Marc Marino celebrates beating former teammate Nicholas Harpas to complete his brace. (Image: Ken Carter)

NPL SA returned for an action packed Round 5, full of resounding victories and two seven goal thrillers as COVID-19 reared it's ugly head.

Five games, 22 goals, including two seven goal thrillers, along with COVID-19 claiming its first match. The Inner Sanctum reviews the return of NPL SA after a week off as a result of Federation Cup action.

Campbelltown Rediscover Mojo

Campbelltown City 3-0 West Torrens Birkalla

After a rough start to the season, the Red Devils would have loathed the fact that the week off, caused by the Federation Cup, came straight after their resounding second half against Adelaide United Youth. Momentum may have been a concern, but West Torrens Birkalla found out that Campbelltown had not missed a step quickly.

A fluid team move was finished off beautifully by Alex Mullen, who found the bottom corner 13 minutes into the game with tidy, low, curling effort. Birkalla reacted, lifting their game but it was the hosts who had the last word of the half, and what a moment it was.

Just like he did in his last hit out, Marc Marino ensured the game would not fizz out into a drab result, and in the final minute of the first half, he audaciously beat his former teammate, Nicholas Harpas in the Birkalla goals, with a thumping effort from the halfway line to double his side’s lead.

Marino wasn’t finished, he grabbed his sixth goal of the season 16 minutes into the second half, with Harpas not being able to get down quick enough to parry his shot. Michael Matricciani’s side has now won two games in a row and are building in confidence every week.

Irresistible Comets Dazzle

South Adelaide Panthers 0-3 Adelaide Comets

After being put through their paces by the Champions and holding their own, the Adelaide Comets travelled South to face the Panthers who were coming off their first defeat of the season.

Barney Smith’s side arrived with intent to win, and did so in spectacular fashion against one of the competition’s entertainers. Half an hour into the game, the trio of Ryan Yates, Augustus Williams and Thomas Briscoe toyed with South’s defence on the wing, with Yates applying the finishing touch to a lighting quick team goal.

The Comets saw their advantage double before half time, with an unfortunate Panther’s handball giving captain Allan Welsh the opportunity to convert from the spot. The pick of the bunch though came in the second half.

One hour into the match, Thomas Briscoe, in his first game back in the starting lineup, scored a spectacular curling effort that left Ryan Veitch helpless to ensure all three points headed to Ellis Park. Barney Smith would be impressed with the synergy his team displayed, while South Adelaide will be trying to avoid three defeats on the bounce in Round 6.

Son Congratulates Dad

FK Beograd 2-0 Cumberland United

The big news for FK Beograd this week came off the pitch. With Ross Aloisi exiting Adelaide United for an opportunity to assist Kevin Muscat in Japan for Yokohama F. Marinos, Beograd coach Damian Mori was announced as the Red’s interim assistant, now juggling the two jobs until the end of the A-League Men season.

Beograd fans would be skeptical about how the arrangement would work, especially after seeing their side finally click, grabbing their first victory last round against the Croydon Kings. Fortunately for Mori, his side’s form continued against a struggling Cumberland United side.

It was Damian’s son, Josh, who put Beograd minds at ease early in the encounter. Half an hour into the game, Josh Mori’s expertly found the back of the net with a free kick to give Beograd the lead.

Cumberland were left open at the back while chasing an equaliser, and once again Josh Mori was the threat, being fouled by the last Cumberland defender to reduce the visitors to ten men.

While Paul Radice was trying to see off the result in the corner flag 96 minutes into the match, Thomas Love decided to flip the script. Love caught Cumberland by surprise with a dashing run, which eventually set up defender, Filimon Asefa, who lobbed the keeper and sealed the result, improving an already good week for Damian Mori.

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Two Different Games

Adelaide Olympic 3-4 Sturt Lions

If there was ever an example of the overused phrase, “a game of two halves,” we saw it as Adelaide Olympic took on the Sturt Lions in Round 5.

Olympic’s undoubted firepower was in full display early, with Michael Cittadini lashing a cleared corner on a full volley to open the scoring. Ten minutes later, Panagiotis Manidakis mirrored Cittadini, who also finished, a cross this time, on a full volley to double Olympic’s lead.

A win seemed inevitable for Olympic going in two goals to the good at half time, it became a no-brainer when Ioannis Simosis slotted in a third with a tidy finish four minutes into the second half. Well, a no-brainer it was not, as the Lions started playing like a team possessed in the remaining 40 minutes of the match.

Five minutes after Olympic’s third, Alex Sortini’s deflected shot got the Lions what felt like a consolation, and it wasn’t until the 79th minute when they hit again. Sortini doubled his tally, this time a clean hit in the top corner, Olympic caught off by a creative flick to set up the strike.

85 minutes into the match, Jacob Atkinson inexplicably leveled the match with a left footed effort from the edge box, beating Lewis Moss to wild celebrations. The game was decided by former Adelaide United defender Michael Marrone, who did his best Diego Maradona impersonation, to beat a defender and then another with a spin before slotting in the winner.

Olympic were condemned to a heartbreaking loss with three points thrown away, while the Lions secured a famous win.

Goal For Goal

Adelaide United Youth 3-4 Croydon Kings

Another seven goal thriller, but instead of one team having constant control of the game and scoreboard at a time, Adelaide United and the Croydon Kings went blow for blow for most of the night.

After a positive team move, Panashe Madanha got a fortunate break and strolled through Croydon’s defence to put the Reds up nine minutes into the encounter. The lead was short lived, with Patrick Caraccia pulling a goal back for the Kings shortly after.

The visitors doubled their lead in the 36th minute through captain, Łukasz Klimek, popping up to head past Ethan Cox. The young keeper was called into action soon after, facing Croydon forward Dion Kirk, two minutes later, this time from the spot, with Cox winning this encounter and keeping his side within touching distance. The Reds took advantage of the miss and equalised through Yaya Dukuly a few minutes later who converted his own spot kick.

The second half began in the same way the first ended, with Dion Kirk not to be denied this time, seven minutes after the restart. Yaya Dukuly kept the back and forth theme of the match going, scoring a stunning free kick to once again level the scoring.

The scoring was complete with livewire Patrick Caraccia setting up Antoni Trimboli who placed the ball in Cox’s top corner to claim all three points for the Kings. Croydon will be glad to get back to winning ways, while the young Reds must start picking up results to avoid a relegation scramble.

Covid’s First Scalp

North Eastern MetroStars-Adelaide City

Round 5’s most anticipated game, the one we dubbed the match of the week, was unfortunately postponed.

COVID-19 has previously postponed 2022 season, State League games, but it inevitably interfered with the NPL. Paul Pezo’s Champions, Adelaide City, will now be visiting the MetroStars at TK Shutter on Tuesday 5th April, with the hosts keen to add City to their growing list of victims as they establish themselves as genuine contenders.

Match to watch in Round 6

Round 6 starts of with a bang at TK Shutter stadium as the MetroStars host grand finalists, Adelaide Comets. This match will be a test of character for both sides who have high expectations in this season.

Barney Smith’s Comets are coming into this encounter after a resounding win against the Panthers and he will be hoping his side can dim the MetroStars who have been impressive so far this season.

Meanwhile, the MetroStars are entering the most crucial week of their young season; hosting both 2021 grand finalists at home within five days is quiet a way to start the new month. If the MetroStars can get results from both games, they will officially announce themselves as serious challengers; on the other hand, negative results could be a reality check for Rob Saraceno and his side.

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