Lui Ditroia and Jake Halliday celebrating the latter's injury time goal that kept Campbelltown City in the Premiership race (Image: Ken Carter)

A team falls out of the Premiership race while another survives to fight another day at the death. The race for the six heats up as NPL SA enters the final stretch of the regular season after a week off due to the Federation Cup Final.

A team falls out of the Premiership race while another survives to fight another day at the death. The race for the six heats up as NPL SA enters the final stretch of the regular season after a week off due to the Federation Cup Final.

Birks Start Slow

West Torrens Birkalla 0-2 Adelaide City

A week is a long time in football and the two sides that kicked off Round 19 action probably portray that old sentiment the best. Since the last time a ball was kicked in the NPL SA competition, West Torrens Birkalla has parted way with head coach Jason Trimboli while Adelaide City won the Federation Cup; Round 19 saw the two sides pitted against each other.

The visitors were clearly the better side, despite seemingly not needing to play at their full capacity, with the Australia Cup Round of 32 approaching. City’s class was evident just nine minutes into the game, with a move starting with keeper Dakota Ochsenham seeing the ball move around the field at lightning pace and 11 passes later Ayom Majok opened the scoring.

If it wasn’t over then, Birkalla’s woes were doubled five minutes into the second half when another glistening team move saw Cup Final hero Nicholas Bucco record City’s second goal.

The win means Adelaide City remain first on the ladder, while West Torrens Birkalla is running out of time and hope to save their season.

Pilling On Misery

Sturt Lions 1-0 Cumberland United

Sturt welcomed Cumberland to Karinya Reserve needing all three points to keep its unlikely finals bid alive, meanwhile, the visitors are fast running out of time to stake their survival bid, three points being a necessity anytime they take the field.

Unfortunately, a livestream was not available for this encounter, one that the Lions won by a solitary goal late in the game to record a rare win at home.

The win ensures that Sturt remains a mathematical possibility to make the finals but its case was not aided by Croydon FC and Adelaide United also claiming victories.

With three weeks to go, unless something drastically changes, season 2022 shapes up as disappointment for both the Lions and Foxes for differing reasons.

In The Hunt

South Adelaide Panthers 1-3 Croydon FC

Croydon FC travelled down south for a matchup against the Panthers and despite the hosts not having much other than pride to play for, the visitors are well and truly in a race for one of the remaining two finals spots. With three teams competing for those spots, someone has to miss out; every point is crucial.

Just under 10 minutes into the game, an energetic Croydon counterattack saw Peter Mercurio open the scoring. The Panthers pushed their own case for an equaliser but were deflated to concede a second around the hour mark courtesy of Adam Martinello who was smartly assisted by Patrick Caraccia.

Minutes later the Panthers restored some pride, Jonathon Rideout recording his 13th goal of the season, but the celebrations did not last long, Caraccia turning from provider to scorer to tick a tricky box on Croydon’s mission to return to finals football.

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Keeping Up Pressure

FK Beograd 1-2 Adelaide Comets

After defeating the MetroStars away from home in Round 18, Beograd welcomed the Comets, another top four side, to Frank Mitchell Park. While Beograd was keen to strengthen its finals bid, Adelaide knew it had to win to keep the pressure on the league-leading Adelaide City.

In scenes resembling Beograd’s Round 17 match against Adelaide City, both sides scored stunning goals that had fans on their feet. The home side opened the scoring following a fantastic solo effort by Andoni Natsiopoulos, the midfielder picking up the ball near the halfway line proceeding to dribble his way into the box, finishing past Daniel Vaughan.

Seconds after kickoff, the Comets equalised, an Augustus Williams cross finished spectacularly on the volley by Tom Briscoe. The Comets looked the better side and broke away on the scoresheet when Scott Nagel’s cross was finished by a rare Augustus Williams header with 30 minutes to go.

In its final roll of the dice, Beograd forced Comets keeper Daniel Vaughan to stretch to the extreme to keep an effort destined for the top corner out, the custodian securing the points for his side and the pressure on Adelaide City for another week.

Turning The Tables

Adelaide Olympic 1-2 Campbelltown City

The premiership chasing Campbelltown City visited an Adelaide Olympic side that is fighting for survival at APEX Stadium and with two of its top of the table rivals claiming three points, the Red Devils knew they had to follow suit.

It did not start according to plan for Michael Matricciani’s men, who were unable to deal with a corner, as Olympic’s Christos Pounendis headed a ball across the box to find Tzoi Tsarkani’s head near the goal line, the unlikely goal scorer giving the hosts an unlikely lead.

The goal seemed to give Olympic confidence as it looked to match, if not better its highly rated visitors throughout the evening, but if the hosts know one thing it is that a match is not over until the final whistle, a lesson it has taught plenty of sides in 2022.

When Antony Piscioneri broke down Olympic’s resistance in the 90th minute it was heartbreak for the hosts, but it the pain did not stop there.

Six minutes deep into injury time an excellent Luigi Ditroia corner found Jake Halliday who made no mistake securing an unlikely comeback story usually reserved for the hosts in 2022.

The win sees Campbelltown remain one point off the competition’s summit, while Olympic continue flirting with danger three points away from the drop zone.

Campbelltown City players celebrating their last gasp comeback victory against Adelaide Olympic (Image: Ken Carter)

Contenders To Observers

North Eastern MetroStars 2-3 Adelaide United Youth

Metro’s premiership hopes were dwindling after a defeat to FK Beograd in Round 18. It did not get any easier for the team from the North East of Adelaide that was missing key players for a multitude of reasons while welcoming an in-form Adelaide United Youth side to T.K. Shutter Reserve.

Young Red Asad Kasumovic, playing out of the left wing, exploited his matchup against Justin Davis early in the encounter, besting the defender twice and finishing past Isaac Carmody twice within the first twenty minutes to give his side an imposing start.

Metro responded, putting the visitors under extreme pressure; Ariath Piol’s deft touch set up Ren Nagamatsu who scored his first non-headed goal for the season, giving his side hope going into the break.

The Young Reds restored their two goal lead with Musa Toure converting a clean team move. Metro chased goals, but Steven Hall was solid between the visitor’s sticks.

Christian Esposito recorded a late consolation but it was not enough to rule out his side from the race for the Premiership while the Young Reds continue pushing for a finals spot.

Match to Watch in Round 20

And then there were three.

With the MetroStars faltering in Round 19, Adelaide City, Adelaide Comets, and Campbelltown City will enter the final three weeks of the competition fighting for the top spot.

While Adelaide City visit Sturt, second placed Adelaide Comets will be visiting third placed Campbelltown for a showdown of huge significance.

In the event that Adelaide City drops points, the winner of this matchup (Adelaide Comets and Campbelltown City) will take the lead in the premiership race; if it swings the other way and City get a result while the two sides draw, the race may be as good as over.

Both the Adelaide Comets and Campbelltown City have had their challenges in season 2022, but Round 20 is shaping as their most important match of the campaign. It is crucial to remember that premiership or not, second place provides a team with the same finals advantages as top spot; the winner of this becomes the overwhelming favourite to claim it.

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