Finals Series Round 1 Review - PS4 NPL 3 NSW Men's

10.09.2017

Following the enthralling finish to the 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition, we have now entered a whole new domain of sudden death football, five matches over three weeks that will provide a roller coaster of emotions as teams search for that elusive Championship title.

Let’s review two of those matches in Week One of the finals, where six became four on the back of two epic Elimination Finals on Saturday night, with the 2017 season coming to an end for both Dulwich Hill and Gladesville Ryde Magic.

Elimination Final 1

DULWICH HILL – SD RAIDERS 0-1

The journey continues for SD Raiders after they eliminated Dulwich Hill 1-0 in extra time in an intense Elimination Final on Saturday night at Arlington Oval.

Dulwich Hill came into the match as favourites, having completed the double over the Raiders during the competition proper – 5-0 and 4-1 respectively – whilst also having home ground advantage, courtesy of finishing the season higher than their match day opponent in 4th position.

But the form book can go out the window in Finals football, and SD Raiders were stern and resilient throughout to record a valuable victory in a tough encounter where neither side gave an inch.

Dulwich Hill were without a number of regular starters, namely attacking pair, Luke Giverin and Tommy Bentham, whilst skipper and experienced keeper, Michael Frost, was also missing, through injury.

The match started explosively with both sides looking to snatch an early lead, and we could’ve had four goals, no less, in the opening five minutes.

The Raiders went on the front foot from the get go, and Mark Symington’s angled volley within the opening sixty seconds drew a parry out of Dully’s replacement keeper, Ben Needham.

Dulwich Hill responded immediately from the very next play, with Gosue Sama playing a delightful ball into space behind the Raiders’ defence for the speedy Henry Wells to run onto, but Wells stabbed the ball past both Raiders’ keeper, Jair Fernandez, as well as the Raiders’ upright.

Raiders were at it again on 4 minutes, when a corner was cleared to Joseph Mensah, and his neat back heel on the edge of the Dully penalty area produced a snap shot from Daniel Bittar. Alas, Bittar’s effort cannoned off the corner of the post and the cross bar to safety.

Within sixty seconds it was the turn of Lucas Rossi, the Raiders’ left midfielder cutting inside the Dully defence before his low angled drive was well held, down low, by Needham in the Dully goal.

Rather than the usual cautious start to many semi finals, it was refreshing to see both teams try to attack from the start and grab the early ascendancy.

Dully striker, Shane Ardle, then made space for himself on 22 minutes, rifling an effort over the cross bar from 25 yards after driving towards goal from a counter attack.

Dulwich Hill’s Gosue Sama then tried the spectacular in the 35th, latching on to a long punt upfield, and hitting a first time angled volley from the right channel that only just cleared the cross bar with Raiders’ keeper, Jair Fernandez, scrambling backwards.

Neither side were prepared to be pushed around, and the match lifted a notch in terms of intensity in the quarter of an hour before the break.

Some over zealous tackling saw referee, Adam Susz, hand out six yellow cards in a seven minute spell before half time, with Dulwich Hill’s Nikola Stanojevic on the receiving end of two of those, reducing Dully to ten men in the 44th minute.

Both sides continued where they left off after half time, with Raiders’ Mark Symington creating space for himself in the 51st minute with some neat footwork, before his low shot was well saved by Needham in the Dully goal.

Dulwich Hill then conjured up one of the best opportunities of the night in the 59th minute, with Sean Burke squeezing a ball into space in the left channel for Gosue Sama to run onto. Sama drove a low cross towards the back stick, which Henry Wells met with a firm close range stab. Raiders’ keeper, Jair Fernandez, came out of no where to produce a superb block from a yard out to deny Dully the opening goal.

A minute later and Raiders should’ve had the first goal of the match. A long clearance upfield was allowed to bounce, and Lucas Rossi somehow managed to come up with the ball inside the Dully penalty area after throwing himself into the mix with Dully keeper, Needham, as well as a Dully defender. Rossi laid the ball back for Daniel Bittar, but his first time lob sailed over the bar with the goal gaping.

Mark Symington was using all of his experience in the attacking third, holding the ball up and playing in his team mates who were all running off the ball around him. On one such occasion in the 64th minute, Symington played in Dylan Stivala, who let fly with a screamer from 20 yards, only for Dully keeper, Ben Needham, to produce a fantastic diving save to his left to deny the Raiders’ midfielder.

