With the NPL SA fast approaching its conclusion, two sides succumbed to relegation while one’s top two race was severely hampered.
The finals race was even further refined with the youngest side in the competition securing a gutsy win, despite being undermanned, putting itself in the box seat for a spot in the six.
Survived The Drop
Croydon FC 0-1 Adelaide Olympic
The curtains were raised in the third to last round of NPL SA season 2022, with Croydon FC continuing its push for finals football against an Adelaide Olympic side fighting its own battle, one located much lower on the table.
Even though any points would be welcome, missing out on all three would put either side in a disadvantage in their respective races for finals and survival.
Things started off well for Olympic which was doing all the attacking early. A Tzoi Tsarkani shot being spilled by John Hall opened the door for Ioannis Simossis to put his side on the scoreboard just before the 30 minute mark. Croydon did not muster a shot on target before the break.
Olympic’s resistance continued, with a toothless Croydon unable to create much of substance; albeit putting the ball in the back of the net before being called back for offside.
The victory and subsequent results on the day meant that Olympic survived the drop in 2022, with Croydon still in the battle for finals football. Adelaide United Youth and FK Beograd are also vying for the last two spots available in the six.
Fill Ins Win
FK Beograd 1-2 Adelaide United Youth
Adelaide United’s Australia Cup match against the Newcastle Jets coincided with its NPL SA Round 20 six-pointer against FK Beograd which saw the Young Reds multiple players light as a result.
Airton Andrioli set up with five at the back, along with three midfielders who are regular starters for the NPL Reserves side, one even usually deployed in defence.
The biggest compliment one could give to the Young Reds that took the field in Round 20 is that not one looked out of place, going blow for blow with its tricky opposition, both sides scoreless at the break.
A clumsy challenge early in the second half saw the Young Reds with a chance to open the scoring from the spot, fill-in captain Luka Jovanovic making no mistake.
Minutes later, Musa Toure rewarded Andrioli for his trust with a second goal in as many weeks in the starting 11. Josh Mori may have grabbed a fortunate tap in late, but United keeper Ashton Rinaldo did exceptionally well to ensure his side secured all three points.
The Young Reds are now a single victory away from making finals, a tremendous achievement after a wretched start to season 2022.
Not Good Enough
Cumberland United 0-7 South Adelaide Panthers
There is an old saying that describes an individual that is condemned to a hopeless fate in their final moments, ‘dead man walking’. Cumberland fit that title on Saturday but unfortunately for anyone associated with the club, the verb ‘walking’ seemed to be taken literally.
South Adelaide’s celebration of captain Rob Parker’s 250th game began with a bang, Jack Rudge volleying a deflected free kick to open the scoring only a minute into the encounter.
Deflated, Cumberland conceded four more times that half courtesy of Donny Pollock, Jackson Stephens, Jonathon and Alex Rideout in an insipid display from a side supposedly fighting for survival.
Alex Rideout hit once more in the second half, while substitute Chol Wel wrapped up the seven goal drubbing.
Unless Cumberland can win its last two games by a margin that dramatically improves its -29 goal difference and Adelaide Olympic (six points ahead with a negative six goal difference) suffers the worst two-game collapse in Australian football history, the Foxes will be playing in State League One in 2023.
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Campbelltown Late Again
Campbelltown City 3-2 Adelaide Comets
The game of the round we suggested delivered on all its hype when Campbelltown hosted the Comets, with the winner getting the advantage in the top two race and remaining alive in the Premiership race.
The deadlock was broken 20 minutes into the game when defensive miscommunication by the Red Devils allowed Anthony Mavrolambados to sneak his foot between keeper and defender to open the scoring.
Campbelltown channeled its frustration productively and found an equaliser on the stroke of half time, Alex Mullen opportunistically taking advantage of chao in the box to tap the ball home.
The game looked set to end in a deadlock favouring neither side when Red Devil Yohei Matsumoto and Comet Tom Briscoe exchanged goals within minutes of each other just after the hour mark, but the action was not done there.
The Comets pushed for a winner, but it was the home side that had the last laugh. For the second week running, Campbelltown produced late drama.
Just like he did against Birkalla back in June, Alex Mullen stole all three points in injury time in the encounter, priming his side for a top two finish. This will give it a huge advantage come finals if it manages to hold on.
Ticking All Boxes
Sturt Lions 1-4 Adelaide City
After defeating visiting Queensland side Logan Lightning in the Australia Cup midweek, Adelaide City had to put the jubilation and fatigue aside for its visit to Karinya Reserve to face Sturt. The home side has endured a disappointing season, but it is a team that has the ability to trouble any side in its division.
It was an unfortunate start for City, Bradley Corbo clumsily tripping Luke Fusco in the box, with Tyreece Conway proceeding to bury the penalty ten minutes into the match.
The Champions did not take the hit laying down, some excellent football concluding with Ayom Majok’s shot being too powerful for James Klappers five minutes later.
City’s relentless pressing led to a mistake that opened the avenue for Nicholas Bucco to take a sublime touch, calmy dinking the Champions ahead going into the break.
Early second half goals by Tom Brown and Jai King concluded the affair, with City once again getting the job done and remaining masters of its own their own destiny heading into the last two match days.
Not Mathematically Possible
North Eastern MetroStars 3-0 West Torrens Birkalla
West Torrens Birkalla visited the MetroStars for the late game on Saturday night. Knowing all the results of the day, the visitors were aware that a loss would condemn them to relegation to State League One for season 2023.
Despite Metro not looking like the best version of itself in recent weeks, it seemed to be a class above the visitors.
Marauding fullback Jackson Walls opened the scoring with a neat finish past the advancing Nick Harpas. Just under 15 minutes later, defender Tim Henderson got everyone on their feet when he audaciously finished a loose ball on the goal line with a scorpion kick.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Metro youngster Ariath Piol once again showed composure beyond his years to take a calm touch into the box to put the final nail in the Birks season, that in fairness, never really felt like it took off.
Match to Watch in Round 21
Round 21 sees the State Centre for Football host its two tenants in a huge matchup with implications for both the top two finish along with the finals race.
The Adelaide Comets will be trying to overcome the disappointment of a last gasp defeat to Campbelltown, while Adelaide United Youth only need one more victory to secure a spot in the 2022 finals series.
The Comets possess the experience, but Adelaide United look almost irresistible at times, a fact that last year’s Premiers found out when the Young Reds defeated them earlier in the season.
With the Young Reds regaining its charges that missed Round 20 because of Australia Cup duties, they may just be able to grab the three points once again.
If the Comets drop points against the Young Reds, they could possibly find themselves outside the top two going into the finals series, an unfamiliar position for a side that has struggled in the pointy end of the season.
Despite that, the absence of a safety net may be a benefit for Barney Smith’s side and its mentality heading into finals.
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