24/05/2024

Nicholas Bucco celebrates scoring an equaliser in Adelaide City's final against Campbelltown City (Image: Ken Carter)

Week two of the 2022 NPL SA finals came and went. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the week’s two games filled with elation and heartbreak.

Adelaide Comets 0-0 North Eastern MetroStars (Comets win on penalties)

Living dangerously

The Comets have not been at their ruthless best recently, but they keep ticking boxes. Questions were asked of Barney Smith’s side legitimacy after failing to conjure a top two finish, and despite not being fully convincing in their two finals, the Comets are still alive.

Croydon’s inability to score in the first week of finals let the Comets off the hook, but the MetroStars packed a stronger punch and presented a completely different proposition. Both sides had chances to kill the match within 120 minutes but failed to alter the scoresheet.

There was a sense of déjà vu when the match was forced into penalties, an occasion which the Comets failed at dismally in the 2021 NPL SA Grand Final. Nearly 12 months later, Barney Smith’s men looked much more assured from the spot, only missing once.

Goalkeeper Daniel Vaughan eventually saved Alessio Melisi’s penalty to give the Comets the opportunity to play for a Grand Final spot where they will have to be much more convincing in regular time to advance against a strong Campbelltown outfit.

Lost in the lottery

Once a match heads to a penalty shootout, you can throw what you know or expect out of the window. An open match was not determined in regular time, and it could have been a different fortune for the MetroStars, who had Comets defender Lachlan Stead clear a goalbound chip off the line with ten minutes to go in extra time.

Each penalty shootout provides its own storylines and the glaring one from this match was that one of the most experienced players on the park, Fabian Barbiero, had his penalty saved. Metro’s despair turned into delight when equally experienced Comets striker Tom Briscoe saw his penalty saved.

Heartbreakingly, it was young Metro forward, Alessio Melisi, that faltered first in sudden death. Rob Saraceno’s side fought valiantly but lost out in the cruellest of ways in the lottery game which is the penalty shootout.

As the teams walked off the pitch, both sets of players showed their respect for the retiring Rocky Callisto in a fitting tribute for a great servant of the MetroStars.

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Campbelltown City 2-3 Adelaide City

Cool, calm, and collected

The result eventually went their way, but it is safe to say that things did not go according to plan for Adelaide City for most of its second leg final.

A towering Alex Mullen header saw the hosts start like a house on fire, with the defending Champions playing catchup early in the game. Nicholas Bucco found an equaliser before the break, but it was disaster once again for Adelaide City early in the second half, Shaun Harvey restoring Campbelltown’s lead.

Adelaide City was never going to fold, but as the game drew towards its conclusion and the Red Devils remained resolute, even the most confident supporters would have started feeling doubt.

The biggest compliment that can be paid to Paul Pezos’ side is that it never played with desperation, rather, it continued looking for a goal by playing its football and it paid dividends. With two minutes to go, a Charlie Devereux corner was converted, with both Nicholas Bucco and Jai King claiming the goal, before Devereux turned scorer deep in injury time to confirm his side’s passage to a second consecutive NPL SA Grand Final.

Charlie Devereux celebrating his goal against Campbelltown City (Image: Brenton Bessell and Adelaide City FC)

Tables turned

Campbelltown was cruelly dealt a dose of its own medicine in its biggest game of the season against Adelaide City. In our finals preview, we focused on Campbelltown’s knack for late goals and in the second leg of its Semi-Final there was unsurprisingly late drama, but not in favour of the side with the habit for it.

The Red Devils spent the majority of the match ahead of their fancied rivals, but when it was time to close out the game, they crumbled under Adelaide City’s pressure. Campbelltown conceded in the 88th and 94th minutes to let a ticket to the Grand Final slip.

Michael Matricciani’s charges now face the Adelaide Comets for the last spot in the big dance. The last time the two sides met, Campbelltown sealed the match late thanks to Alex Mullen; the Red Devils will be hoping that they can return to the right side of the late drama as they vie for another shot at the all-conquering Adelaide City.

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