Raiders’ substitute, Mitchell Mclintock, then went ever so close in the 80th minute following a superb passing movement from the Raiders, shooting across goal from a tight angle with the ball missing the far upright by a matter of centimetres.

Dulwich Hill were working hard with a man less, and credit to them for still pushing men forward in search of that elusive goal.

Right on 90 minutes Dully substitute, James Townsend, had the chance to win it for his side, but his curling shot cleared the cross bar after excellent lead up work from Nathan Bowden-Haase and Henry Wells.

With one last roll of the dice, SD Raiders almost snatched it in the 4th minute of stoppage time, with Matthew Morosin rising highest from a corner to slam a header goalwards, only for Dully’s James Townsend to be positioned perfectly at the far post as he headed the ball off his goal line.

So it was to extra time we headed, probably the last thing the ten men of Dully wanted.

Following an even opening 15 minutes of extra time, tired legs and exhaustion saw a couple of gaps start to open in the final quarter of an hour.

Dully’s Sean Burke curled a speculator just wide of the mark in the 113th minute, whilst team mate, James Townsend, drew a great parry by Raiders’ keeper, Jair Fernandez, a minute later seizing on to a long ball before producing a low close range drive at goal.

When Raiders’ substitute, John Fahmi, curled a free kick inches wide of the Dully upright in the 116th minute, the fans began to settle for the looming penalty shootout, but the Raiders had other ideas.

With sixty seconds remaining on the clock, Raiders produced one last foray upfield, with Mark Symington swivelling before finding John Fahmi in space inside the right hand side of Dulwich Hill’s penalty area.

Fahmi produced a low drive across the face of goal which Dully’s keeper, Ben Needham,did ever so well to parry, but Raiders’ midfielder, Dylan Stivala, was first to react, pouncing on the loose ball to stroke it home from close range and send the travelling Raiders’ contingent into raptures.

That was all she wrote, and the players collapsed to the floor as referee, Adam Susz, brought the contest to an end shortly afterwards.

As much as it was a disappointing outcome for Dulwich Hill, they produced a huge effort to take the match to within a whisker of a penalty shootout, given they played more than 75 minutes with a player short, as well as missing some key regulars.

Dully produced some entertaining football throughout the season, with some real venom in the attacking third, but will now have to regroup and plan their assault for next season.

Football NSW reflected with Dulwich Hill’s experienced campaigner, Gosue Sama.

“Even though we went down to ten men before half time, I thought we did quite well, and should’ve scored a few times. Saying that, we were rushing things some of the time, and probably not using the width of the pitch like we usually do. But credit to SD Raiders, they held position, especially after the sending off, and did what they had to do to win the game.”

“Tonight we definitely missed Luke (Giverin), who has a great left foot, as well as Tommy (Bentham), who gives us plenty in attack. We’ve got a relatively new team, a ‘first year’ team, and plenty of youngsters like Angus (Chance) and Ethan (Bardsley), who listen and work hard. Our coach, Mark Strachan, has done a great job in getting us to play some good attacking football, with quick transitioning, as well as being entertaining, but we’ve just got to play smarter at times,” added Sama.

On the night, Dully’s replacement keeper, Ben Needham, had a great game, standing tall as the Raiders kept up their onslaught, and was only beaten with a last gasp shot after he parried the initial effort; the backline of Nathan Bowden-Haase, Callaghan Sharpe and Andrew Vitucci worked hard collectively to keep the Raiders’ attack to a minimum; Gosue Sama defied his 35 years with a high-intensity workrate throughout the entire 120 minutes, and was involved in most of Dully’s ventures forward.

The journey continues for SD Raiders, after being promoted to the PlayStation NPL 3 competition, they have more than held their own, finishing the competition proper in 5th spot, winning the first Elimination Final, and now find themselves within 90 minutes of a Grand Final. SD Raiders now move on to face Premiers, Rydalmere Lions, in the next week’s equivalent of a Grand Final qualifier.

FNSW caught up with Raiders’ central defender, 38 year old Mark D’Alessandro, after the epic win.

“I know they had beaten us twice during the season, and Dully are a good side, but we were quietly confident of turning it around tonight. We had everyone healthy and back on deck, and had a really good week at training, with plenty of intensity, so we were prepared to work hard and fight for each other.”

D’Alessandro added, “It has been an amazing season for the club. In our first year after being promoted, we came 5th to make the semi’s, we’re now one win from the Grand Final, and we came within a minute of beating APIA in the (Westfield FFA) Cup, we’ve taken huge strides in such a short period of time.”

