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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 22

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 22.

MetroStars claimed another piece of silverware in 2023; Danny Graystone's side last lost a game in April. (Twitter: @NE_MetroStars)

The Winners

MetroStars claim another crown

After taking care of business against Sturt Lions in Round 21, MetroStars only needed a point to mathematically snuff out any chance Campbelltown City had of beating them to the premiership. Captain Anthony Solagna struck early from close range to ensure his side got off to a flying start against Modbury in Round 22.

A red card to Austin Ayoubi could have complicated proceedings, but an assured Metro outfit continued to control the game. Danny Graystone's men even won a penalty when marksman James Temelkovski was brought down in the box by Paul Wilson. But Hamish Gow's effort from the spot was saved by Ryan Neild in the Modbury goal.

The scoreline remained, which meant that regardless of Campbelltown's result against Adelaide Olympic, the MetroStars added the premiership to go with their Federation Cup in what has been a highly successful 2023 campaign. Attention now turns to how Graystone and his side fair in the Australia Cup and the NPL SA Finals Series.

Adelaide United find form at the pointy end of the season

After going winless for a gruelling eight matches, which stretched from May until August, Adelaide United Youth finally returned to the winner's list in Round 21. A solid first part of the season means Airton Andrioli's side will be competing in the Finals Series. In Round 22, the Young Reds strung together another win after a rough start.

Adelaide United conceded early when Panagiotis Kikianis inadvertently turned the ball into his net trying to clear a Kucha Guut cross. West Adelaide's Abou Keita was sent off for a dangerous challenge minutes later. Despite that, Adelaide United could not find a breakthrough, going into the break a goal behind.

Entering the second half renewed, the Young Reds began taking full advantage of their numerical superiority. Patrick McGregor's double bookended Ryan White's strike to give Adelaide United a second consecutive victory. They are still building in form but returning to winning ways recently can make a world of difference for the side's confidence heading into the Finals Series, where they will take on the Adelaide Comets in the first week.

Adelaide Comets win the race for sixth

Ryan Yates' astonishing Round 21 free-kick was enough to put the Adelaide Comets in a strong position coming into a clash against South Adelaide in the regular season's final round. George Tsonis' men competed against Croydon FC, FK Beograd, and Adelaide Olympic for the last Finals Series spot. But a win would be enough to seal it for the Comets.

The game did not go according to plan when Chol Wel opened the scoring for the Panthers in the 20th minute after turning in an Alex Rideout free-kick. The Comets, who had results against them elsewhere, found a reprieve when Anthony Mavrolambados found Allan Welsh in the box, who equalised in first-half injury time.

A draw would not be enough for the Comets to claim the sixth Finals Series spot, and their players played like it. Excitement and relief boiled over when Ryan Yates played a superb ball from his half to substitute Jaiden Diamantis in the opposition box, which the midfielder controlled and cooly converted to earn his side the right to appear in the Finals Series for an eighth consecutive season.

The Losers

The top two lose crucial players to red cards

With both sides still having Australia Cup and NPL SA Finals Series duties to fulfil, MetroStars and Campbelltown City require all hands on board. Unfortunately for both sides, despite claiming victories over Modbury Jets and Adelaide Olympic, respectively, they endured costly red cards to crucial players in their setups.

One goal up and on the precipice of a premiership, MetroStar Austin Ayoubi feverously tracked back to dispossess Liam McCabe. The midfielder achieved his task, but the referee decided Ayoubi had infringed his opponent while denying him a clear goalscoring opportunity, resulting in a red card that will be served for the first final Metro will be involved in.

At Campbelltown, after picking up a yellow card, Sergio Melta Medallist Alex Mullen competed for the ball by raising his foot, which made contact with his opponent's head. Referee Garry Powers did not hesitate, producing a second yellow card for the star midfielder, which saw him miss Campbelltown's Australia Cup tie against Macarthur.

Croydon and Beograd punished for missed opportunities

Croydon FC and FK Beograd had a successful Round 22, with both sides enjoying victories over Adelaide City and Sturt Lions. Both sides even found themselves in the coveted sixth position on the ladder at points during their matches. But neither could hold on due to missed opportunities earlier in the season.

Croydon's disappointing start was well-documented, with Travis Dodd's side even momentarily entering the relegation zone. A much-improved second half of the season saw Polonia makeup ground and briefly join the top six. But after losing to Adelaide United Youth in Round 21, destiny was taken away from their hands and squarely placed with the Comets, who took full advantage, as mentioned earlier.

FK Beograd is a side full of talent, evident in them being one of only two sides to defeat the MetroStars in 2023. But they have not been able to show their quality consistently. At one stage, Josh Smith's side lost four consecutive home games, which became glaring when they only missed out on the Finals Series by a point.

Sturt join West Adelaide in State League One

Sturt Lions entered Round 22 with a slight chance of survival if they could claim three points against FK Beograd. Meanwhile, hoping South Adelaide lost, with the goal difference between the two sides needing to be made up. That hope took a big blow when Christian Sotira opened the scoring for Beograd, and the hole deepened when Chol Wel did the same for the Panthers at South Adelaide.

Back at Frank Mitchell Park, Josh Mori followed up moments after the first to put his side two goals to the good, and Gideon Arok made it three with a booming effort minutes into the second half. Gonzalo Rodriguez, who has been in phenomenal form throughout the second half of the season, pulled a goal back for Sturt in the second half. But it was not enough to claim any points on the day.

After a disastrous first half of the season, Sturt put up a fight in their quest for survival, but the gap was too significant to overcome. Lino Fusco's side had a memorable three-year stay in the NPL, notably making a Semi-Final in their first year. But they will join Jim Tsekinis' West Adelaide back in State League One for the 2024 season.

Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 21!


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