05/03/2024

Luka Jovanovic celebrates scoring Adelaide United's second goal in its emphatic win at Cumberland United (Image: Adam Butler/80kms)

Three Clubs found the back of the net four times and a veteran produced a vintage performance, while the majority of the League split the points. The Inner Sanctum reviews Round 6 of NPL SA Season 2022.

Three Clubs found the back of the net four times and a veteran produced a vintage performance, while the majority of the League split the points. The Inner Sanctum reviews Round 6 of NPL SA Season 2022.

Like Fine Wine

North Eastern MetroStars 1-1 Adelaide Comets

The MetroStars welcomed the high-flying Comets to TK Shutter Reserve, eager to prove that they should be taken seriously as challengers in season 2022. It promised to be a tight encounter, decided by moments of brilliance, and that is exactly how the match began.

A mere four minutes into the match, Metro ‘keeper Luke Ostbye was called into action, making a strong save to deny the Comets an early advantage. Just five minutes later, Metro veteran Fabian Barbiero claimed a Comets’ corner clearance, effortlessly glided past three defenders and hit the ball low and hard across Julian Torresan to open the scoring.

The Comets hit back early in the second half, Nikolas Ikonomopoulos converting from close range from a corner routine, continuing a stellar breakout season, but the headlines were stolen by his goalkeeper.

After the scores were levelled, the MetroStars chased a winner relentlessly. 36-year old Comets ‘keeper Julian Torresan put in a vintage display to ensure that the Comets took a point back with them to Ellis Park, with two superb saves late in the game to maintain the Comets resistance.

Two Frustrated Sides

Croydon Kings 0-0 West Torrens Birkalla

With the Kings awaiting the completion of their new ground, it meant they bizarrely hosted West Torrens Birkalla in their home away from home, Jack Smith Park, which awkwardly happens to be Birkalla’s home ground.

The Kings have began the season in strong form, finding themselves keeping company with the Adeladie Comets and Adelaide City at the top end of the table. In contrast, Birks came into Round 6 with a single win to their name, hoping they could use this “away” game to their advantage.

Unfortunately, an even, open encounter did not deliver on the goals it promised. Both sides had periods of supremacy and clear cut chances that were thwarted by the opposition ‘keeper.

Neither the Kings or Birks will be satisfied with this result, but will be confident they can make amends in Round 7 against the Sturt Lions and Cumberland United respectively.

Rampant Reds Rise

Cumberland United 0-4 Adelaide United Youth

Adelaide United Youth entered the crucial crunch match against Cumberland United plagued by the ever-present issues of being the reserve team of an A Leagues side. As a result of injuries and COVID-19, the Young Reds were depleted entering a match that could have serious repercussions for their NPL SA future.

The first half was an even encounter, but fullback Giuseppe Bovalina scored a rare goal in first minute of injury time of the first half to give the Young Reds an important advantage heading into the break. Cumberland entered the second half having to chase a goal and Adelaide United took advantage, being decisive on the counter.

70 minutes into the match, Luka Jovanovic converted a team move that started from the goalkeeper with a thunderous strike to double his side’s advantage. Musa Toure returned from injury with a cameo off the bench and picked up an emphatic brace to put an exclamation mark on a strong performance.

The result meant the Young Reds moved out of the relegation zone, while the Foxes remain winless, bolted at the bottom of the table. If alarm bells are not ringing yet, they surely will be if they cannot grab a victory against fellow strugglers West Torrens Birkalla in Round 7.

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All-City Affair

Adelaide City 4-2 FK Beograd

Former Adelaide City player and coach Damian Mori returned to Adelaide City Park, this time with his FK Beograd outfit keen to make a statement; they did not take long to strike with a name straight from City history books. Just 30 seconds into the match, Josh Mori played a long ball to Ninko Beric who pulled his header back for Tom Love, the player who scored the winner for City against the Western Sydney Wanderers in the FFA Cup in 2014, who opened the scoring against his former side.

City were not shaken, turning the match on its head within half an hour, with Kur Kur continuing his strong form with a solo effort and Nicholas Bucco striking from range. Beograd did not go to go down easily, with Josh Mori once again effective, this time on the cusp of half time, with a corner routine that made it impossible for Massimo Falco not to level the scoring before the break.

Despite starting the second half the stronger side, Beograd went down once gain, this time City Captain Matthew Halliday scrappily tapping in a corner. The match culminated with new signing Ayom Majok converting a penalty to make the result comfortable in the final five minutes of the match, with Beograd leaving disappointed lamenting what could have been.

Not This Time

Adelaide Olympic 4-0 South Adelaide Panthers

After throwing away a three goal lead to lose 4-3 against the Sturt Lions in Round 6, Adelaide Olympic welcomed the Panthers to VALO Football Center and ensured that lightning did not strike twice. The hosts began the game on the front foot and their fortunes looked even better 27 minutes in, when the game swung even further to Olympic’s favour.

Jason Konstandopoulos played a sweet ball through to Ioannis Simosis, who was brought down by Jai Conroy in the box. The Olympic forward converted his spot kick while the Panther’s defender received his marching orders.

Olympic began the second half just like they did the first. Michael Cittadini scored a second stunning goal in as many weeks, with a solo dribble ending up in a shot that found the bottom right post before the back of the net, leaving Ryan Veitch helpless. Five minutes later, from the same wing, Cittadini caught out Veitch, this time in his near post, to make it three.

Substitute Dylan D’Agostino completed the demolition in the 75th minute to confirm the inevitable. At their best, Olympic are scintillating to watch and almost impossible to stop, the challenge that needs to be tackled to ensure a finals berth remains closing the gap between their best and worst football.

Momentum Not Converted

Campbelltown City 1-1 Sturt Lions

Both the Red Devlis and the Lions finished off Round 6 with strong, emotional victories. After a slow start to the season, Campbelltown emphatically won their second game in a row against Birkalla, meanwhile, The Lions came back from three goals down to defeat Olympic in one of the best comebacks in NPL SA history.

It was the Lions who picked up where they left off and on the stroke of half time, they were finally rewarded. What seemed to be a foul outside the box was rewarded as a penalty by the referee, one which Gonzalo Rodriguez duly converted to give his side a deserved lead at the break.

Campbelltown showed belief in their coach and system, hitting back eight minutes into the second half, with Lui Di Troia playing a ball from the left wing to Alex Mullen who converted from close range. The Lions pushed for a winner but could not find one as the spoils were shared for the third time this weekend.

Both sides enter matches that can go either way in Round 7. Campbelltown face off against South Adelaide and Sturt host Croydon, with all four sides expecting to play finals football every point is crucial.

Match to watch in Round 7

Six rounds into Season 2022 and the ladder is starting to take shape. At the conclusion of Round 6, Cumberland United and West Torrens Birkalla find themselves at the wrong end of the table.

The bottom two sides of the competition take on each other at Jack Smith Park. A win for Birks can potentially get them out of the relegation zone, and even though it won’t do any such wonders for the Foxes just yet, they will be fighting to grab their first win of the season.

The relegation dogfight, something that is missing in the A Leagues competitions, make occasions like West Torrens Birkalla against Cumberland United extremely meaningful, hard-fought matches that should not be missed!

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