The Young Reds recorded a crucial victory over Damian Mori's FK Beograd (Image: Adelaide United via Joe Janko)

21 goals in six games, a big dog stumbles, while the relegation battle continues producing twists and turns in Round 9 of NPL SA Season 2022.

21 goals in six games, a big dog stumbles, while the relegation battle continues producing twists and turns in Round 9 of NPL SA Season 2022.

Need Some Salt?

Adelaide Olympic 1-0 Croydon FC

Both Adelaide Olympic and Croydon FC entered their Round 9 curtain-raiser keen to improve on their previous output. Round 8 saw the hosts dominated at the hands of Campbelltown City, while Croydon went down early, but managed to salvage a point at the death against the Panthers.

Unfortunately for Travis Dodd’s Croydon side, an unforced error forced it on the backfoot. 23 minutes into the match, Jarrod Brazzale made an awkward attempt to control an under-hit Kristin Konstandopoulos ball, his error saw the ball make its way to Fausto Erba who, in his last home game before returning home to Italy, spectacularly chipped Croydon’s keeper John Hall who stands at 195 centimetres tall.

Despite a late flurry that saw Adelaide Olympic’s keeper Lewis Moss produce his brilliant best to deny Seb Goode and Peter Mercurio with a point-blank double-save, Croydon was unable to produce a late comeback two weeks in a row.

After a fast start to the season, inconsistency is starting to creep into Croydon’s game; it must be ironed out if Travis Dodd and co are to keep up with the pace-setters of the competition.

Set Piece Bystanders

West Torrens Birkalla 0-1 North Eastern MetroStars

After giving up a golden chance to claim all three points at the Champions’ home ground last week, West Torrens Birkalla welcomed the MetroStars who got back on the winner’s column in Round 8, breaking their streak of negative league results.

Both sides were cagy, desperate to avoid defeat, and the unwillingness to take the game on was evident in both camps. Games like this usually get decided by a single moment of brilliance, this match was no different.

Even though half the Birkalla team surrounded aerial specialist Ren Nagamatsu, when the ball was played into the box from a corner, not one player made an effort to block or compete with him. Nagamatsu obliged and scored a trademark header to record the only goal of the game.

The game ended with a flashpoint, a late Metro tackle led to chaos only seconds before the visitors were awarded the three points despite a sub-optimal showing.

Juve Takes Ascendency

Adelaide City 3-0 Sturt Lions

After nearly surrendering three points against Birkalla in their previous encounter, the champions welcomed the Sturt Lions to Oakden. Paul Pezos is a coach that ensures his charges do not get complacent, so a response from City was not surprising, but rather expected.

Ayom Majok returned to the starting lineup after completing his suspensions and was keen to start writing positive headlines, and 25 minutes into the encounter he did exactly that. Majok picked up a pass on the stride and finished superbly from a tight angle, showing the quality that once got him a contract at Western United.

Five minutes into the second half, City had already tripled their lead. Aladin Irabona coolly converted a penalty which was followed by a strong press from the next kick-off. Lethal on the counter-attack, the ball ended up in Kur Kur’s feet who made no mistake, placing the ball where Sturt’s keeper James Klappers could not get to.

This win did not just mean that City kept up with the Comets, but because of the latter’s loss in Round 9, it meant that Paul Pezos and his charges finished the round alone on the summit.

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Who Is Who?

South Adelaide Panthers 2-4 Cumberland United

The shock of the round occurred in South Adelaide, with both sides producing uncharacteristic performances. Both the Panthers and Foxes have not been in a great patch of form, with Cumberland, in particular, having to accept that it is entrenched in a relegation battle and South Adelaide’s free-scoring form a thing of the past.

One could have argued that this game would have been competitive or that the Panthers would use it to rediscover form, what actually occurred was far from either scenario. It was enough of a shock that Cumberland’s Harry Thannhauser opened the game’s scoring, handing his side an unusual lead; what happened next was unheard of.

Within 10 minutes of the second half, Thomas Visser found himself in space on the left side of the box. Two times in as many minutes he finished truly, leaving the Panthers dumbfounded in their own fortress. The home side did respond with their own goal from a short corner technique but was once again pegged back by a Harry Thomas thunderbolt.

Jonathon Rideout found his way back on the scoresheet with a consolation goal, but the two stories emerging from the game are: What has gone wrong with the Panthers? Can Cumberland, a side that looked toothless for months, survive?

Legit Red Devils

Adelaide Comets 1-2 Campbelltown City

The match we recommended for you to watch last week produced the goods, opening another chapter in the Adelaide Comets and Campbelltown City rivalry. We speculated that Campbelltown may be back and they proved it against one of the premier sides of the competition.

Josh Barresi spectacularly opened the goalscoring, chesting a powerful cross in the air and positioning himself for an audacious scissor kick that found its way to the back of the net. With five minutes to go in the half, a set-piece scrap in the box allowed veteran defender and unlikely goal scorer Daniel Mullen to double his side’s advantage.

Despite getting an early red card in the second half, the Red Devils stuck to their plan, using FK Beograd’s Round 8 collapse against the Comets as a cautionary tale. Young Comets gun Thomas Giannakopoulos grabbed a consolation goal at the death, but Campbelltown left Gepps Cross with the three points and with a powerful statement for the rest of the competition.

Mori Working Overtime

Adelaide United Youth 5-2 FK Beograd

One of the quirks of South Australian football was evident for the world to see on the weekend. Damian Mori, who on Saturday was planning for Adelaide United’s success as an A-League Men assistant coach was plotting for Adelaide United’s downfall in the NPL the following day.

The Young Reds were desperate to collect the three points after Cumberland started showing signs of life, but it did not start according to plan with Josh Mori scoring early on. The United boys showed character and did not put their heads down, scoring two goals in the first half to take the lead at the break with goals scored by Giuseppe Bovalina and Asad Kasumovic.

The match was put to bed by a Luka Jovanocic double that gave United a cushion of protection. The two sides exchanged goals one more time, Fabian Talladira for the Young Reds and Mori once again for Beograd.

The Young Reds are inching themselves away from the drop zone but still need to stay clear of it. The talent is there, but they must be as focused and as determined as they showed they can be against FK Beograd.

Match to Watch in Round 10

North Eastern MetroStars take on the Sturt Lions in Round 10 and it promises to be an entertaining affair. Both sides are well-coached, with quality players and finals aspirations.

The last two times these sides competed against each other have been tense encounters with high stakes. The Lions will not forget knocking out the heavily-fancied Metro in the 2021 finals series, with the latter knocking Sturt out of the cup in a five-goal thriller recently. Expect goals and drama.

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