Campbelltown City players celebrating Marc Marino's goal against South Adelaide. (Image: Ken Carter)

Adelaide City have some competition; a six goal thriller; Cumberland shows signs of life. We've wrapped all of Round 18's NPL SA action.

Adelaide City have some competition, a six goal thriller, while Cumberland show signs of life. We’ve wrapped all of Round 18’s action for you below!

Advantage Croydon FC

Croydon FC 2-1 Sturt Lions

After being pipped in the race for finals by the Adelaide United Youth side in recent weeks, Croydon FC welcomed Sturt to Jack Smith Park in Round 18.

The Lions have not experienced an ideal second season in the NPL, finding themselves outside finals calculations after reaching the semi-final in 2021, but they are always a tough matchup.

Sturt started the strongest and went ahead through an individual effort from Samed Altundag that found its way past John Hall, who would feel he could have done better to keep the shot out. Croydon entered the second half with a renewed focus and turned the match on its head in the space of five minutes.

65 minutes into the match, Łukasz Klimek’s hopeful ball into the box was sensationally finished on a full volley by Luis Benedetti to bring Croydon level. Four minutes later, a cheap Sturt turnover in the midfield saw Croydon advance the ball and find a free Antoni Trimboli entering the box, with the forward completing the comeback and sealing the match.

With the Young Reds drawing to Adelaide City, Croydon regained the advantage in the race for finals football.

Ticking All Boxes

Campbelltown City 2-0 South Adelaide Panthers

Campbelltown welcomed South Adelaide to Newton keen to continue on its newfound winning streak while also hoping that the league-leading Adelaide City could drop points for the third consecutive week.

South Adelaide entered the encounter disappointed to drop points to Adelaide Olympic in Round 17 after squandering a two goal lead.

The match went as expected, with the Red Devils imposing their dominance on their visitors and the control of the game paid off, with Josh Barresi’s deflected shot doing justice to a well-worked 17-pass team goal that nearly involved every Campbelltown player, opening the scoring.

Marc Marino’s shot was a dagger through South’s heart in injury time of the first half to put the match beyond any doubt.

Alex Woodlands kept his clean sheet intact by saving a free kick near the hour mark, but with Adelaide City dropping points once again, the Red Devils find themselves a point away from the summit and on a five game winning streak, primed for a run at silverware as the pointy end of the season approaches.

Tough But Possible

Cumberland United 2-0 West Torrens Birkalla

Round 18 saw the competition’s cellar dwellers take on each other for the second time this season. Three points for either Cumberland of Birkalla would give the winner an opportunity at survival, while a draw would likely condemn both sides to State League football in 2023.

The match started perfectly for the Foxes when a Harry Thannhauser caused chaos in the Birks’ box just 12 minutes in. Centre back Tom Dittmar took full advantage by poking the ball home and giving the hosts a lead.

Both sides have struggled for goals and that theme continued, with neither side able to breach the other until late.

With a minute to go, Cumberland livewire Tom Visser’s cross found Harry Thomas outside the box, who without hesitation dispatched a shot beyond Nick Harpas’ reach.

Cumberland now finds itself three points and goal difference away from safety, but with three of its final four games being winnable, including one against fellow strugglers Adelaide Olympic, survival may not be easy, but it is certainly not an impossible task.

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City Just Survive

Adelaide City 3-3 Adelaide United Youth

The stumbling Champions fighting for their spot on top of the pecking order against the youthful exuberance of Adelaide United scrapping to make finals football. We called this the match to watch last week and it delivered big time!

The first half saw the two sides exchange goals, Panashe Madanha celebrating his promotion to a scholarship contract by tapping in at the back post and Aladin Irabona taking advantage of miscommunication in the Young Reds’ defence to equal the scoring.

Unfortunately, United keeper Ethan Cox fractured his fibula in a one on one on the cusp of half time, Ashton Rinaldo being subbed on in his place

The Young Reds entered the second half firing, Nestory Irankunda assisting Luka Jovanovic, also celebrating a scholarship contract, before Charlie Devereux was given too much time and space, bringing the Champions level.

An electric Kane Vidmar move opened up space for the Young Reds, the centre back popping up a second later to finish off the move he started, shooting the Young Reds into the lead for the third time in the game.

When it all seemed hopeless for City, captain Matthew Halliday popped up in a corner to claw a point back for his side in the last attack of the game.

The Champions stay top for another week, but after only picking up one of the last nine points available, City must lift its game if it is to finish top or successfully retain its title.

Beograd Claim Scalp

North Eastern MetroStars 1-2 FK Beograd

After being unable to cause the Comets any concerns in Round 17, the MetroStars welcomed FK Beograd to TK Shutter Reserve, one of the competitions most improved and consistent sides of late.

Josh Mori, the obvious threat in the Beograd lineup, returned to face his former club on the back of back to back goal of the week awards and in form to contest for, if not win, the Sergio Melta Medal.

The first half was an arm-wrestle, one decided by an error with two minutes to go. Metro keeper Luke Ostbye held onto the ball for a second too long, and his eventual pass was affected by a Mori touch. Intended recipient Tim Henderson was disposed of by Tom Love, who squared the ball to Mori whose tap in sent Beograd to the sheds ahead.

Metro midfielder Cam Woodfin was sent off in the second half for a second bookable offence and Beograd took full advantage, Asefa combining with Mori with the latter scoring his second of the day.

Metro Captain Anthony Solagna headered a consolation from a corner, but the visitors clearly established themselves as a side capable of taking the game to the competition’s top four with an impressive scalp away from home.

Level With Champions

Adelaide Olympic 0-2 Adelaide Comets

With the league-leading Adelaide City dropping points, Barney Smith’s Adelaide Comets had an opportunity to draw level with the Champions on the table’s summit, a scenario which was unheard of as recently as a month ago.

In their way stood an Adelaide Olympic side that produced three comebacks in a week to gain some breathing room in the relegation race.

The first half saw the Comets dominate as expected, but Olympic held on well for a side that has struggled to keep the goals out. That was until the dying second of the half when Panos Manidakis saw his free kick collected by Comets ‘keeper Daniel Vaughan who proceeded to boot the ball forward.

Olympic custodian Lewis Moss misjudged the situation, taking out teammate Tito Bontor and in the process opening the avenue for Tom Briscoe to open the scoring from range.

Around the hour mark Comets captain Allan Welsh converted an Augustus Williams cross to make it two; Olympic pushed, forcing a great reflex save from Vaughan late, but could not muster a fourth comeback in a row.

The Comets are now only goal difference away from the top spot, with the race for the Premiership looking destined to go down to the final day for the second year running.

Match to Watch in Round 19

NPL SA pauses for a week as the Federation Cup concludes, but when it returns a few promising matchups kick off the restart. One game to tune into is FK Beograd’s clash against the Adelaide Comets at Frank Mitchell Park.

Josh Mori’s irristible form is enough justification, but there is a lot more to keep an eye out for. Beograd is arguably the best side outside the top four, and while the Comets are going toe to toe with Adelaide City in the top of the pecking order, they would be wise not take the hosts lightly who themselves have collected four out of six points against Adelaide City and the MetroStars in their last two outings.

Two settled sides with dependable backlines, midfielders that excel at their roles and forwards with X factor; this match will be a good indicator at how serious the Comets are about finally going all the way in 2022.

Beograd claimed a top four scalp in Round 18, and it can claim another in Round 19 it will become a real smokey in what is quickly becoming a successful first season back in NPL football for Damian Mori’s charges.

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