinya Reserve, with both the hosts and Adelaide Olympic fighting their own separate battles. The Lions find themselves in a scrap for the last two finals spots, meanwhile, Olympic entered Round 16 desperate for points after plunging into the drop zone.

After an even opening half an hour, Zack Gomez opened the scoring for Sturt in the most spectacular fashion, controlling a cleared corner with his chest and audaciously volleying past a helpless Lewis Moss. The second half started just as the first ended, miscommunication between Lewis Moss and Adam Leombruno opening the door for Sturt striker Gonzalo Rodgriguez to squeeze the ball home from a tight situation.

First-half hero Zack Gomez turned into a villain 76 minutes in, getting sent off for a second bookable offence; that was when the Olympic onslaught began. Christo Pounendis finished nicely from close range in the 91st minute of what seemed to be a consolation goal, but just over a minute later, Dylan D’Agostino’s header sent the visitors into raptures, stealing a much-needed point at the death.

The result saw Olympic exit the drop zone with a game in hand, with Sturt dropping out of the six as its inability to maximise its home-ground advantage continues.

Kept It Respectable

Adelaide Comets 2-0 South Adelaide Panthers

South Adelaide visited the site of its eight-goal humiliation to Adelaide United Youth when it returned to the State Centre for Football to take on the Adelaide Comets. The hosts were raring to go, after suffering their own humbling in their previous encounter, going down by three goals to Adelaide City.

After a strong start, the Comets took advantage of a Ryan Veitch mistake to open the scoring through Lachie Stead. The one-way traffic continued deep into the first half and Comets captain Allen Welsh deservedly doubled his side’s lead with a perfectly shaped curler that found its way into the Panthers’ top corner.

The Comets managed the game well while also creating chances, but the Panthers did their best to avoid another humiliating day at Gepps Cross and kept the score unchanged in the second half. The encounter finished on a sour note, with Comets’ goalkeeper Julian Torresan having to be stretchered off in the dying minutes of the game because of a knee injury.

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Piecing It Together

Cumberland United 0-3 FK Beograd

Cumberland United entered their encounter with FK Beograd unchanged after snaring a point against the MetroStars in last week’s outing. The visitors entered the match fresh from entering the top six after their win against Croydon FC; a new face was present in Beograd’s backline, Vanuatu national team captain Brian Kaltak.

An open first half with chances for both sides ended scorelessly, but soon after the restart, Josh Mori did what he does best, with a Kaltak ball over the top and a Dittmar error opening up the avenue for the striker to open the scoring.

Cumberland seemed to retreat into its shell after conceding, and six minutes later Tom Love intercepted an under-hit Sam Carmichael pass, with his cross assisting poacher Ninko Beric who doubled his side’s lead.

The pain was not over for the Foxes, Josh Mori being afforded an unbelievable amount of space and responding by placing a thunderous strike into the top corner.

Beograd now finds itself in the top six, scoring freely and finally being able to work as a complete unit to shut off opponents with two clean sheets in a row while rising to fifth on the ladder.

The Champions Fall

Adelaide City 0-1 North Eastern MetroStars

After suffocating the MetroStars in an emphatic three-goal win at their home ground, Adelaide City welcomed the team from Adelaide’s North East to Oakden in a much-anticipated encounter that pitted two of the top four sides against each other.

After qualifying for the Federation Cup Final and the Australia Cup Round of 32 mid-week, City came into Round 16 with a stack of confidence, but with some heavy legs.

It was a much more even encounter than the one the two sides played out in April, the Champions unable to exercise their control over the game, with Metro matching them around the ground. With chances created by both sides comfortably being kept out by both goalkeepers, it was going to take a moment of individual brilliance to break the deadlock.

With 20 minutes to go, Hamish Gow stepped up to take a free-kick for Metro, one that he placed with perfection into the top corner, beating keeper Dakota Ochsenham with the ball finding its way to the back of the net via the crossbar.

The Champions huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser, but could not avoid their first defeat of the season, with the MetroStars claiming a huge scalp on the road that not only boosts their point tally, but their belief come the pointy end of the season.

Reds Spoil Party

Croydon FC 2-3 Adelaide United Youth

The last game of the round saw Croydon FC celebrate its captain Łukasz Klimek, in his 350th game for the club. Croydon welcomed Adelaide United Youth, a side it has had the wood over recently, to Jack Smith Park for a tense six-pointer that would see the winner take a position in the top six.

The game had barely started and it already seemed the football gods were on the side of the hosts, an overhit John Panagarirs cross being carried by the wind, bamboozling United’s keeper Ethan Cox and finding its way to the back of the net.

Just 20 minutes later, an Adam Martinello volley got deflected to double the hosts’ lead, before Jonny Yull finished from close range to give the Young Reds a spark heading into the break.

The second half saw United flip the game on its head, relentlessly pushing for goals, and eventually finding them. Just five minutes into the second half, Luka Jovanovic found space in the box and finished strongly to level the game.

A trademark Kane Vidmar ball over the top found Nestory Irankunda on the wing, his superb run and pass lay the ball on a silver platter for an unlikely hero from right-back, Giuseppe Bovalina, to score the winner.

Croydon pushed for an equaliser but could not find one, the Young Red spoiling the celebrations and leapfrogging the hosts into the top six with a game in hand; a hard-earned win earned by the strong character on display from a young team to overcome adversity.

Match to Watch in Round 17

The Adelaide Comets and the North Eastern MetroStars. Second and third, with only a point the difference.

With Metro breaking Adelaide City’s undefeated streak and the Comets taking full advantage, both sides made inroads to the Champions, but Round 17 sees the two sides come up against each other for the second time in 2022 with at least one guaranteed to slip up.

The last time the two sides faced off, the MetroStars had the Comets on the ropes, only a superb performance by goalkeeper Julian Torresan ensuring the Comets took a point home. With Metro hot off breaking Adelaide City’s undefeated run, it will be hoping that it can establish itself as the Champions’ main challengers, while the Comets are keen to remind South Australian football that they are not going away any time soon.

This match promises action on both ends of the pitch, with the result earning the winner the all-important second place and a draw opening up the door for Campbelltown City to snatch it off its rivals. This Saturday’s encounter at the State Centre for Football is one to keep your eyes on.

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