NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 16
Throughout the 2023 NPL SA season, Front Page Football looks at each week's big winners and losers from the action-packed South Australian top flight. Below are our picks from round sixteen.
Daniel Bressan proved unstoppable against Adelaide Olympic on Saturday. (Brenton Bessell and Adelaide City FC)
Adelaide City's new dynamic duo
When Jason Konstandopoulos swapped Adelaide Olympic for Adelaide City, many exciting possibilities in Paul Pezos' midfield became a reality. The winger had the spotlight on him ahead of his first game against his old side. But teammate Daniel Bressan stole the show and continued his excellent form (after a goal and penalty-winning assist last week) to open the scoring for the Black and Whites.
Later in the first half, Konstandopoulos, fitting in with his new side, found Bressan with a cross as the midfielder doubled City's lead heading into the second half. After the break, the talented duo again combined, with Bressan recording his hat trick from the edge of the box.
Adelaide City and Olympic traded goals before Konstandopoulos continued to torment his old side, stealing a loose pass and setting up Katsuyoshi Kimishima for a tap-in, concluding a 5-1 thrashing. Bressan and Konstandopoulos each recorded a hat-trick of goals and assists, respectively. Should the two continue playing this way, and a few teammates raise their games to their level, expect City to feature prominently once again when the championship is up for grabs come the Finals Series.
Andre Carle carries Croydon to victory
After being defeated in the Federation Cup Semi-Final, then entering halftime in round sixteen a goal down to FK Beograd, a side that has not won a game in a month, the atmosphere at Croydon was grim. A slow start to the second half was rapidly forgotten when forward Andre Carle pounced on a Kristos Stefanopoulos long ball and drew his side level with a confident finish past Jamie Signorello in the 70th minute.
Despite his side being unable to produce in the final third recently, Carle's contributions have remained top-notch. When he combined with Stefanopoulos again, Beograd defender Brodie Barrow had no chance. The Polonia forward wrong-footed him before giving his side the lead. Carle remained hungry to complete his hat-trick, and after missing a chance, he got the opportunity again, grounding former Croydon defender Jared Clark before keeping his composure to chip the goalkeeper and round off a brilliant performance.
Carle's second-half brilliance was crucial for his side, who suddenly found themselves only three points off the sixth-placed Adelaide Comets. Should he continue spearheading Polonia with this form, and the rest of the team's confidence keeps building, don't be surprised if Croydon pips one of the other sides also chasing a spot in the Finals Series.
The Lions are alive and roaring
With only a single victory between early March and early June, the Sturt Lions entered round sixteen desperate for a win to keep their ailing season alive. Despite being rooted at the bottom of the league, Lino Fusco's side entered their clash against a depleted Adelaide United Youth on a three-game unbeaten run (three draws). The match began perfectly for the Lions when they opened the scoring in the second minute.
Despite being pegged back by a Ryan White penalty and losing goalkeeper Michael Giorgines, the Lions showed they are willing to fight to remain in the division. They regained the lead heading into halftime through Tyreece Conway, who pounced on a defensive error. Alex Sortini and Gonzalo Rodriguez combined after the break, with the latter recording his brace to give Sturt a rare two-goal lead.
Despite boasting a comfortable lead, the Lions did not stop. Akira Kobaishi made it four late in the game to put an exclamation mark on a solid victory. Sturt may have finished the round still locked at the bottom of the ladder. But the Lions now find themselves equal on points with 11th-placed South Adelaide and only two points away from 10th-placed West Adelaide outside the drop zone.
From fourth to league-worst form in five weeks
Josh Smith's FK Beograd entered 2023 with multiple impressive additions, and many league followers expected them to feature in the Finals Series. Despite inconsistencies, Beograd was as high as fourth on the NPL SA table early on. But in the last month, the side has unravelled.
Four consecutive matches at home saw Beograd shockingly concede 15 goals while not picking up a single point of the 12 available. It looked like the side's fortunes would turn positive again when they took the lead into halftime against Croydon, thanks to a Micah Lea'alafa bicycle kick.
But Beograd let complacency creep in and astonishingly conceded three second-half goals to lose their fifth consecutive game. Josh Smith's side now finds themselves eighth on the table with the worst form in the league in the past five games. They are desperate to rediscover the edge that saw them establish themselves as a potential force to be reckoned with earlier this season.
Pressure on West Adelaide after missed opportunity
West Adelaide was in for a fight against the MetroStars in round sixteen. But six minutes into the encounter, the pressure Hellas applied on Danny Graystone's men proved effective when Amir Ibrahim intercepted Anthony Solagna's pass near the goal line, and the winger opened the scoring for his side. Fabian Barbiero may have equalised minutes later, but Hellas continued to push and earned a penalty when Jackson Walls fouled Minsung Park in the box.
Chris Christofilos converted to give a plucky West Adelaide a stunning lead for the second time in the day, sending shockwaves across the league. But Hamish Gow then levelled proceedings for Metro with his spot-kick. With the two sides locked in a stalemate, the underdogs were on track to earn a vital point until the game's dying minutes.
Hellas hearts were broken in the 85th minute when Austin Ayoubi tapped in Michael Cittadini's cross to steal all three points for the MetroStars. After Sturt's win, both sides in the relegation zone are now within striking distance of West Adelaide, who must return to converting their efforts into points in the quest to retain their NPL status.
Multiple false dawns
The theme of round fifteen was 2-2 draws. But in round sixteen, teams took early leads before dropping all three points. It all started on Friday night when South Adelaide opened the scoring against Modbury, only to concede four goals to leave the match empty-handed, with relegation rivals Sturt Lions drawing level with them on the ladder two days later.
The Adelaide Comets seemed primed to give the high-flying Campbelltown City a run for their money after taking the lead early in their clash on Saturday. Despite the Comets taking the lead, Alex Mullen starred for the Red Devils as they snatched control of the match to score five unanswered goals, rendering the Comets' fast start meaningless.
As mentioned above, despite taking the lead into halftime away from home, FK Beograd let complacency get the better of them as Andre Carle recorded a hat-trick for Croydon to stroll to three crucial points after the break. Finally, West Adelaide took the lead twice against the league-leading MetroStars. But the quality of Danny Graystone's side came to the fore in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory, ensuring a fourth side dropped all three points after taking the lead in round sixteen.
Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 15!