Josh Mori in the process of scoring while Birkalla players watch on in despair (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms)

The penultimate week of season 2022 saw the Premiership coronation delayed for another week, while the two finals spots are still up for grabs.

Beograd Hail Mary

West Torrens Birkalla 2-3 FK Beograd

The two sides that got promoted to the NPL for season 2022 squared off in Round 21 with contrasting fates as the campaign draws to a close. After being relegated last week, Birkalla is only fighting for pride, meanwhile, Damian Mori’s Beograd holds its finals hopes in its hands.

The match started with Beograd looking by far the better side and converting its dominance, with Josh Mori rounding the keeper and opening the score. Six minutes later, Austin Ayoubi pounced on a weak Isaac Mullen pass and levelled the score, but it was Mori that had the last say of the half, restoring Beograd’s lead from close range.

Calamity struck Beograd once again early in the second half when Jordan Pudler turned an Ayoubi cross into his own net.

The match seemed to be heading to a stalemate until right back Massimo Falco won the ball back for Beograd in injury time before smashing home the winner that gave Beograd a big advantage over Croydon in the chase for finals football.

Left red-faced

Adelaide Comets 7-0 Adelaide United Youth

After claiming a brave victory against FK Beograd, despite a squad comprised of many players from its reserves squad, Adelaide United Youth had their regulars back and ready to take on the Comets, a side it had already defeated in 2022. A victory for the Young Reds would secure a return to finals football but that hope did not last long.

The first half was a Comets whitewash, with Nathan Andijanto and Tom Giannakopoulos putting their side two goals up within 20 minutes. The Young Reds seemed dejected, with Tom Briscoe adding insult to injury by converting from the spot and Logan Marley-McFall scoring in his return game.

Things went from bad to worse for the Young Reds when Nestory Irankunda was given a harsh red card on the cusp of halftime.

The damage continued in the second half, with Jaiden Diamantis, a provider in the first half, turning into a scorer, before Marley-McFall grabbed his brace. Comets skipper, Allen Welsh, who was on the wrong end of a seven-goal defeat to the Reds in the A-League Men competition, fittingly put the cherry on top.

The Young Reds now need a result or favourable fortune in the final week of the season to return to finals action, while the Comets remain alive in the race for a top two spot.

One week away

South Adelaide Panthers 1-3 Adelaide City

With the State League Premierships wrapping up and only the NPL SA crown left to be decided, Adelaide City travelled South in hopes that a win and dropped points in Campbelltown would mean silverware for Paul Pezos’ side.

It all seemed to be routine when Aladin Irabona latched onto a long ball from keeper Dakota Ochsenham to volley truly nine minutes into the match.

The plucky Panthers hit back through Donny Pollock ten minutes later and with Campbelltown leading Croydon, City spectacularly found itself off the summit for a matter of minutes. Croydon equalised against Campbelltown, but Aladin Irabona was not going to leave matters in their hands, the forward recording a brace four minutes after South’s goal to put black and white hearts at ease.

City’s relentless press caught the Panthers out in the second half. Charlie Devereux putting the finishing touch on an important away win.

With Campbelltown eventually overcoming a stubborn Croydon, the Premiership will be decided in the last round of the season.

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Delayed the coronation

Campbelltown City 2-1 Croydon FC

Round 21 saw Campbelltown face Croydon, with plenty on the line for both sides. The hosts had to win to keep the pressure on pace-setters Adelaide City, while Croydon had to get a result to ensure it did not enter the last round of the season facing a tall task to make finals.

Marc Marino ensured that the potential cagy nature of the match went out of the window, scoring just three minutes into the game and even elevating his side to the top of the ladder momentarily. The usually toothless Croydon knew it had to score and 20 minutes later Antoni Trimboli pounced on a Campbelltown mistake to set up Seb Goode for the equaliser.

The Red Devils recommenced their theme of late impact, Yohei Matsumoto continuing on his continuing purple patch of form to exquisitely set up Antony Piscioneri for the winner 73 minutes into the match.

Jarrod Brazzale’s red card did not help Croydon’s futile comeback effort. Travis Dodd’s side now needs a win against the Comets and results to go its way to play finals, while Campbelltown finds itself in a similar situation in its fight for the Premiership.

Seeing it out

Sturt Lions 0-1 North Eastern MetroStars

With the season wrapping up, some clubs find themselves with plenty to fight for, while others have their positions well and truly secure, for good or for bad. The latter was the case when Metro, a side that cannot finish any higher or lower than fourth, took on Sturt, which cannot play finals but cannot get relegated.

Both sides entered Round 21 with one eye towards the end of the regular season and an even but uneventful first half was a sign of that.

It was Metro that took its chance when it came, Francesco Schimizzi being served up the ball on a silver platter by Alessio Melisi to take the three points back to Adelaide’s Northeast.

Metro will be eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the season in order to find out its finals opponents, while Sturt will be licking its wounds wondering where it all went wrong in a year, where things just didn’t click after such a successful 2021.

Where’s this been?

Adelaide Olympic 2-3 Cumberland United

A potential relegation decider turned out to be a dead rubber after Adelaide Olympic’s tight win against Croydon and Cumberland’s embarrassment at the hands of South Adelaide in Round 20 resulted in the Foxes’ demotion.

The first half saw both sides scoreless before a brilliant individual Amir Ibrahim effort gave the Foxes the lead within minutes of the restart. Tzoi Tsarkani went from hero to villain for Olympic within two minutes, the defender scoring a penalty and then proceeding to nod a corner into his own net to restore Cumberland’s lead.

A Panagiotis Manidakis corner found Dylan D’Agostino’s head to even proceedings once again. Cumberland showed fight that has been largely absent in the majority of the season and Harry Thannhauser scored the winner which gave the Foxes a meaningless three points, but a boost of pride as they prepare to bow out of the division.

Match to watch in Round 22

The final matchday of season 2022 sees the Adelaide Comets visit Croydon FC at Jack Smith Park with both sides still having plenty to fight for.

The Comets may not have reached the dizzying regular season heights of past years but is still in the hunt for second place and the ever-important second chance in finals. Barney Smith’s men must win its match and hope Campbelltown drops points to a Cumberland United side farewelling the division.

Meanwhile, Croydon has played itself in a position that it must win at all costs while hoping either the Adelaide United Youth or FK Beograd results go its way if it is to play finals.

Both scenarios may sound unlikely, but with both sides having nothing to lose and everything to gain, expect fireworks!

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