When quizzed about the factors behind the team’s success, D’Alessandro reflected.

“We’ve been training since November last year. From the first day, the boys have built a close bond and camaraderie. We have such a tight-knit squad, we stick together and work hard for each other, there are no heroes in the squad, just a group of boys who are prepared to work hard for each other and the club.”

Jair Fernandez was alert and agile in between the sticks for the Raiders with some telling saves, whilst Mark D’Alessandro was a tower in central defence, fierce in the tackle, and also often initiating the counter attack with some superb, cross field left foot passes. Skipper Mirza Sehic worked tirelessly throughout in the number six role, Mark Symington was a threat all night with his work on the ball in the front third, and Dylan Stivala was rewarded for his effective link up play with the winning goal in the final minute of extra time.

Match Stats

DULWICH HILL 0

SD RAIDERS 1 (Stivala 119’) after extra time

Arlington Oval, Dulwich Hill

Referee – Adam Susz

Assistant Referees – Lance Greenshields and Francisco Sanabria

DULWICH HILL: 23.B.Needham, 2.C.Sharpe, 4.N.Bowden-Haase, 11.S.Ardle (7.J.Townsend 83’), 12.N.Stanojevic, 13.S.Burke (capt), 17.H.Wells, 22.A.Vitucci, 28.E.Bardsley, 36.A.Chance (15.D.Han 46’), 62.G.Sama.

Substitutes Not Used – 1.M.Frost, 6.A.Pessego, 5.P.Reilly,

Yellow Cards – 12.N.Stanojevic 31’ / 44’, 4.N.Bowden-Haase 38’, 13.S.Burke 40’, 11.S.Ardle 44’.

Red Cards – 12.N.Stanojevic 44’.

SD RAIDERS; 43.J.Fernandez, 7.D.Bittar (10.J.Fahmi 75’), 15.M.D’Alessandro, 24.S.Irwin, 21.D.Martinez (25.M.Nakada 101’), 18.J.Mensah, 2.M.Morosin, 12.L.Rossi (9.M.Mclintock 60’), 16.M.Sehic (capt), 6.D.Stivala, 14.M.Symington.

Substitutes Not Used –20.A.Tuzlic, 44.M.Massarotto.

Yellow Cards – 16.M.Sehic 8’, 21.D.Martinez 40’.

Red Cards – Nil

ST GEORGE CITY FA – GLADESVILLE RYDE MAGIC 2-1

St George City FA continued their brilliant maiden season in the PlayStation NPL 3 competition by accounting for Gladesville Ryde Magic 2-1 in the Elimination Final on Saturday night at Fraser Park.

After winning the State League in 2016 and gaining promotion to the PlayStation NPL 3, St George City FA have quietly gone about their business, finishing 3rd on the competition ladder, and now find themselves one game away from competing in the Grand Final.

This game brought the two sides together for the second time in six days, with St George City FA winning the final and Round 26 fixture at Magdala Park last week by 3-2.

All the goals in this encounter came within an eight minute spell in a frenetic first half, with St George City FA taking an 11th minute lead via a cracking low drive from outside the box by experienced striker, Juan Chavez.

Gladesville Ryde Magic took only four minutes to restore parity, and it came through skipper Chris Gaitatzis.

Finding himself in space on the right wing, Gaitatzis cut back inside before hitting a curling shot with his left peg. The ball took a wicked deflection off the head of St George City defender, Sean Thomas, before beating keeper, James Webb, into the net to make it 1-1.

St George City FA returned serve in the 18th minute, with Sam Messam edging his side into a 2-1 lead. Magic goal keeper, Kyriakos Tohouroglou, parried a long range effort, and Messam was quickest to the rebound to strike home from close range.

Chris Tomaras and Tyler Sands both had efforts for Gladesville in the 25th and 30th minutes respectively, but both shots ended wide of the St George City uprights.

The second half was a cagey forty five minutes, with Gladesville Ryde Magic conjuring up ways to try and open up the St George City rearguard, but they were unable to break through, and the match finished 2-1.

Gladesville Ryde Magic put on a strong second round performance in the competition proper to clinch their spot in the Finals on the final day of season, but in the end, lost both of their last two games to a resilient St George City FA side to bow out for 2017.

St George City FA continue their end of season run – now stretching to eight wins and a draw from their past ten matches – and they will meet Fraser Park in another elimination semi final next week for the right to play in the 2017 Grand Final.