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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 17

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 seventeen.

Alex Mullen celebrates restoring Campbelltown City's lead against Croydon FC. (Ken Carter)

The Winners

Yared Abetew breaks FK Beograd's losing streak

After finding themselves in fourth just over a month ago, FK Beograd entered round seventeen outside the top six and was hampered by the worst form in the league after five consecutive losses. Facing West Adelaide, a team going through a similar slump, both sides were desperate for three invaluable points in their respective quests for finals football and survival.

Beograd opened the scoring through Doni Pollock from the penalty spot. But as they did in round sixteen, they dropped the early lead in the second half as Joe Gatting equalised for Hellas. West Adelaide gained the upper hand after scoring, but an unlikely hero stepped up for Beograd to rescue them three points.

In the 76th minute, Yared Abetew, playing in midfield, utilised the space afforded him to curl a spectacular shot past Michael Gomes in goal and re-establish Beograd's lead. Josh Smith's side has not been the most secure when ahead. But in the 90th minute, Abetew again stepped up to head home the sealer and ensure his side ended a game victorious for the first time since May 12.

Cup finalists enter their clash in top form

The NPL SA pauses this week as the MetroStars and Campbelltown City contest for silverware in the Federation Cup Final. Both sides enter the clash confident after their comprehensive victories in round seventeen.

The MetroStars flexed their muscles in the second half after being challenged by South Adelaide. After Jonathon Rideout cancelled out James Temelkovski's opener at T.K. Shutter Reserve, Danny Graystone's side responded with four goals, by four different goal scorers, to ensure a confidence-boosting victory heading into an opportunity to win silverware for the first time since 2017.

Meanwhile, Campbelltown reacquainted themselves with Federation Cup Semi-Final opponents Croydon FC. Similarly to the MetroStars, Michael Matricciani's side responded after being challenged on the scoreboard. Patrick Caraccia's late first-half equaliser gave Polonia hope. But early in the second half, Alex Mullen and Marc Marino scored trademark goals to ensure the Red Devils took care of business. They now turn their attention to winning the Federation Cup for the first time since 1994.

Gonzalo Rodriguez's hot streak continues to keep Sturt alive

The Sturt Lions' season looked dead and buried only a month ago. But after finding themselves unbeaten in their last four matches (one win and three draws), Lino Fusco's side entered their round seventeen clash against Adelaide City primed to continue their unbeaten run. It would always be challenging against the back-to-back champions, and Paul Pezos' side dominated proceedings early.

Charlie Devereux opened the scoring for the Black and Whites off a rehearsed corner routine with Nicholas Bucco. When Aladin Irabona's shot deflected off Michael Marrone and past James Klappers in the 78th minute, there seemed to be no way back for Sturt on the night. However, the Lions demonstrated their new-found grit. They kept fighting, and when Dakota Ochsenham uncharacteristically misjudged a cross, Akira Kobaishi recorded what was likely a consolation in the 94th minute.

Everyone at Karinya Reserve knows how important every point is right now. When Gonzalo Rodriguez found space in the box in the 96th minute and scored his side's second goal in as many minutes, it sent fans, players, and administrators into jubilant celebrations. Rodriguez scored his fourth goal in three weeks, and with his side only a point away from exiting the relegation zone, the striker now shapes as a crucial figure for the rest of the season.

The Losers

Young Reds desperately need reinforcements

Adelaide United Youth may still be third after round seventeen. But the Young Reds are far from the competition's form team. Airton Andrioli's side entered their clash against Modbury winless in four games, coming off a 4-1 loss against cellar dwellers Sturt and desperately needing the many players absent due to national team duty and A-League Men breaks to return.

On Saturday, the harsh conditions further exacerbated the boys against men narrative that has been building over the past month. Maurice Natale's Jets went into halftime a goal up, as Hamish McCabe took advantage of a mishap in the Young Reds' backline to give his side the lead. But as Liam McCabe shared with NPL.TV at the break, Modbury could have had more.

However, more goals did come in the second half from captain Jesse Francesca, veteran defender Matt Mullen, and young forward Stefan Matteo, confirming a third consecutive four-goal victory for Modbury. Musa Toure netted a consolation for his side from the penalty spot. But it does not hide that the Young Reds desperately need a couple of their more experienced players to return.

Battling sides fail to make dominant periods count

As the relegation battle heats up, the teams entrenched in that struggle must seize opportunities to pick up points when they present themselves. Despite finding themselves in said positions, with momentum on their side, West Adelaide and South Adelaide left their respective round seventeen matches empty-handed. With Sturt picking up points, it may prove detrimental.

A strong start at FK Beograd showed positive signs for West Adelaide. Despite conceding and going into halftime behind, Hellas equalised after the break. Jim Tsekinis' side threatened to take the lead in the second half. But Yared Abetew's stunner stopped them in their tracks. It condemned them to another loss, and now only a point away from the relegation zone.

South Adelaide faced a difficult challenge at MetroStars. Similarly to West Adelaide, they went into the break a goal down but equalised shortly after the restart. The first 20 minutes of the second half saw the Panthers take the initiative against the league leaders. But Michael Cittadini's goal restored Metro's lead. It opened the floodgates for what ended up being a 5-1 result, with Anthony Rideout's side falling to the bottom of the ladder after Sturt's draw with Adelaide City.

Comets and Olympic miss their opportunities in scoreless draw

Scoreless draws have a negative connotation of bland games without much action. But that was far from the truth when the Adelaide Comets hosted Adelaide Olympic on Saturday. The conditions and both sides' attacking prowess produced an exciting match, with neither claiming a significant victory.

Olympic showed their intent from the get-go, testing Dan Vaughan only minutes into the game. The Comets goalkeeper was required multiple times in the first half to keep the score level. After the break, Comets midfielder Nathan Andijanto caught Callum Nissen off his line. He went agonisingly close by hitting the crossbar.

With both sides looking to sneak into the top six, a draw was far from ideal, with teams around them picking up points in round seventeen. The result and performance are a testament to Jason Trimboli's work in turning Adelaide Olympic around since taking over as the club's head coach.

Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 16!


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