Josh Mori celebrating a second goal of the week contender in as many week with a dejected Dakota Ochsenham in the background (Image: Chris Kelly Photographics)

The weeks count down and the tension is rising; the race to the top is tight once again, while there is now daylight in the relegation battle.

The weeks count down and the tension is rising; the race to the top is tight once again, while there is now daylight in the relegation battle.

Can’t Buy Luck

West Torrens Birkalla 0-1 Croydon FC

After both West Torrens Birkalla and Croydon FC saw their respective games turn upside down for the worse in Round 16, the sides returned to their shared home ground of Jack Smith Park to battle for a valuable three points. Birks’ chase for points became even more urgent on Wednesday night when fellow strugglers Adelaide Olympic picked up a win, meanwhile Travis Dodd’s Croydon is desperate to accumulate enough points to return to finals football.

Both sides share the trait of finding scoring difficult, entering the match having scored 21 and 20 goals this season respectively. The trait continued in Round 17, with the two sides combining for just five shots on target on the day and the match being decided by a moment of madness.

Early in the second half, Birks ‘keeper Nick Harpas picked up a contested ball that made its way back to him, but the referee adjudicated it as a pass back. The indirect free kick was played back to Peter Mercurio whose low and hard shot made it through the sea of players; Patrick Caraccia could have made Croydon’s win even sweeter in the dying minutes but blazed over the bar, wasting a numerically advantageous opportunity, but to no eventual harm, his side claiming the points seconds later.

Mullen Late Again

Sturt Lions 0-1 Campbelltown City

After being on separate sides of late drama in Round 16, the Lions squandering a a two goal lead while Campbelltown recorded a late win, both sides entered Round 17 keen to strengthen their aspirations with three points.

Tension seemed to be a league-wide theme in Round 17, and a tense first half saw the visitors start the better side before the hosts found some confidence, despite the fact they could not substantially trouble Alex Woodlands in the Campbelltown goals. The second half was a completely different story, the Red Devils ensuring the Lions could not place a shot on target throughout the second stanza of the game.

Despite its defensive excellence, Campbelltown was finding it hard to breach Sturt’s net, before a familiar hero popped up at a familiar time. After downing West Torrens Birkalla in the 90th minute the previous week, Alex Mullen popped up in the 86th minute at Karinya Reserve to coolly convert a Marco Marino cross, the midfielder’s shot possessing too much venom for James Klappers to keep out. The Red Devils now find themselves only three points from the competition’s summit.

Alex Mullen celebrating a second late winner in as many weeks to give Campbelltown three points away from home (Image: Ken Carter)

Tense With Fireworks

FK Beograd 1-1 Adelaide City

A week after its invincible bid was ended at the hands of the MetroStars, Adelaide City visited FK Beograd, a side led by former star player and coach Damian Mori in the technical area and his son Josh Mori, who is dominating the competition on the pitch.

The Champions started the encounter well-off their high benchmark and were punished by Mori, who seemingly scored the competition’s goal of the week for the second week running, smashing the ball into Dakota Ochsenham’s top corner from an angle and well outside the box. With Adelaide City vying to be included into the National Second Division, it would not be a shock if the storied Mori name once again ended up in black and white in the foreseeable future.

Adelaide City showed up with a new found intensity in the second half and after combining with substitute Joe Costa, Nicholas Bucco volleyed truly to even the score. Costa was later sent off for two bookable offences in quick succession, the second being a sensational “Hand of God” attempt, with the game ending as a tense stalemate; Campbelltown and the Comets the big winners, making ground on the league-leading City.

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A Spirited Week

South Adelaide Panthers 3-3 Adelaide Olympic

Fighting for its top flight life, Adelaide Olympic had experienced an emotional week entering its date with South Adelaide. Round 16 saw Olympic claw back a two goal deficit in injury time against Sturt to claim a point before claiming three valuable points against Adelaide United Youth midweek, Round 17 though did not start as planned.

Only ten minutes into the match, Alex Rideout converted a Panther’s counterattack, with a Lewis Moss arm unable to keep the ball out. Soon later, Alex Rideout had a brace, an Olympic clearance finding him at the edge of the box with the forward making no mistake, placing a volley into the top corner.

The half ended with the two sides exchanging goals within a couple of minutes, a low Kristin Konstandopoulos bullet getting Olympic off the mark and Alex Rideout inviting brother Jonathon Rideout onto the scoresheet with a brilliant, defence splitting ball, the latter dribbling past the goalkeeper and finishing from a tight angle to restore South’s two goal advantage heading into the interval.

If South Australian football has learned anything this week it is that no lead is safe against Adelaide Olympic, the visitors once clawing back a deficit, its third in a week. The hosts did not let a disallowed Cittadini goal to faze it, Jason Konstandopoulos joining his own brother on the scoresheet via a deflection before Christos Pounendis completed the comeback through a close-range header with four minutes to go to lift Olympic four points away from the drop.

Smash And Grab

Adelaide Comets 1-0 North Eastern MetroStars

A week after putting an end to Adelaide City’s extensive undefeated run the MetroStars were back in action, this time at the State Center for Football, against the Adelaide Comets in a battle for the unspoken number one contender spot to the Champions.

The visitors started off the strongest but were shocked by a moment of individual brilliance. A Ryan Yates pass found Augustus Williams on the wing 36 minutes into the encounter, the tricky winger proceeded to beat three players before serving the ball to Jaiden Diamantis on a silver platter, the latter making no mistake to open the scoring.

That ended up being the only shot on target the hosts had and it proved to be enough; despite having the rest of the match to break its duck, Metro did not do much to trouble Daniel Vaughan. Adelaide City dropping two points and the Comets picking up three means that Barney Smith’s side is now within touching distance of the table-topping Champions who looked untouchable only as recently as two weeks ago.

Done Just Enough

Adelaide United Youth 2-1 Cumberland United

Round 17’s Sunday game saw a Cumberland United side hungry for points visit Adelaide United Youth at the State Center for Football, a side that did the Foxes no favours midweek, dropping three points to Cumberland’s relegation scrap rivals Adelaide Olympic.

The match started with the Young Reds in the ascendency, but only finally converting a chance as the first half was counting down, a Nestory Irankunda shot not properly dealt with by Luke Schoen saw Luka Jovanovic finishing off the scraps. Cumberland responded in record time, the celebration music had barely finished when Yuya Taguchi converted a Harry Thannhauser cross to send the sides to the rooms level.

The second half saw both sides unable to control the game for large periods, with Taguchi hitting the crossbar in a one on one against Ethan Cox. The Young Reds took advantage of Cumberland’s misfortune, Panagiotis Kikianis playing a superb through ball to Panashe Madanha who finished in Schoen’s near post to give United the lead an all three points. United finished the round back in the six, with Cumberland languishing four points away from safety.

Match to Watch in Round 18

The Young Reds return to Oakden for the first time in 2022 to take on the faltering Champions. After looking untouchable for the majority of 2022, Adelaide City have picked up only one of the last possible six to blow open the Premiership race.

One would assume that City would respond against a Young Reds side, but Airton Andrioli’s youthful outfit defeated City at Oakden last season in an entertaining encounter. Another similar occurrence can spell trouble for City’s Premiership aspirations.

Expect the unexpected when the high scoring, but defensively cavalier, Adelaide United Youth takes on Paul Pezos’ well-drilled City side aiming for a bounce back a week away from its Federation Cup Final.

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